Manga at the Library

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. 

10 thoughts on “Manga at the Library

  • July 12, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    I think that while there are many libraries that have employees that are knowledgeable about graphic novels and manga, there are many where that part of the collection is an afterthought. Not all library workers might have the time to extensively familiarize themselves with all areas of the library collection. I do agree that putting Berserk in the YA collection is asking for trouble. 

  • July 13, 2009 at 1:39 am

    It has pictures. One quick look would be enough to know not to put it near a kids area. o.oAnd your pop up is still there on every page. What plug in did you say wasn’t updated? I’m sure there’s a replacement. 

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  • July 13, 2009 at 9:10 am

    We actually have a nice sized GN collection in my system. It’s theoretically separated out into kids, teens, and adults. However, they end up intermixed a lot, especially at branches. I did put in a request to reclassify when Loveless showed up with teen stickers. The people who do the buying don’t necessarily know what they are buying, just what fund the money is coming from. I often wonder if they notice the OT or 16+ on the "front" when they sticker some of it?

  • July 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Our Cataloging department here in Weslaco, TX does a great job of separating Graphic Novels from young audience (Owly), teens (Naruto), and adults (Y the Last Man) based on content. The book vendors we order them from though, usually list GNs only by dewey, not by audience. I select titles based on reading them at bookstores and good reviews from websites like yours.

  • July 13, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Our library’s GN/manga collection is pretty decent.  We have one full aisle of manga titles between the teens and young-readers aisles, which houses most of what’s available.  There is a section in the young-readers for some titles that are more all-age appropriate, and we also have a separate (very small) section on the other side of the library in the adult fiction for a few titles aimed more at adults.  That last section is probably harder for a casual browser to find (or know it exists) but I think the separation is good, and a dedicated library-user should be able to figure out from the computer system where to find the book they’re in search of.  I haven’t looked closely enough to determine whether some of the current "teen" titles should be moved to the adult section, but I definitely appreciate whoever is behind the sensible layout decisions and diverse title buying!

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  • July 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    It’s a good question and one I’ve often puzzled over.  Obviously adult material with darker subjects wind up in the Adult collection, and your average kid will know by the cover if that’s what they’re looking for, so I’m not terribly worried about kids seeing content they’re not ready for.On the other hand, there’s My Hime, where the covers look cute and harmless, but the subject matter …  Those I keep behind the counter.And don’t forget the reverse of this problem.  Yotsuba&! is popular with kids and adults.  Where should I put that?  Sigh.

  • July 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I’m an academic librarian, but have done numerous workshops on manga and anime for librarians in South Florida, so I can talk a bit about the local public library scene.

    Librarians are a mixed bag when it comes to manga knowledge. Although something of a graybeard myself, manga knowledge generally follows the age divide. Most older librarians think comics are for kids, while many (but not all, or even the majority) of younger librarians are more open to the idea of graphic storytelling. On the whole, knowledge of manga is limited to a very few fans in the library profession, although most librarians are vaguely aware of what it is.

    The censorship issue is an odd one. Surprisingly, there have been very few patron complaints regarding anime and manga. Not quite sure why this is, but on the whole things Japanese have slipped under the radar. Which is maybe just as well.

    If you see something wildly mislabeled like Berserk in the Young Adult section, you might want to discreetly bring it up with the person in charge of the department. There’s a real possibility they don’t know what they are doing, and would be happy to have some expert advice on what to order and where it belongs. You might even offer to do a program for their children or teen patrons on the latest recommended manga.  

  • July 14, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Thanks for all of the great replies. The next time I drop off books, I am going to go during the week, and hopefully the YA librarian will be there.

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