I live in a rural community, and until about three years ago, we didn’t have our own library. That was the one con against moving here, but the thought of having deer frolic through the back yard won out because I could always drive 20 minutes away to the gleaming library in the city next door. I was very happy when there was a millage to support a public library of our own, and I voted for it, even though I didn’t like the thought of more taxes. When it opened, it was very disappointing; hardly any books, fewer DVDs, no manga. I was able to request material from other facilities, so it wasn’t a total waste.
I decided to drop off a couple of bags of manga today. I need to thin the herd, so to speak, so there is room for more. That’s the problem with collecting this stuff – there is always more! While I was there, I took the time to chat with one of the employees. I wanted the books to go into circulation, instead of going to the book sale. The woman I spoke with told me that the YA librarian is trying to grow the graphic novel collection, but they have a long way to go. She walked me over to two racks of manga. The usual stuff was there, mainly Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece. Lots of Fruits Basket, and Boys over Flowers, too. I was a little surprised to see Berserk with big YA stickers on the spines. Judging from the condition, they are also well read. When the employee, we’ll call her Miss L, asked me why I like manga and aren’t they just comic books for kids, I couldn’t help myself. I told her that it’s a misconception that all of this stuff is for kids, and that the fact that Berserk is shelved in the YA section backed that up. There are series aimed at all age groups, from young kids to adults, and that there is a huge diversity of titles.
The conversation got really interesting, because Miss L asked me if I thought there are any titles that didn’t belong in a public library. Since I don’t believe in censorship, that was a big negative, but I did tell her that I think that some titles shouldn’t be read by kids. Berserk is one of them. I personally love the title, but it’s not intended for the same audience as Naruto. I would also hate for the manga section to suddenly disappear because some overly opinionated and self-righteous parent objected to little Timmy bringing home a few volumes of GNs featuring graphic violence and nudity. Parents should police what their kids are exposed to, but to help them, I think that titles clearly not intended for YA shouldn’t be shelved in the kids department. If there are any librarians out there who read this blog, what is your take on this? How do you categorize the GNs in your collections? It’s not your job to censor what your patrons read, but what happens when little Timmy wants to check out Lost Girls or The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy? I think that I am more disappointed that the library employees are so clueless about the books in their collections than anything else.