Archive for Libraries

Thoughts from NJLA

I was lucky enough to hear Teri Lesense speak yesterday on literature for tweens (I hate that word and so does she, but there’s no better term for the 4th-8th grade age group). She covered all types of literature (lots of graphic novels and books in verse came up, as is the nature of tween lit) and it was truly very useful.

Someone in the audience did bring up the common misconception that manga can only be used for older teens (oh, the temptation to run off my manga for the younger set list!) and Teri did mention that there was plenty of manga meant for the pre-teen market. I hate hearing these kinds of blanket statements at librarian conferences; these are the people who are supposed to be up on the kinds of literature and know the range of titles that are

Terri Lesenses book- highly recommended.

Terri Lesense's book- highly recommended.

available for the age group they’re serving (of course this assumes that people at a tween lit session serve tweens; perhaps they just found library security and marketing boring).

Nonetheless, my takeaway from the session was great. Teri uses the acronym TARGET (trust, access, response, guidance, entuhisasm, tween appeal) for tween services and I think manga fits into this wonderfully. Yes, manga has a wide range of content, some of which is different from what we consider “appropriate” for our tweens- but we have to be able to trust them to digest the content and take it in context. Manga is accessable because of it’s graphic nature; it reaches some kids who were already written off as “non readers” that simply need more in the way fo visual stimulation (not to mention that the J and young teen level mange uses very basic language). As far as causing a response emotionally to the story- if you’ve ever been to a con you know that this happens. You’ll never see readers so attached to a character as otaku (I can’t list how many characters I have cried for, even as an adult).  Guidance is more on the librarian end, of course, but the manga ratings are a good place to start and I can assure that there is a manga for every age level reader from Doraemon to Paradise Kiss. This is a big part of why I started this blog- to provide guidance to those who are not up on their manga. Anyone who has ever served an otaku teen in the middle of a manga series can tell you about enthusiasm levels- no, they can’t skip a volume, no, they don’t want another series. They want the rest of this one. And when they’re done with that, they want another one just like it. Finally, tween appeal- this generally isn’t a problem with manga unless we’re getting into Manga Shakespeare (which I love but I know the sentiment is not shared with my 10-14 year olds). Manga is usually action based  with the exception of shoujo which gets the young romance set. It’s not normally about boring topics, and it always has interesting and eye catching illustrations.

I know none of this is a new revelation, but it’s nice to know that manga fits so well into the scheme of things. I think I need to put a little more emphasis on manga and GN based tween programming in my own branch.

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Manga company hopping on the legal translation bandwagon

http://www.akihabaranews.com/en/news-18019-Get+Translated+Manga+Officially+and+Online,+Yep,+It+Will+Soon+be+Possible!.html

Okay, this would be much bigger news if this was a company like TokyoPop. But still, just like FUNimation I consider this a step in the right direction. Shogakukan (think Doraemon, Ranma, Yakitate!!! Japan) will be publishing offical manga translations online. Again, I’m definitley happy to hear this. For one, as a librarian this is a big help- it’s a step towards getting my collection person to actually budget for a new release title if she can read some of the volumes online beforehand. But the biggest thing for me is once again the ability to access those titles that will never see the US shores.

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Is our children learning???

I had the opportunity to hear Eli Neiburger (author of Gamers… in the Library?) speak at a local library cooperative event yesterday, and he really struck a chord with me. Eli, of course, talks about video games in the library and how they can be used most effectively (which, if you read my archives, you will find is a secondary passion of mine right after anime/manga). The man is full of useful information and really knows how to effectively operate a consistently successful gaming program- I’m hoping that our headquarters branch was listening carefully!

In any case, there were so many similarities between arguements against games and those against manga and anime. Specifically, Eli mentioned the ever nagging library curmudgeon asking, “And what are they learning from that?” Eli’s too, too perfect answer was, “That you give a shit about them.” This is something I have wanted to say far too many times in the last 18 months! I have some wonderful coworkers who work diligently at their jobs who just feel the need to interject when I’m planning an anime marathon and ask what the value is, or feel the need to point out that they don’t “support gaming for the sake of gaming” when I’m running an open gaming day. I typically default to the old non-confrontational standby of, “Well, things are different when you work with teenagers” but I don’t know that I’m doing a good thing by saying that; perhaps I need to be more abrasive about proving the value of anime, manga, and video games- the value of getting the kids in the door.

I think these things bother me more since I am an anime/manga/video game geek; I know for a fact that my friends and I were among the smartest in our grade and that our “lazy” hobbies did not affect our intelligence (Eli makes wonderful arguments about learning capicity and games- for instance the fact that so many 8 year olds can remember all the attributes of over 500 pokemon). But maybe even more so, it bothers me that they don’t see the value in success; yes, it’s awesome that you can fill 3 storytimes a week with 30 kids and be 100% educational. However, you are only getting those kids in because of their parents. And given the fact that a good 3/4 of them stop coming after the age of 7, you’re obviously not doing too much to hook the kids themselves. As a YA librarian, I catch them at the age of 11. They’ve already had a couple of years to think of the library as a boring place with stinky books (Eli aptly points out that we’ve earned that reputation and I wholeheartedly agree). A certain number of them come in to use the computer and spend the day on Myspace when mommy and daddy won’t let them stay on, but they’re at an age where recreational reading does not have broad appeal. However, almost all of them play video games at least sometimes- this means you have an opportunity to pull in any teen that walks into the door. And once you get them to realize that fun things go on at the library, they’ll come back to see what else is happening.

I think with anime and manga, this is two-fold. Nowhere near as many kids are into the otaku scene, but the ones who are also fit the archetype for the teen most likely to come to the library giving you a broad pool to draw from with minimal effort. And when they do come in, they take out stacks of books- manga and otherwise (any public librarian will tell you that their career is judged by two numbers- event attendance and circ stats). There is no question that there is little to no educational value in my monthly anime club. We cosplay, we play Japanese video games, and we do suikawari. I’d say we were exploring Japanese culture if they didn’t teach me more than I teach them. But I fill anime club every single month and I see those kids all month long because they know that I give a shit about them.

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RIP- Anime Insider

*sigh*

This is going to be the second big loss that my YA periodical collection has suffered this year. First EGM ceases publication (leaving me with a big hole to hopefully fill assuming we get refunded for the year- not a lot of neutral ground gaming mags) and now my ever-popular, always in circulation Anime Insider. In fact, Wizard has already unceremoniously pulled it from their website- so much for the listing on my guide to anime clubs. It’s not that it was entirely unexpected given the cuts that Wizard has been making recently. It’s just that they kind of owned the anime news mag market since the demise of Newtype. Yes, I get Shonen Jump, but that does not come close to filling the slot that Anime Insider served. Plus they had some of the greatest pictures to use for decoration by my manga rack once they were ready for discard! Grrrr. I hate seeing such a high use periodical go down in flames, but I guess the people just aren’t buying. I sincerely hope we get a refund for the balance of the year, but even if we do I don’t see many good replacements. 😦

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Manga Review: Papillon

This is a newer manga (only 2 volumes released in NA so far with the third coming in May). In three basic words: just another shojo.

Ageha and Hana are twin sisters who were raised separately. Hana was raised in the city with her parents but Ageha was raised by her grandmother in a more rural setting. When Ageha was in the second grade, her grandmother became to ill to raise her and so she ended up living with her parents in the city. The two girls are totally different- Ageha is a more average tomboy and Hana is a beautiful social butterfly. Now that the girls are in high school together, Ageha finds herself excluded from almost all social

Ueda's art style is unmistakable.

Ueda's art style is unmistakable.

activities. When she is left alone to tend the classroom during the school’s fair, a somewhat mysterious man named Kyuu comes running into the class to try and hide from a group of girls (it turns out he’s the hot new young guidance counselor). He asks for coffee and flips through Ageha’s planner- finding a picture of Ageha with her long standing crush, Ryuusei. Kyuu tells Ageha to follow her heart, making her shout out that she’s Ryuusei’s girlfriend and that her life is great. Just after she does this, Ryuusei appears and recognizes Ageha from their childhood. A relationship begins to form between the two, but her beautiful sister decides to step in between them.

Miwa Ueda is best known for her work on the series Peach Girl, and to be frank I’ve seen little new in Papillon. It’s a very typical, tried-and-true (and tired) shojo storyline of the ugly duckling gaining confidence in herself and winning the guy. Appealing for those people who a) liked Peach Girl or b) like the stereotypical shojo fare. It’s not anything groundbreaking or new; this is the same storyline that has been done time and time again and it doesn’t seem like Ueda is going to really do it any differently. The one bonus to this is, as is typical with Ueda, the artwork. Her style is unique and beautiful. Unfortunately, this is a manga I’d rather look at than read unless I’m looking for a quick-and-trashy beach read. Moreover, it is exactly the type of shojo I *dislike*, reinforcing the “girl is no good until a guy is into her and she’ll be helpless when he’s gone” stereotype. A very superficial storyline.

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Anime Clubs @ your library- a resource guide

I get a lot of questions from both coworkers and outside colleagues about where they can get information or resources on anime for running a club at their library. I know that it can be hard to navigate if you’re not into the scene (or worse, if you hate it!) so I wanted to put out an annotated list of killer resources for running your club.

First and foremost- anime club organizations

There used to be three. Now there are two- small but so very useful especially when you want screening permissions. ADV used to run ADVocates, which was a seriously awesome program. Unfortunately, much like everything else these days, the budget was cut. However, I’m still working with two really great program Operation Anime and Stuf for Clubs. Both of these are great programs that will not only help you get screening rights but send you various titles and publications. No school or library anime club should be without these wonderful corporate sponsors.

Secondly, the online resources for the non-otaku

In my experience, if you haven’t done your research and aren’t putting forth a significant effort your little otaku will, in fact, eat you alive. This may be in the form of showing you Yaoi without warning (yes, this actually happened) or this may result in you being dressed up as an unseemly or embarassing anime character bit by bit (fun fact: it takes less than 5 minutes for a group of teenagers to costume an unsuspecting person). I can’t recommend Anime for Libraries enough- this is a prime source of reviews targeted at school or public librarians. Manga Blog is an unending source of manga related goodness that will help you find out what’s happening as well as reviews. Familiar Diversions is another great source of reviews, especially since she posts watch-alikes. Anime News Network is always a great place to turn to for news, though if you’re non-otaku you may get lost in the sheer amount of articles about things you’ve never heard of or care about.

Third- the print resources

I am still deeply in mourning over the loss of Newtype. Simply put, it was the single most kickass anime mag ever published. But we must move forward and thankfully there are still some awesome publications in print. I like to call it my short list of periodicals that you need to have if you have a decently sized otaku population: Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat, and Anime Insider . (this was true when I posted this on Tuesday, but no more as Anime Insider is now belly-up- OL 3/27) The first two are going to give you teen level manga chapters (great for the library on a tight budget) as well as news- might I add they circ like crazy. Anime Insider is a larger source of anime and manga news- frankly it’s the primary news resource since Newtype left us.  To a lesser extent, Otaku USA can be a good resource; it’s limited to a US viewpoint which is both positive and negative. Their website is well worth a look.

Finally- running a club!

Just some general tips for you from my experiences both in my branch and beyond.:

1. Don’t limit yourself! Anime club does not just have to be about anime and manga. Introduce elements of Japanese culture- this makes for great news events and cultural awareness.

2. Play up to otaku culture. Anime events are pretty universally high attendance once you have a group established. Things I’ve done with my club that are outside of the immediate realm of anime include suikawari, cosplay, and asian food events.

3. If you’re discussing a specific title, it is so important that you read through it fully first. The drawings are as important as the words, no less how the words are presented (as my supervisor once said, somehow “shit” is a lot worse when it’s 2 inches tall and outlined in a huge bubble). A 13+ title might not work for all 13 year olds- work with the group you have!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and if I remember anything else I’ll add on. Feel free to throw your own tips into the comments.

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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.

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