Please do not judge the following. I am a Teen Services Librarian, and I read my first volume of manga last year. (In my defense, I am a very new librarian.) When I moved to Montrose, a rural community on Colorado’s Western Slope, for my first library job, it took approximately two working days to realize that manga was a pathway to engaging a broad, diverse swathe of teens in my town. At the local middle and high schools, I saw My Hero Academia t-shirts in every direction. The first time I book-talked Spy X Family to the high school book club, folks who had never talked to me before stayed long after the bell to describe their favorite manga and anime. (I nodded along and hoped I didn’t look too clueless.) I put out an anonymous suggestion box in the library’s Teen Space, and approximately 90% of those suggestions were manga.
The point: it took approximately two days to realize manga was vitally important, especially to the teen community, and it took approximately two days to realize I was woefully under-read and unknowledgeable.
Thus, when YALSA announced the program for its 2022 YA Symposium, I swooned upon seeing the half-day pre-conference sessions devoted to manga and anime. Swooned and then fired off emails asking when I might apply for the Symposium travel stipend. Those sessions not only seemed great fits for me in theory, they proved great fits in practice.
In addition to introducing me to a variety of new titles (e.g., Rooster Fighter, Wandance) and comprehensive resources (mangainlibraries.com), Jillian Rudes’ session led participants through some close reading of manga. I have never considered myself a great visual reader. I tend to spend little time on the art and barrel through the text, effectively missing half the book. In the Manga in Libraries session, we engaged in brief exercises that slowed me down in my reading and asked me to interpret what the text and the visuals were doing on the page together, particularly as they applied to emotional development or understanding of characters. I’m not a school librarian, so I’m not regularly in situations in which I closely read a text alongside teens, but taking some time to do this myself with manga gave me tools for becoming a better reader, which gave me tools for becoming a better recommender. Before my most recent visit to the high school’s book club, I re-read the manga I’d planned to share with those tools in mind – and then, during the book talks, I emphasized elements of the art, rather than merely describing plot. While this is purely anecdotal, more books were checked out during that visit than ever before.
The afternoon I spent in the Anime Boot Camp with Jake Ciarapica and Kevin Jayce gave me similarly concrete takeaways: I’ve got a list of popular publishers, a library account with Crunchyroll that I can use to start an anime club (independently requested by teens here months ago, but I was too intimidated to try), and ideas for our first programs (thank you, Anime Trivia and discussion). I also feel at least a tiny bit more “hip with the teens,” which the presenters assured us was one great reason to talk about anime.
In terms of confidence, knowledge, and skills, the YA Symposium pre-conference gave me the boost I needed to embrace an area of Teen Services for which teens are clamoring. But, perhaps even better, I came to realize both how fun and how impactful manga and anime can be, and understanding that on a deeper level is already helping me connect on a deeper level with the teens in my community.
Teen Services Librarian
Montrose Regional Library District