Manga censorship- the cataloging conundrum.

What better way to follow up a post on manga that won’t freak your parents out than with one about manga that will? I sure can’t think of one!

I’ve mentioned previously that our system has a pretty set manga cataloging system- all ages is J, 13+ is YA, 16+ is adult. We previously had 16+ manga in YA before a huge controversy over Ken & Barbie nudity and moved things around because that was the safe bet. This is something that I don’t necessarily agree with but hey, I went to law school before I decided I hated it and I know all about the value of covering your own butt at the cost of customer convenience. (Point of fact- in a previous incarnation I worked very hard at doing just this for a certain controversial website that ranks faculty members)

But I can’t deny that even a year after I started at my current position, the cataloging of manga bothered me. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the choice or that my teens were somehow restricted from actually getting a hold of these materials; they were free to walk into adult fiction and check it out just like any other customer. What bothered me was the fact that they had no way of knowing that the manga was even there for them to take out.  Like many small branches (and certainly the majority of the branches in my large system, barring the main branch) there is no adult manga section. We don’t have a huge budget and since we work in the center of a conglomerate of senior communities an extremely diminutive amount goes toward 16+ manga. We had several great titles (Ghost in the Shell, Paradise Kiss, Red Colored Elegy, amongst others), but they were lost in a sea of Jodi Picault, James Patterson, and Danielle Steele.

So last week, I decided to take that first bold step, the one that always comes right before a customer complaint- I asked my manager for permission to make an executive decision. With her blessing, I have now erected a sign on the YA manga rack listing which 16+ manga we have in our location and where they can be found. My manager is less

See? Totally nonoffensive.

See? Totally nonoffensive.

pessimistic than I am and sees it as simply a great opportunity to increase circulation of those titles (she absolutely agrees that the manga is lost and out of place mixed into adult fic but that there’s not much to be done about it). We are now finishing week 1 without a complaint, but I am biding my time waiting. The sign is nonoffensive with a brightly colored Oruchuban Ebichu background (who can find hamsters offensive… well at least if they haven’t seen that show) and specifically says that the titles are for older teens and adults. I’m not grabbing a thirteen year old by the hand and saying, “Hey! Look at these boobies!” but I do wonder if such an assertion will ever be made.

I’m keeping track of circ numbers on the adult manga to see if my sign is making any difference. If it does make a significant difference (and if I don’t catch a lot of heat in my location), this might just be an idea I move forward with for our other locations. I’ve done my research- the circ on 16+ is simply abysmal at interfiled locations as compared to the 13+ collection. If I can get those numbers up, I’ll feel a lot better about this little bit of censorship.


9 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    D said,

    Hi, just a question.

    If a manga is for a 16+ audience, don’t you think that someone that old is intelligent enough to search it out?

    It would appear that you are saying that the appropriate age group is stupid. Given, they aren’t as informed as someone in their 20’s or 30’s, but by that age they are starting to go out on their own, mentally and emotionally speaking.

    Or, are you in truth a subversive, pushing graphic ideas on young minds not ready to handle it? 😉 [totally being tongue in cheek there :-)]

    I would be interested in hearing your reasoning on why there should be a special push for the recognition of 16+ manga in the YA department. If you’ve covered that already, just let me know which blog post and I”ll go read it.


    • 2

      In no way am I implying that someone 16 or older is stupid- the fact is that in a branch such as the one I work in it would be easy to assume that we simply don’t have any adult manga because they don’t see a separate shelf label or rack for the material. Manga, much like graphic novels/comics, is usually considered a separate medium with a separate cataloging code- therefore usually leading them to be in a separate area. In my library, my YA manga rack is very prominent and is the only obvious place for that particular medium. As such, I think it’s quite easy to assume that it houses all the manga we have. In fact, I’ve had many customers state as much to me. not to mention, it’s easy to lose a little volume of Paradise kiss between two huge hardback adult novels!

      Moreover, my area is a YA area. YA covers all of high school. High school does not end at 16. My 15/16/17/18 years olds are not incorrect in looking in the YA area for manga they may enjoy!

      I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that I’m writing from a librarians perspective- it’s so different than thinking about it the way a bookstore might.

  2. 3

    Your use of the Ebichu sign is positively subversive. Especially since /I/ know what that dude (Maa-kun? Was that his name?) is probably thinking right there! 🙂

    • 4

      LOL. And yet I find it less perverse than somethings that have ended up in YA collections, like GTO. Ebichu is meant to be hilarious and non-literal.

      I’ve also found over the years that my kids have seen so, so much more than I have. They can run off the list of Yaoi, furry, ecchi and H titles and I have no idea what they’re talking about. One of them actually referred me to Golden Boy. Insanity.

  3. 5

    Yeah, GTO has never appealed to me.

    I have no idea what Golden Boy is, either, and I have a feeling I’m happier that way. 🙂

  4. 7

    D said,

    Gotcha. Thanks.

  5. 8

    […] Librarian mulls over the problem of helping readers find 16+ manga in a library that interfiles them with other fiction, as opposed to having an adult GN […]

  6. 9

    June said,

    Where I work, manga is all about location and practically no cataloging. I buy for the “adult” collection which is mostly 16+ but includes 13+ and some All ages (in past years, the YA dept was not very comfortable buying manga, so I picked up the series just to make sure the library had them). The volumes are “cataloged” under a generic record that’s titled “Adult manga”. So it is not searchable by title, mangaka, or even subject. We do have a good location. They are in paperback spinners on the same floor as the DVD’s and magazines, on a separate floor than the YA or children’s floor. So people don’t really know what titles we carry and to put a hold on a specific volume is impossible without staff assistance. But circ numbers are high, so I make flyers with monthly releases, new series, and even spotlight current titles just to give the readers some sense of what we have. Keep at it, once readers know where to find the books they will check them out.

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