Connected Learning: How Sailor Moon Taught Me To Code

Welcome to 1999. “Genie in a Bottle” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time” are playing on the radio. At the hormone riddled age of 15, I sit in my eye-achingly yellow bedroom. The walls are covered with bookshelves and posters. A small room, there isn’t much space for furniture. A twin bed sits on the floor in the corner (beds without frames are so much cooler) and small dresser sits next to desk made from an old door set atop two filing cabinets. Riding the new broadband wave (no more tying up the phone line) I surf the web on my hand-me-down laptop newly upgraded to Windows 98. What do I surf for, what draws me to the growing online community…anime.

Somewhere in my middle school years I discovered the deep and rich world of anime at my local comic shop and so began an Alice-In-Wonderland-like journey into a world of japanese culture, copyright and the internet.

The story of how I became interested in anime isn’t nearly so interesting as what I did with that passion. Like most teens I found the thing. The thing that speaks to you. The thing that occupies every thought. The thing that drives you to find others who like the thing and want to talk about the thing (online or in real life). And I threw myself into the thing with reckless abandon. I had anime posters, manga (imported from Japan when I could get my hands on it), figurines, plushies, jewelry and more (this mad habit supported and enabled by a job at Borders that got me a discount on manga).

I know you found the thing too. Maybe it was many things, maybe the thing evolved as you grew and learned. But we know the feeling of finding the thing. I wanted to share my love of anime with everyone, and I mean everyone (even the 50 year-old lady who permed my hair (don’t ask about the perm….)). But where I truly found my voice was online. Surfing the web for the best Sailor Moon fansites and Fushigi Yugi scan galleries I decided that it was time to throw my hat into the ring. I was going to make the best darn anime website ever!

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With a friend to provide the artistic and written content, I threw myself headlong into the world of web design. I started pretty light, an Angelfire site dedicated to the quiet and introspective Sailor Mercury, limited by banner ads and popups. I quickly realized that Angelfire sites were for wimps, and that the true pros built their own websites (using web editors like Adobe Pagemaker). With a birthday fast approaching I put software and a web hosting service on my wish list and not long after, registered my first website!

Using my trusty web editor I made websites with…wait for it…frames! The height of web design sophistication, I crawled all the best anime sites looking for inspiration. I would steal source code and tear it apart to figure out what made a certain website tick…and add it to my bag of tricks.

Soon it became obvious to me that frames were so 1999 and this was a new millennium! I got rid of my WYSIWYG editor and dove straight into the code (side note: I also became obsessed with the movie Hackers and thought I could steal from banks using my vast knowledge of HTML). ‘ I started experimenting with iframes, javascript, css. By trial and error (and some helpful web tutorials) I learned to use Photoshop to create more sophisticated layouts and graphics. Always in beta, I was forever building the “best” site dedicated to Peach Girl, Azumanga Daioh, CLAMP, Marmalade Boy, or whatever anime held my interest for more than a week.

With each new site (and new series obsession) I learned a new skill, coding language or software. With more than 14 websites (each with their own unique design) featuring messages like “Welcome to the new site! I hope you like the layout. I am working on content, so be sure to check back soon!” it became apparent that I wasn’t really all that interested in sharing my love of anime as I was in creating new websites. To put my skill to use, without the pressure of creating any content, I made websites for friends (sometimes even without them asking) to share their art, writing, recipes (the collective passions of my group in high school).

Fast-forward to college and I was looking at degrees that would take me into web design, graphic design, information architecture…and eventually libraries! The roots of what would become my career began with a deep love of my local school and public library…and (what at the time seemed like) an unhealthy obsession with Sailor Moon.

We all find the thing that becomes an all-consuming passion. Every day, I see teens at my library finding and sharing their thing, be it anime, 90’s music, Sherlock, flappy bird, cooking, science, John Green, poetry, cosplay and more! I love watching those connections happen, when two fans of the same thing meet for the first time and immediately become best friends. I love watching them explore their passions, and express them through new medias.

The skills I learned because of my passion for anime have shaped me as an adult and a librarian. Because I had a purpose and a mission to learning HTML, javascript and CSS I will always remember how to use them (even when they are so outdated web browsers won’t even be able to display them). I want to create opportunities and communities for teens at my library so they can follow their passions into learning a new skill, and share their interests with others through new media. If you are interested in creating and sharing experiences like mine in your library, come to the YALSA President’s Program, A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning, at ALA Annual this summer where you will have a chance to talk to and share with others who have used connected learning in their institution.

P.S. I know this was a long post and thank you for indulging my in my trip down memory lane. In doing some research for this I went through all my old websites (I kept all the files when I left my web host). Amongst the broken links in one page I found a trail to my very first Angelfire website (squee!). Sure the link would be dead (how could Angelfire still be around today, and if they were why would they keep my website life for 15 years) and low and behold…it lives! And so, as a gift for reading this whole thing, I bare my soul, and 15 year old Sailor Mercury fanfiction with you. (sorry about the popups…and banner ads)

About Kate Mcnair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

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One Comment

  1. I could have written almost this exact same post! I taught myself HTML with a Sailor Mercury fan site (among others!) too. Mine only lives in a not fully rendered Wayback Machine archive http://web.archive.org/web/20010210161214/http://wikeni.tripod.com/index4.html but I do remember your site!

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