Managing the Unmanageable Manga

During these grey days of winter, combat seasonal-deficit-disorder and take control of your colorful YA Manga collections.marymillermangapic

Popular series seem to go on forever…Naruto is on volume 59, Bleach on volume 54, One Piece volume 66 out in March, and they show little signs of ending. Unfortunately, YA shelf space does not expand as waistlines do around the holidays. Breathe deeply and decide what to weed and what to keep. Circulation statistics do not rule as sole criteria since this is a collection that flies out the library and gives all Young Adult librarians warm fuzzy feelings that teens are reading.

When deciding what to weed, consult with your anime and manga club. Do they still read series that have ended? What are their favorite series and what are their least favorites? Hunting though the manga you will probably discover series that ceased after a few volumes, and now you have room to order new series.

There are three very helpful sources.  No Flying No Tights, Graphic Novel Reporter, and The New York Times manga bestsellers list.  The library journals have articles on manga and most regularly review new series. Each January, YALSA publishes their best graphic novels list which includes new and popular manga titles.

At the YALD (Young Adult Librarian’s Discussion) meeting on January 16th at the Des Plaines Library, several librarians commented that they use Otaku USA , Viz, and the Tokyo Pop newsletter.

Join YALSA’s Electronic Discussion Lists for another great discovery tool. Young adult librarians discuss many issues from new and popular titles, how to start a manga collection, and shelving dilemmas.  The organization of graphic novels relies on collaboration between cataloging and public service departments.  Each library tends to discover a “whatever works” solution.

Your friendly comic book stores are also useful allies. They are suppliers of free comics to libraries on Free Comic Book Day.  To find a comic store close to your library consult the Free Comic Book Day website.freecomicbookdaylogo

Even with careful checking some manga series will slip through the cracks and not be discovered until a teen request an issue and the series is now on volume 15. Thanks to library systems and the generous sharing of materials a new manga series is just a click away. This is the perfect time to reassure yourself that perfection is unattainable and place the system hold. As with shelf space, YA book budgets are not expandable either.


Successful Anime Clubs

First volume of 'Death Note' perhaps the most popular manga amongst American teens.

As librarians we wish that there were teens that have a high interest in printed materials, are voracious readers, and don’t think that libraries are lame.  We would bend over backwards to give them what they wanted if only they would ask, however they’re not asking they’re screaming for Manga and Anime!  Often these are the kids that aren’t involved in your typical after school activities and with school budgets unable to maintain art/music/P.E. what chance do they have of joining an Anime/Manga club at school…slim to none and slim just got RIF’d.

Book your Anime/Manga program and be sure to advertise in the middle and high schools.  Once your teens start showing up ask them what they would like to do.  Our anime club usually consists of a craft and a anime series that we show.  Some librarians have had success running the program like a book discussion where each teen brings in their favorite manga and talks about it or does a book talk (watch out for the teens that like to give away the endings).

Thankfully there are organizations that are out there to help us.  One is Operation Anime, the beautiful thing about this website is you register your anime club and have your teens fill out their surveys and they’ll send you a new anime every month.

Glossary (aka what the hell are they saying?)
Anime – short for Japanese Animation, anime refers solely to the animated videos many of which are based on manga.
Bishojo/Bishonen – Japanese for beautiful girl/boy.
Chibi – Japanese for small,short for Child Body, prefix indicating a ‘squashed’ (and usually considerably more manic) version of an anime character.

Cosplay as Vincent Valentine from the Japanese video game 'Final Fantasy VII'

– short for ‘Costume Play’ it is the practice of dressing up as one’s favorite anime or manga character. A popular event at anime conventions.
Hentai – Japanese for ‘pervert’, refers to pornographic material, if something is referred to as Hentai it is not advisable to add this to your library collection.
Mecha – Short for MECHAnical, any kind of technology from a gun to a vehicle to a giant robot.
Manga – small (usually) paperback books written in a comic style. Most manga is serialized in chapters that are published in various Japanese magazines (i.e. ShonenJump)
Manwha – Korean version of manga.
OAV/OVA – Original Animation Video/Original Video Animation; work made specially for release to video, rather than TV or cinema.
Otaku – Japanese word denoting an obsessive fan of anything, in the sense of being narrow and anti-social. Sometimes used in the West without derogatory connotations to refer to a dedicated fan of anime or manga.
Shojo – Japanese for girl. Shojo manga are drawn in a very flowery, pretty, romantic style and deal with mainly romantic or emotional subjects.
Shonen – refers to manga/anime that is geared towards male adolescents, filled with action and usually male characters.
Yaoi – Refers to manga/anime depicting male homosexual relationships.
Yuri – Refers to manga/anime depicting female homosexual relationships.

Maintaining a Manga/Anime Club

Okay, here’s my dirty little librarian secret: I don’t read much manga. Which isn’t something to be ashamed of (we shouldn’t feel guilty about our reading preferences, right?), except for the fact that I run my library’s teen manga group. Oh, and it’s our most successful monthly program for teens, with an average attendance of 20-25 kids per month. The teens who attend are pretty much totally obsessed with manga and anime (and anything Japanese!) and they want more out of our meetings than simply watching anime. So what’s a librarian who doesn’t read tons* of manga to do?

The large number of participants makes it impossible for the group to function as a book club, so we focus a lot on activities. Many of the teens have been coming for forever (the group started in September 2007) and don’t want to do activities that we did even a year ago**, so I’m always trying turn non-manga games and activities into manga based ones. Recently we’ve played a manga and anime version of Scattergories with a list of categories I created (female character, anime series, something Bleach related, etc.). The teens got super creative and had a ton of fun! We’ve also done some live performance art. I took a picture of Naruto, a line from the one of the books, and had the teens create a fan fiction type skit based on that line. We’ve also started watching anime episodes, provided by Operation Anime. Some of the titles I pick are new to them and some are series they’ve watched a million times, but they get into it either way.

It’s important for me to give the teens some amount of agency within the group and the library. They are the manga experts, so the library’s manga collection grows through their suggestions and book talks, which they give to the other members. I ask them for input regarding all aspects of the group: what activities they want to do at the next month’s meeting, what anime they are interested in watching, what they want the group to be called. The teens also take part in sharing snacks. What would a YA program be without food? We have some members whose wonderful parents bake cookies for the group or buy Pocky and Japanese gummy candy for the teens to share (which they like a lot more than the cheaper chips and cookies that I always put out!). I also have one of the older teens act as a co-leader of the group to help with the games and to keep the meetings running smoothly. Including the teens in the structuring and operation of the meetings allows them to become more invested in the group and helps create a fun, participatory setting.

Having a teen manga group at my library is awesome. It’s an excellent avenue for teens to foster friendships with others who have similar reading tastes. It gets teens talking about the books they’ve been reading and allows them to make new literary discoveries. It demonstrates to our teen patrons that their reading materials are of value, regardless of how unconventional those materials may be. And hey, my teens don’t even care that I’m not a huge manga reader. Their obsession is enough for all of us!

* I should note that I do read the first volume(s) of our popular manga series (Naruto, Death Note, etc.) so that I can get a general sense of the characters and plot. If I didn’t, my teens would tear me apart!

** Exceptions to this are our bi-annual cosplay parties and manga swaps.  Which is good, because teens totally rule at cosplay.