Want Manga For Free? Visit Your Local Library

October 30th, 2007

Some of you may know this already – by day I am an “Information Professional,” which is what we in the profession call the job that everyone else calls “Librarian.” :-)

I am a researcher for a consumer healthcare company and to be blunt, I love my job. I have the greatest job in the world. My job title is “Information Scientist” – if I was at a public library, I’d be called a “Reference Librarian.” I’m the person people come to to find out stuff they don’t know but want or need to know. Anything from a phone number to the kinds of products with certain ingredients on the market, to professional literature searches, to “we heard this thing about this company, can you find anything about it?” It’s a great job.

I am currently writing from a professional conference, at which lots of Information Professionals get together, network, train with other IPs and generally pretend to be extroverted. (And we’re definitely getting better at it. We’ve mostly learned to fake social skills to the point that most people who don’t know us well can’t tell that we’re not people people.) And, btw, Librarians are the *coolest* people in the world. We are so on top of the current technology, despite what some people assume, because of the mean, medieval Librarian they knew in middle school. Because we are geeks and can’t help ourselves :)

There are libraries who have Second Life presences, are active on Facebook, MySpace, etc, and a lot of Librarians run free chat services where you can ask a Librarian questions, and stuff like that.

If your local public library doesn’t have services like that, it’s most likely not because they don’t want to – even if you think that’s the reason. (For some reason we *always* erroneously attribute things like that to personal issues. E.g., “They hate manga.”) The real reason is that public libraries are run on public funds and they are probably horribly underfunded. Write your local council and tell them that you WANT more manga, chat reference and better services at your local library. It’s *your* tax dollars at work.

Want cheap manga? Don’t download – go to the library. It’s FREE. No strings, except that they ask you to bring it back when you’re done. It’s free, it’s legal and every book you take out shows them that there is interest in manga, so they get more.

My local library has a completely craptastic website…but they have an *awesome* manga section. It’s separated into YA and Adult and I browse there all the time. I wrote them and told them that they were doing a great job and they responded that they were doing their very best to do just that.

Your library doesn’t have manga? Ask. Trust me, the librarian *is* interested in what you want. Explain that it’s a fast-growing segment of the American book market, and that it appeals to and encourages young people to read. If the person behind the counter seems resistant, or confused – be patient. A lot of local libraries have mostly volunteers – many of whom are older and are probably not up on this stuff. Find the person who makes decisions (the “acquisitions manager” or person in charge of “collection development”,) and suggest that they read the “Graphic Novels” reviews in Library Journal (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this…they have.) Get some local people to help you – friends, kids you know, your parents. Write up a proposal and get names from people in town. You *can* change things. If your local library is just too small to get the budget – go up a step to the county library.

(True story. About twenty years ago, I asked for a book at my county library. They InterLibrary Loaned (ILL) it for me. Then another and another. At some point I asked why this library didn’t have very much GLBT fiction and everything was coming in by loan. The Librarian, who was a very abrasive person, explained condescendingly that there wasn’t a big audience for it. I walked away, went into the reference room, looked up the county census – since it was a county library – and composed a letter to the head of Reader’s Services. I explained that at an estimate of 10% of the population of the county, XXX,000s of people were likely to be GLBT. I assumed that they might be interested, as well as straight people who might simply like one of those authors or stories, and concluded that there was, in fact, a sizeable potential audience that was not being served. A week later, three of the books I had ILLed appeared on the “New Books” shelf and they’ve been pretty good about picking up GLBT fiction and non-fiction since. The moral of this story is – no one messes with a Librarian, not even another Librarian. LOL. No, I’m joking, the moral is – this is YOUR library. You can make a difference.)

If you’re lucky enough to live in a well-off, cutting edge area, you might find your local library online, on LJ, on Second Life, etc., and you can probably access all their services right from your computer, even if they have a meh website. Chances are that they have their catalog and all sorts of databases for free – not to mention the professional expertise of people like myself, all to help you find what you need. Got a question? Call the library. Need an article/book/CD/DVD/podcast/manga/resource? Call the library. Don’t know where to start on the web to find something and Google is bringing up junk? Call the library. There are zillions of databases that have information that Google cannot find – but your local library can. (The wife wants me to tell you that she is on a first-name basis with the reference librarians at our library. Even with the web, and married to a librarian, she uses their expertise all the time.)

Every time I attend one of these conferences, I’m reminded how little time I have to really put Yuricon everywhere I want to be. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have accounts on LJ, MySpace, Mixi and I just opened up a Facebook account. I’ll always try to post news in these places, but there’s no way I have time to be active everywhere. If I had time, I would so have a SL account with a virtual 24/7 Yuricon event. How cool would that be? But I have that darn day job, so I can’t.

In the meantime, I will attempt to get the word about Yuri, Yuricon and ALC Publishing out there as widely as I can. I need your help – if you have an account on any of these networks, friend me and we can connect that way. Of course there’s always Okazu and the Yuricon Mailing List, which are the places I’m most likely to be found and that I always update first.

This morning’s keynote speech by Joe Janes was awesome. In it, he said that as reference librarians, we were *born* to answer people’s questions, to do research, to find out “stuff.” (And I am, absolutely.) He suggested that since we are already out there doing outreach, being present on a zillion sites, blogging, riding the leading edge – as Librarians always have – we ought to also be out there doing the reference we always do in these places. Joe called it “slamming the board” and mentioned Yahoo Answers as an example. I had to laugh – I’ve been answering questions there for some time. Sure I don’t answer every day, or every question, but when someone needs something that I can find or that I know, I do it. *Because I can’t help myself.* :-)

Which brings me to this: I am once again soliciting questions for my twice annual “Now This is Only My Opinion.” If you have questions about what I think – about anything, feel free to put them in a comment here. But this time, if you have a question that you’d like answered, something that might take a bit of work, I’ll see what I can do. No promises and please, don’t try to come up with something to stump me – I’m only doing this for fun! LOL

What was my point here? Oh yes – get thee to a library!!

Send to Kindle

11 Responses

  1. Dr. Ellen says:

    I’m in a library-related world, and know about the occasional librarian with poor social skills. So one evening I was at a party, and a friend was just sitting quietly. “Get out there and circulate, Denny!” somebody said.

    To which he replied, “I’m a reference librarian. I don’t circulate.”

  2. That’s both so funny and sad at the same time…

    I find that reference librarians these days are usually the ones with the best people skills, since we’re the one’s who deal with people.

  3. Chalcahuite says:

    Speaking of Libraries, I read about this in the newspaper this week: The Internet Public Library.
    Not too comprehensive yet, but it’s another alternative to Google.

  4. There are so many alternatives to Google. Not just other search engines (of which there are hundreds) but databases that specialize in topics, as well as pay-for databases available to professionals.

    And, of course, professional expertise. The problem now is no longer that people can’t find information, it’s that they can find *something* somewhere and often don’t know that there’s better and more accurate elsewhere.

  5. peter says:

    I am actually a reference librarian, and I have the pleasure of choosing the graphic novels for our collection. Which, in the past four years, means buying lots of manga.

    People coming to the public library for manga may need to understand a couple of issues we have.

    First: budget. I’ve already spent 75% of my GN budget with half the year left. Some stuff, Naruto, Fruits Basket, Bleach, etc, are no-brainers, and I’ve added a few lesser-known titles (Ouran, Love Com, Hayate, Nodame, Drifting Classroom, etc) but I can’t afford to buy every single new series that comes out, much as I’d like to. In that situation we ILL. And other libraries ILL from us.

    Also there’s still the kids/adults situation. Some titles which get raves in reviews are more adult in nature, and we run the risk of offending the screeching “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” would-be censors who assume that since it’s all pictures it’s for kids, even though the offending volumes are in the Adult section.

    Oh, dr. ellen, we ref librarians don’t circulate. We roam.

  6. Thanks for the great comment, Peter. These are all important things to consider – and it sounds like you’re doing a great job of navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of audience desire and non-audience perception. Keep up the good work! (And if you can, let us know what library you’re at, so readers in the are can visit and use that great collection!)

  7. peter says:

    Thanks, Erica, but I wish to remain a mystery! As for my library, well, most of the libraries around me do a pretty good job with manga. I’m jealous of one nearby that actually subscribes to both Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump, darn them …

  8. Ann K says:

    May I also suggest that if your own manga collection starts slowly shoving you into the hallway that you donate it to the local library? I just took in an entire set of Full Metal Alchemist and havent’ seen that much gratitude since I dumped a whole load of popular SF and mystery on them. Besides that, you get a tax write off for it.

  9. Great suggestion, Ann. This is especially good for smaller libraries.

    My local libraries won’t accept donations for their collection, but they do accept them for the “Friends of the Library” sales. So in either case, the books get a good home and you help the Library!

  10. Lizzy says:

    hehe, i work at a library too… and it’s so nice, because my boss, the head librarian really wants to know about this stuff. :)
    im usually the one given the task of ordering manga! (*proud*)
    so, yeah, your right. they do want to learn! :D

    -Lizzy

  11. Thanks Lizzy, for the feedback. I dropped by my county library today (and btw, I take it back – their website is much improved and offers “Ask a Librarian” online and everything!) and dropped off a big bag of Yuri-flavored manga, including YM5 and Rica for them to put on the shelves. They were happy to have it.

Leave a Reply