A bit of methodology

27 09 2008

This is a brief survey based of the OPACs of a selection of four public libraries in major cities in both the United States and Canada. With one exception (Toronto) the criterion was that the city had a “Book Off” – a Japanese used-book chain store. In both North American and Japan a generous portion of these large stores is devoted to used manga (predominantly in Japanese).

The public library OPACs I searched were:

Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL)

New York Public Library (NYPL)

Toronto Public Library (TPL)

Vancouver Public Library (VPL)

Nana by Ai Yazawa: LAPL, NYPL, TPL, VPL

Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya: LAPL, NYPL, TPL, VPL

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa: LAPL, NYPL, TPL

Pet Shop of Horrors by Matsuri Akino: LAPL

Suppli by Mari Okazaki: LAPL, VPL

Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa: [none]

A review of the collections at these public libraries indicates that there has been investment in established josei titles like Nana, Nodame Cantabile and Paradise Kiss but that it isn’t comprehensive. Three of the more recently released josei titles currently available in North America are not well represented. The popular and critically well received titles Pet Shop of Horrors and Tramps Like Us are almost completely neglected.

Images: panel from Yotsubato! by Kiyohiko Azuma (I know, it doesn’t fit the genre, but I love her so much!)

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9 responses

2 10 2008
Robin B.

First, let me just say — yay for this blog! I’m very glad to see this going, and I appreciate all your comments and posts so far! I hope you don’t my barging in.

Full disclosure: I am a manga fan, a librarian, and an advocate for graphic novels and manga in the library world.

Just a comment on this particular survey (a good one, with a good point), not to necessarily defend libraries, who definitely have a long way to go in providing josei, but to provide a possible explanation for a couple of these titles absences.

First, libraries have not been collecting manga for all that long, especially not in adult sections. Many libraries I have worked with still do not have much manga for adults, which is obviously part of your point.

However, three of the series you’ve listed, Tramps Like Us, Pet Shop of Horrors, and Paradise Kiss, were released before libraries were seriously collecting manga (2004, 2003, and 2002, respectively.) While that may not seem like all that long ago for manga readers, it was a very long time ago for libraries collecting manga. Most libraries did not have manga collections during those years, and if they did, they were teen centric and librarians were skittish about content. Right or wrong, that limited what they originally collected. I remember that period well, as it was when I was just getting into manga myself, as a reader and and as a librarian.

Pet Shop of Horrors is now listed as out of print, and libraries have not been able to get complete collections. Most libraries cannot order a title if it’s not supplied by their vendor — I recently went to purchase PSOH for my own library, and I could not get most volumes as they are permanently out of stock.

Paradise Kiss was also only available unevenly, and I remember having a very difficult time as a customer tracking down volume 5 specifically. There were different editions, which also caused confusion for folks trying to get a complete run. Now there should be no problem, and with the anime’s release, I’d hope more libraries would purchase the series.

Tramps Like Us was a series that was barely promoted and not terribly clearly for adult women, and I will say that I recently added the whole run to my own library’s collection as a patron request reminded me that we didn’t have it.

That is something that I cannot stress enough — if you want a manga series, request it! Most libraries have a way for patrons to put in a purchase request, and I can guarantee that your request as a patron of the library carries a lot more weight that my own internal request as the manga-loving librarian.

2 10 2008
letsfallasleep

Thanks so much for taking the time to post this thoughtful comment. This is exactly the sort of insight I was hoping for when I posted all my vague assertions.

I do find that my local public library is very responsive to patron requests – so it’s great to see that point emphasized.

I can certainly appreciate the challenges of just being able to obtain consistent runs of some series. Perhaps due to the recent recalibration of the manga publishing industry it seems we’re all having to deal with the frustration of dropped and elusive series once again. The interminable delay on the next “Yotsubato!” *despair* being an example. (Thought I was greatly relieved to see that Yen Press has added my fav manhwa “Moon Boy” by Lee Young-you to their catalogue after absorbing ICEkunion.)

I don’t intend to cast negative scrutiny on public libraries – I love them and they do great work but I do want to ponder patterns in manga and comic consumption in North America. I think once my seminar is wrapped up I can post a bit about my own relationship to josei, a few other manga genres targeted to women, and my observations about their reception in North America.

Thanks again!

2 10 2008
Robin B.

I’m glad this was at all helpful! As I said, I completely agree that more josei should be in more public libraries. I sense an article coming on (not that I have the time..I wish! Pesky full time job).

Yen Press was a life-saver for rescuing those manhwa titles — I really loved a lot of them (my personal gave was 1001 Nights), and I’m glad to see a lot of titles getting pick up again after the market broke up a bit there.

I presumed you weren’t going after public libraries — they are behind the times, still, and that why I keep doing what I do to spread the word.

I look forward to future posts!

2 10 2008
GAil

Robin, just jumping in here to say thanks for joining the discussion. Great having your experience as part of the assignment.

Yours in stories,
Gail de Vos

3 10 2008
Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 2, 2008: Are we marketing ancilliary products yet?

[…] Fall Asleep, puzzlement over why josei manga is underrepresented in libraries, based upon this brief survey. (Hat tip: Simon […]

3 10 2008
Eva

I’m curious to know if the josei titles included in your survey are part of the teen collections of the four libraries, or part of the adult collections. Knowing where the books are shelved might go a long way toward explaining why they were included.

As Robin mentioned, in the early days (not so long ago), it was the teen librarians who brought manga into public libraries. Since much of what is considered josei in Japan is being marketed as shojo in the US, i.e.: Nana, Paradise Kiss, Honey & Clover, etc., often librarians don’t realize that teens aren’t necessarily the intended audience for the books.

With titles like Happy Mania and Tramps Like Us not having sold terribly well, Tokyopop shied away from licensing josei, and most other publishers either followed suit or marketed it as being for “older teens.” Not counting the new LuvLuv imprint from Deux, I think Suppli may be one of the first josei titles actually marketed to women in a long time. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens…

Thanks for giving me so much to think about. I’m also a librarian and manga fan, and I love the opportunity to think about what I do in different ways.

3 10 2008
letsfallasleep

That’s a great question Eva. I appreciate your post and I think I’ll take some time to follow up on which collections these books purchased for (after a day or so of post-virtual seminar decompression!).

I do wonder sometimes about the physical demarcation between teen and adult collections. With new patterns of public library usage emerging, like patrons using OPACs to place holds and just picking them up without ever browsing the stacks, I’m not sure if specialized areas for certain patrons have the same influence they used to…

4 10 2008
Vivianne

I’ve checked out our Winnipeg Public library to see what they carried. They had the following books including multiple volumes if applicable
– Nana, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss and Tramps like us. Supplie and Pet shop of horrors was not listed in the collection. They were also all listed in the adult graphic section. I was quite surprised they had so many.

15 10 2008
The conclusion « let’s fall asleep

[…] the library geeks – Eva made a great comment based on my survey of a selection of 5 titles and their inclusion in the collections of four large public libraries. […]

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