Unshelved is a daily webcomic about the staff of the fictional Mallville Public Library.The main character is the comic book-loving, "determinedly ironic," lazy Young Adult Librarian, Dewey, who always has a snarky rejoinder for every clueless patron. Other important characters include Mel the office supplies obsessed manager, Colleen the aging computer-illiterate, Tamara the ever-cheery children's librarian, Ned the nudist lawyer, Merv the twelve-year-old delinquent and Buddy the page, who is never seen outside of his beaver (formerly woodchuck) suit.
The comics are gag-a-day or short story arcs, and are quite realistic. In fact the author (librarian in real life) claims that the stranger the stories are, the more likely they are to be based on actual events. Allegedly, every single librarian in the world reads it, and so does half of the circulation staff.
The webcomic started in February 2002, originally under the title Overdue. It became Unshelved in 2003 following a trademark issue, leading to the readers voting on the new name. On Fridays (originally Sundays starting in December 2005), the strip becomes The Unshelved Book Club, wherein one of the characters reviews a (real) book; readers are invited to suggest books for review. Weekends now host reruns featuring strips from the first few years of the comic.
In October 2012, Unshelved announced that it would begin presenting each new comic in color.
On November 11, 2016, Unshelved ceased publication of new strips.
Tropes featured include:
- Bilingual Bonus: Okay, technically Braille is an alphabet and not a language, but same idea.
- Brown Note: Dewey develops book talks that have this effect, making people faint, break out in rashes, speak Urdu, and so on.
- Busman's Holiday: Dewey spends his day off reading. Truth in Television as far as many librarians are concerned.
- Compressed Vice: The storyline about Colleen "quitting smoking"; it's eventually subverted when we learn that she actually quit years ago.
- Deadpan Snarker: Dewey and his boss.Mel: People don't like it when you're right all the time.
Dewey: If being right is wrong, I don't want to be right. Nah, I still want to be right.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: At one point Dewey has to scour library computers for pirated media, revealing most of the cast has used staff computers to engage in piracy (mostly just music downloads). Mel's satisfaction after the scouring is shortly marred by patrons talking about borrowing CDs to rip their contents or other forms of offline piracy indirectly enabled by the library's collection and services. However, whenever a patron directly asks for help in pirating stuff even Dewey takes a hard stance against it - if only to save the library from official trouble (this is an actual part of a lot of libraries' policies).
- Fight Clubbing: Parodied with Book Club.
- Geeky Turn-On: Here.
- In an aversion, Cathy was originally a bit of an Abhorrent Admirer to Dewey because she was unfamiliar with his pop culture references.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Averted. Mel's homosexuality is rarely brought up, and often indirectly. Some of the few examples are this strip, this strip, and this strip.
- Intoxication Ensues: What happens when Dewey mixes muscle relaxants with painkillers.
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: "'Compared notes'?" "That's not what we called it my day."
- It Came from the Fridge: Seen in this strip in which one of the employees visits the staff refrigerator wearing a gas mask.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Used with a woman who comes in and asks Dewey where she can find "the bad books... you know what I mean when I say 'bad,' right?" Dewey, of course, knows exactly what she's talking about, but refuses to play along by answering "Not good?" and suggesting that if it looks new and neither of them have heard of it, then it's probably what she wants.
- Literal Metaphor: One patron's girlfriend wants to close the book on their relationship.
- Naked People Are Funny: One minor character is a nudist lawyer who spends all day at the library arguing about his First Amendment rights.
- Non-Residential Residence: In one story arc, the hobo Lambert sets up residence in the crawlspace between the library's roof and ceiling. When Mel points out that the ceiling isn't strong enough to support the weight of a person, Lambert says that the library's collection of books on woodworking came in very handy for reinforcing his "floor".
- Noodle Incident: The chess club.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: The best vegan root beer float ever.
- Peek-a-Bangs: An unnamed regular.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: Not Invented Here was launched from Unshelved in 2009.
- Porn Stache: This strip.
- Prank Injuries: This strip.
- Red Shirt: Referenced in this strip.
- Retroactive Wish: In this comic, Dewey is irritated by the library mascot Buddy the Book Beaver:Dewey: I wish he would just go away!
Tamara: Buddy's been kidnapped!
Dewey: Mira Sorvino! I wish for a date with Mira Sorvino!
- Ridiculous Procrastinator: There's a procrastination storyline.
- Safe Word: Used in this strip (involving yoga).
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Dewey's grandma.
- Slice of Life
- Stalker with a Crush: Cathy stalks Dewey for the first few years of the strip's run despite multiple protests from him, and it's principally played for laughs. They eventually get together.
- Sunday Strip: The Unshelved Book Club.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: One featuring the Mouthy Kid and a short arc about a wet chair.
- Tempting Fate: Dewey invokes this here. ("It was a boring week...").
- Third-Person Person: Randy
- Token Minority: Dewey is a male librarian. It's lampshaded for laughs on a few occasions.
- Weird Trade Union: Buddy is a member of Funny Animal Workers 505. "You should see our main office in Orlando!"