LIS Trends

Washington Library Responds to Complaint about Child Borrowing Yaoi Manga

with 9 comments

Many manga fans know that yaoi manga is also known as “boy love” manga.  It tends to be aimed at female fans and feature homoerotic or homoromantic relationships between two male characters.  A Washington state resident complained to his local library in the King County Library System after his 10-year-old niece brought home Vol. 2 of Hero Heel, a yaoi series.  Travis De Nevers looked through the books that his niece brought home from the library and noticed that one of them had a “parental advisory sticker” on it.  After looking through the book, De Nevers was shocked at what he considered to be explicit sexual content depicting men having “violent sex”.  He wrote a letter to complain to the library asking them to reconsider their check-out policies.

In response, the library explained that they keep with their mission to “provide free, open and equal access to ideas and information, KCLS develops its collection to reflect the diversity of the patrons we serve.”  At the King County Library System manga is categorized as non-fiction and all non-fiction in that system is shelved together (children through adult).  This shelving is not unique to this library system.

I heard about this issue on two librarian related mailing lists where I am a member.  And, while part of the ethical code of librarians is to uphold intellectual freedom, we must also remember that we help the public make determinations about the information that we present to them.  Part of the way that we do this is by separating our collection based on suggested reading levels.  By shelving all the non-fiction books together, this library system, and others like it, may be doing their patrons a disservice.  No patron should be denied access to information based on his or her age, but he or she should not be forced into reading from a collection that he or she is not ready for.

source:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-10-16/washington-library-responds-to-complaint-about-child-borrowing-yaoi-manga

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Written by tigerkat1979

October 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. This is an interesting issue – it reminds me of the ethics case in which the library worker did not want to check out some R-rated material to an underage boy, even though his mother was present. As with that case, I do think it’s the parents’ responsibility to keep an eye on the materials their children are checking out.

    I agree that a better shelving system could be implemented to help avoid incidents such as the one mentioned above. Non-fiction books geared specifically towards children should be kept apart from the general non-fiction section, so that parents can feel secure in the knowledge that any books their children take from the children’s section of the library will be suitable to readers under twelve years old.

    I’m also unsure why manga would be shelved in non-fiction, if they portray fictional stories. Perhaps an adult graphic novels section would be more appropriate, if the library has a large enough collection to warrant the distinction.

    ellentisdale

    November 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    • This presents an interesting dilemma, but I do not think that placing an age limit on certain books is out of the question. One library that I work at has a policy that no one aged fourteen or younger may check out books from the non-youth services section (youth services in on a different floor so the separation is easy to discern). If a child needs a resource from the other parts of the library, the adult with them can check it out for them and be responsible for that resource. Most children visit the library with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. and whoever is watching after the child is not supposed to leave the child alone (librarians are not babysitters after all). Young adult books are not shelved with the rest of the youth services books – they are placed downstairs. Most graphic novels, manga especially, are placed in the young adult or regular collections, not juvenile.

      Children still have access to all the information, but this method makes sure that it is the parent (or whichever guardian they have with them) who has the final say and if they feel their child is ready for any resource, they can go ahead and check out those resources for their individual child. This allows the library to comply to codes of ethics without interfering with parent/guardian rules.

      Sometimes I wonder if mission statements and “codes of ethics” are abused in such a way to serve as cop-outs for rational thinking. If the library wants to argue that they “provide free, open and equal access to ideas and information” than one could ask that if nonfiction is important enough not to separate (though I agree with Ellen – how is manga nonfiction?), why is fiction different? Would you consider an erotic novel too adult for a 10-year-old child? If so, how do you justify that when the Kama Sutra would be placed in non-fiction, making it easily accessible by that same 10-year-old? Ideally, parents would look at what their child is checking out, but if you make the argument for one thing, than you better be prepared to open up the entire library without any limitations to age and not raise any eyebrows when a child checks out what some may consider questionable material.

      Lisa Anderson

      November 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    • Sometimes manga is classified by the strict Dewey number because people haven’t accepted it into the non-Dewey classification system. I guess, even Fiction should technically be shelved by the 800 Dewey number that would go along with it (this number is now mostly used for books about fiction, or biographies of authors of literary fiction). A lot of librarians can’t decide how to shelf manga or graphic novels, especially since they are so many different authors, so I think that is why the default to using the non-fiction call number system.

      Katie Werner

      November 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm

  2. I find this organization system to be rather unorganized. While it may be convenient to put all of the nonfiction together, I think this makes it rather difficult for parents to know what is appropriate for their children. It is much easier if the collections are separate. Also, I think it would be frustrating for me as an adult to have to sift through children’s materials when I am browsing an area for research. I know that at most libraries I have visited, children are allowed to visit the library on their own by the time they are eight or nine years old. I am sure some of these children are told – by their parents – to stay in the children’s section or they can only look at books in the children’s section. If this is the case, these children only have access to fiction material. I think that separating the nonfiction into adult/young adult and children sections would be wise and would prevent situations like this from occuring.

    TiffanyC

    November 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  3. It’s funny how the problem that brought this up (children borrowing spicy manga) was discarded for another problem that became apparent by the library’s response — keeping all the non-fiction in one section. I agree that dividing the non fiction up by age group would make it easier for patrons to find age-appropriate materials, and I would do it myself based solely on easier relevant access along with merchandising benefits. But just to be the devil’s advocate I can also understand an argument against segregating materials — do we have the right to judge what’s appropriate for children or not? Shouldn’t the parents be with their children controlling what they have access to if they are so concerned? Would it be fair for me to go to a library that has a romance section I’m not interested in, but be forced to look through a fiction section I’m also not interested in for my favorite science fiction book? If the library is going to separate children’s materials from adult materials, why isn’t it separating mystery, science fiction, romance, westerns, and fantasy into their own sections? Do I have to suffer because the librarians at my library aren’t treating my favorite genre with the same kind of respect as it’s treating other genres?

    Isidoro Alastra

    November 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    • This is a good point. At my library, recently they removed many of the romance books from general fiction because they created a separate “mass market paperback” section. Unwittingly, this segregated a lot of the romance novels from other fiction novels (a boon for me, as they are faster to find now…), but I am not entirely sure if that specific result was intentional. Before that, in this particular branch, all fiction was contained together, with no seeming regard to content.

      If libraries began separating books so finitely, I believe they would very soon find themselves running into problems. I read romance blogs often, and one discussion that has been rather hot lately is that new sub-genres have been cropping up but people are having trouble distinguishing between them. For example, the new hot tickets are paranormal romance and urban fantasy romance. There are many places where the lines between these two “genres” are blurred, and I believe this can be argued for many works of fiction as a whole. I’m sure some libraries have done this, despite that issue, and perhaps it works quite well for them, but I can see where others may not wish to approach the problem at all. Perhaps because of a lack of desire or a lack of time or resources.

      I will say that our manga is in the Young Adult section, and therefore, I think anyone wishing to oppose a yaoi book being placed there might have a large amount of community support despite any philosophies about access to information that libraries uphold. This is a cultural perspective, but in Japan, manga is not just for children, or even young adults. Is it for everyone. That is, there are manga for all age groups, and of all genres. However, that has not quite been communicated properly to most of American society, in my humble opinion, and so perhaps this is how we run into misunderstandings such as this? If she had brought home a romance novel, like something I would have read, what sort of argument would her family have brought up then? You need to censor your entire fiction collection so that my niece doesn’t pick up something that I should have told her she should not be reading? Excuse my tone of voice, but that is how I see this issue. Perhaps it would be better if the librarians shelved this sort of material a little more “appropriately”. I also think a lack of cultural understanding and localization is part of the route of this particular grievance, considering the type of content.

      CWhitmore

      November 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    • At my library, adult fiction is split up in exactly that way. There is the General Fiction, the Sci-fi/Fantasy section, the Mystery section, the Romance section, the Western section, the Inspirational section, the Classics section, and the Graphic Novel section. Yes, there is a section for graphic novels in the adult fiction section. The teen section has its own Graphic Novel section, but the adult one is where all of the graphic novels with above 16+ rating go. There is no limit on who can take these out. My library doesn’t check a patron’s items at check out or walk around to see who is reading what. These items are simply separate so that accidents like the one above don’t happen. It is a decent system that I haven’t heard many complaints about since I’ve been there.

      Sarah Mahoney

      November 27, 2012 at 1:10 am

      • At my library, adult fiction is split up as well: Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Western, African American. Then there are stickers placed to distinguish Inspirational, Romance, Romance with a Bite, Fantasy, etc. within the various collections. We have two graphic collections: Adult and Children’s each of these has novels and nonfiction/biography. The fiction at the library I used to work at was also divided into sections: Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, and Western. We did not use stickers to further divide the sections. There were three graphic novel collections: Adults, YA, and Children’s. Every once and a while, we do receive a complaint from a patron about a certain title being in one collection over another. The book is reviewed and a letter of explanation sent to the patron. Sometimes the book stays in the original collection and sometimes it is moved to another age-level.

        TiffanyC

        November 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  4. I feel like this library is out of touch with its contents. To classify all manga as nonfiction is negligent, because they’re not all the same. If any of the cataloging librarians took a look at it they would see that they are also fictional stories. It’s akin to classifying all sci-fi books as nonfiction.

    I understand it does become tedious to try to classify books into sections because sometimes authors cross over to different genres. But some care should at least be taken to ensure that books are in the right category such as nonfiction or fiction.

    Kanha Touch

    November 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm


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