Posts tagged 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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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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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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Manga that won’t freak your parents out

Being the resident system otaku, I was asked by one of my colleagues today for a list of titles for one of her preteens. She’s 12, and her parents are very conservative about what she reads. To this point, she has only been allowed to read J level manga unless her mother approves of a particular YA title. This isn’t uncommon with manga; a lot of parents think that they are all full of violence and nudity (to be fair, plenty of titles are). The librarian was looking for a more extensive list of titles that the mom would approve of, and I thought it would be useful to share my recommendations here:

Azumanga Daioh- Child prodigy Chiyo is skipped five grades and ends up in tenth grade. This manga follows Chiyo and her new-found friends through their high school experiences- lots of visual gags, lots of Japanese culture, no violence or sex to be found. A great slice of life, but will appeal more to a female audience.

Yotsuba!

Yotsuba!

Yotsuba &!– From the same author as Azumanga, this is actually a J level title but with broad appeal. Yotsuba is an odd little story about an odd little girl and her adoptive fathermoving to a new town. See the world through Yotsuba’s eyes- I guarantee you’ll laugh.

Shaman King– Your best bet for a boy whose reading allowance is limited. Shaman King follows the story of Yoh and Manta as they battle against evil spirits that are invading Tokyo. Fantasy violence, not graphic.

Miracle Girls-Toni and Mika are telepathic identical twins. They try to keep their special powers a secret but are rapidly coming under suspicion. Meanwhile, they face the same hurdles every teenage faces- especially relationships. A light-hearted fantasy read.

Gakuen Alice– When Hotaru leaves her best friend Mikan behind to attend a

Kawaii!

Kawaii!

school for geniuses in Tokyo, Mikan takes it on herself to track her down. She discovers that Hotaru is in “Alice Academy”, a school for kids with special powers. Additionally, it is discovered that Mikan has a power as well and she is accepted into the school. Another good fantasy choice starring a younger set.

+Anima– Four children who posess inate animal abilities travel together in search of a place to belong to. Their abilities cause them to be shunned by so-called normal people and chased by those who would abuse their abilities. Non-realistic violence. Another good choice for young males, though this has a greater cross-appeal than Shaman King.

Fruits Basket– The Sohma family is cursed; whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, they transform into a zodiac animal. Tohru discovers this by accident and finds herself bound to keep the families secret unless she wants her memory to be erased. Far too cute- the zodiac animals are super kawaii.

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The otaku stigma

This is something that has been stewing in my mind for quite some time now. As a Young Adult librarian (who just happens to be an otaku herself), I have frequently witnessed what I refer to as the “otaku stigma”. That’s a slight misnomer because most of the people who exhibit symptoms of this have no idea what otaku means. In fact, in many cases they’ve never even seen anime or read a single volume of manga. What they do know for a fact is that anime kids are noisy, ill-behaved, and practically illiterate.

I just had a meeting with my YA supervisor this morning- just your general, run of the mill how are things going and what can we do update. She is also a big anime advocate despite not being even close to an otaku; she has worked in YA long enough to know the value in the literature and the simple fact that the teens love it. When you’re working in YA services, the fact that the kids will come in is enough of a reason to support it; so few topics will bring them to you in droves and anime certainly is one of them. In any case, we expressed a mutual lament that so many institutions simply don’t support anime or manga or just view them as worthless comics (I know there are several YA comic lovers out there who can express the true value of an ample graphic novel collection- it has many things in common with manga but just isn’t my passion). Throughout our library system, we have noted a very high correlation between our low level readers and our manga clubs. Ditto our generally troubled kids from all walks of life. For some reason, anime clubs tend to be extremely diverse as compared to other groups, be it sexuality, race, gender, or even home life. (This is the stuff journal articles of made of- too bad I’m so lazy sometimes!)

But that’s not what my coworkers see. My library assistants dread anime night. “There’s too many of them.” “They’re noisy.” “Those books are worthless.” “They aren’t very smart.” (yes, I’ve had people who work for the library system actually say that my anime teens aren’t smart). I have one mother whose daughter is in both my anime club and my teen advisory board who loathes the anime group and will come in early and ask if they’re even doing anything. They’re discussing different series, they’re watching clips online, they’re showing each other their drawings. Yeah, it looks like a disorganized hodge-podge, but I assure you they are doing something.

When I went to library school, I really thought that this antiquated way of thinking was gone. And while none of my system’s YA librarians echo this sentiment, I hear it from children’s and adult librarians and a whole lot of library assistants. I am actually blessed to be in a branch where most of the librarians see value in anime/manga, even if they don’t understand it. But I can’t understand why people don’t take the time to actually watch these kids and engage in a conversation with them. My anime club actually houses both my highest and lowest level readers. All of them can take out an entire series of 20 books and devour it in a week.  If you can’t see value and merit in that, than you’re blind!

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