I have a dedicated group of readers who come and see me three times a day to check out books. They’re there first thing in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day. Thanks to them, my circulations this year are through the roof after only a month. They check out multiple books at a time, they talk to me at length about character motivation, themes, tropes, and creators. I am, of course, talking about my manga readers.
I came into my library four years ago knowing manga and graphic novels would be a major component of my library, because I happen to love manga. When I read for my own enjoyment, it’s manga that I read. I love traditional books, but the combination of artistry and literary prowess that an excellent manga novel provides is something particularly enthralling to me. I know that my students who read manga and graphic novels demonstrated exceptional reading and writing skills. They have gone on to success in various fields. They demonstrate a higher likelihood of continuing on to be lifelong readers.
Other school librarians who have manga collections tell me the same things: their circulation statistics are up, their students are in the library more frequently, and reading as a whole is on the rise. Despite the results many of us report in our libraries, many school librarians are resistant to providing manga to their students. I believe this is often the result of stereotypes about the medium.
Stereotypes and Reality
The stereotypes are that manga is violent, filled with demeaning depictions of women, and is in some way deviant. These stereotypes are dated and xenophobic. While this may be true of some manga, it is also true of representations from every other form of literary expression. There are American novels and graphic novels that contain these elements. What we as school librarians need to do is make good collection development decisions so that we are selecting appropriate material, just as we do with any other medium that we select.
Also, the reality of manga today is that we have never seen more of a diversity of titles being published! There are amazing stories that center a variety of experiences. There are LGBTQ+ titles such as Boys Run the Riot (Kodansha USA) and I Think Our Son Is Gay (Square Enix Manga), and forthcoming titles about neurodivergence, such as My Brain Is Different: Stories of ADHD and Other Developmental Disorders (Seven Seas Entertainment). And longtime favorites such as Ouran High School Host Club (VIZ Media) and Fruits Basket (Yen Press) are free of fanservice and center themes such as friendship, identity, and moving past generational trauma.
But Where Do I Start?
Start small! My recommendations for a school librarian just building a manga library are:
- Start with the first three of highly requested series. Consider purchasing multiple volume ones. Many of your readers may be starting their manga journey with you!
- Consult students who love manga. But, also be sure to research yourself! Resources include:
- No Flying No Tights: Review site focused on providing guidance to educators.
- The Graphic Library: School librarian Sara Smith reviews comics and manga with depth and clarity with an outlook toward collection development.
- You can find further resources, including book lists, at my own blog, Manga Librarian.
- Seek out professional development! The Manga in Libraries series of webinars run by Jillian Rudes provides resources and expertise on manga collection development and instruction.
- Read manga yourself! Manga is a wonderfully diverse medium with so many stories. And the stories that are popular with our students may not appeal to you personally. You may prefer stories like Magus of the Library (Kodansha USA), the story of a young boy whose passion is books, who is inspired by a group of amazing librarians to become a librarian himself!
“I Like This School Now!”
Such were the words of one of my students the first week of school this year upon seeing our manga section. When students are asking for books, it’s an opportunity to welcome them into the school library! For students who love manga, it is a part of their identity, and having manga validates them. They feel seen, they feel welcomed. And that, more than anything, should make a school librarian excited to bring manga into the library.
Have you had success with manga in your collection? Do you have questions about incorporating manga into your existing collection? Comment below!