The Relationship Between Mangas and Libraries

According to publisher weekly, Kansas City News, and The Pop Verse, the sale of manga and graphic novels lept up more than 50% during the start of the pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a lot of changes in the day-to-day life of society.

From working at home or working remotely becoming more accepted, to the type of media consumed changing, it’s undeniable to see the boom of activities during the pandemic shift from the average. The world of Manga, Graphic Novels, and Digital Comics was no exception.

Despite the fact that there was an initial boom of comics and Manga in the early 2000s, circulation and sale of those materials have remained steady up until the pandemic.

It is precisely due to that that the relationship between librarians, libraries, graphic novels, and Manga has gotten stronger, even if there was a historic distaste for comics and manga in the past. In order for libraries to continue to thrive, they need to be aware of the influx of comics.

Manga by Jon Delorey is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0.

What Is Manga?

Manga is a Japanese-based series-driven comic and graphic novel. They tend to read right to left instead of left to right. It may feel like reading a book backward, but it is not. The term Manga refers to graphic novels and anything printed.

There are five main types of manga: Shonen (Broadly aimed at tween/ teen boys), shojo (Broadly aimed at tween/teen girls), seinen (Aimed at Adult Men), josei (Aimed at Adult Women), and kodomomuke (Aimed at Children). Of course, anyone can read them despite their target audience, but if you are concerned, just google it.

There are also many different sub genre’s. This is similar to how the fiction genre has the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres underneath it.

There’s a manga for every preference, and there are even some that take place in fantasy libraries.  (For a personal Favorite, see Ascension of a Bookworm: I’ll do anything to become a librarian on my current reads page)

Why Aren’t There Mangas in Libraries?

Comics, digital comics, and graphic novels haven’t had the best reputation amongst libraries. Many public and academic libraries saw them as nothing more than a waste of time and money. Besides, the audience for them was so small, that it was pointless to circulate those materials.

This all changed in 2002 when a panel of great and famous authors stood up for manga and comics. They presented their argument in front of a crowd of newer, younger, more enthusiastic librarians.

See, in order for change to take place, there had to be people willing to accept change. This is just basic psychology. In order for this change to take place, the librarians and people in charge of collections had to leave their positions.

With the acceptance of manga, graphic novels, and comics for not only their consumerism value but also their academic value, it was time for a new era to begin.

Manga by camknows is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0.

Does Manga Have Academic Value?

Yes, Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga have academic value. They aren’t just stories, but the styles themselves are another way of storytelling. Just recently, in my own library, we added several books to the collection that talk about tragic events- such as the Kent State shooting, the exploitation of workers, and much more- that just so happen to be comics.

This isn’t a new endeavor either, stories about the Holocaust made into comics have been in existence before. Of course, I’m referring to the book called MAUS. Are those not academic topics? Of course, it can easily be more than just an approachable story-telling method, it’s also excellent for emotional learning.

One librarian, Jillian Rudes, used the manga drawings without the speech bubble, doing this she would ask her students what the character was feeling, without the context of words. Rudes claimed in an interview with the American Libraries Magazine that manga allowed for the reflection of self.

In libraries, they are also known for cultural learning. Much of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other eastern cultures Manga have elements of their culture. This allows for cultural exploration without the extra and insane amounts of expenses that usually come with traveling the world. 

Imagine being able to step inside of a whole new culture, without leaving your seat! Of course, while this is common in many books, the visual aspect makes it more appealing to all audiences. It could even spark an interest in another culture that someone could have gone through their whole life without.

Another academic value of manga and comics is also the content within them. As I mentioned before, in my own library collection, they have comic and graphic novels depicting harsh events. I have seen digital comics that can act as an informative sexual education class.

Where Can I find Manga in Libraries?

When in doubt, ask your librarian. However, as a Librarian- in training- I can tell you that it’ll depend on the type of library. Public and k-12 school libraries will use the Dewey Decimal System and Academic and Research Libraries will use the Library of Congress System.

Each System will look different. Some libraries have ditched the Dewey System and gone for Genrefication. Most likely, Manga will be in the comics/ graphic novel section of the Adult and Young Adult categories.

Not all libraries have Manga though! This can be fixed, using the interlibrary loan system. If a library sees that its patrons are requesting a lot of material that they don’t own, they will start to notice and try to add those to their collection.

Of course, the acquisition of materials can often be long depending on how many hoops a system has to jump through. Another thing to note is that materials cannot be kept indefinitely, so in order to keep Manga and Graphic Novels at the library, patrons need to be using them.