Robot 6

Library reorganized to shield youth from harmful comics

Psychic Academy, one of the manga Barbaree sought to ban

Psychic Academy, one of the manga Barbaree sought to ban

A few weeks ago, we reported on one Margaret Barbaree, who wanted all manga removed from the public library in her hometown of Crestview, Florida. Ms. Barbaree’s complaint evoked hoots of derision, and some rather unkind personal attacks, from across the blogosphere, but in the end, things may have worked out well for everyone.

Barbaree filed over 200 challenges to individual books in the Crestview library, asking that they be removed from the shelves, and she argued her case in a news piece (scroll down to the July 9 video) for the local cable station. While she may not have been the most articulate spokesperson, her crusade brought up some issues worth discussing. On the one hand, libraries should not have to restrict their collections to books suitable for a five-year-old, and individuals should not be able to dictate what all the patrons of the library can read; on the other hand, it’s reasonable to keep younger readers away from the more lurid adult graphic novels. In fact, the library had already shelved the books Barbaree complained about in the adult section, but now it has created a separate teen room and moved the adult and teen books farther apart. This seems to bring the Crestview library solidly into the 20th century—did they not have a teen room before? Still, they seem to have done a nice job of it, getting the teens involved and taking the opportunity to jettison their collection of VHS tapes (which probably got them a few more irate letters, but there’s no pleasing everyone). More importantly, everyone’s problems were solved without resorting to the nuclear option of removing all graphic novels from the library, and that’s a lesson that some other library districts could learn from—including the Wicomico, Maryland, school system, where Dragon Ball has been banned from all school libraries, including the middle and high schools (the first volume carries a Teen rating, according to the Viz website).

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12 Comments

Good luck with the censorship America–can’t get manga at the library, but you can buy drive through booze and guns aplenty..but manga will be the undoing of your society. Way to get the priorities in order.

Yes, because all us ‘mericans got together and agreed to this.

Well, not all Americans, but I find it depressing that a portion of American society is always ready to indulge a cowardly, self-deluded parent seeking a weak excuse for why her little darling has gone wrong, instead of looking at her own parenting skills.

Sad truth is, lots of people just don’t have the maturity and psychological stability to raise kids. That they try to blame manga, RPGs, television, or rock music is sign enough of how dysfunctional and divorced from reality they are.

Rene: your points are valid. However, most people are not even aware of what things like “Manga” really are, all they know is what they see is in sound bites on TV- is it really fair to condemn them for that? Also, this is *hardly* only an American problem, you see it all through the civilized world.

Brigid Alverson

August 11, 2010 at 10:03 am

In this case, the books stayed in the library because the city allowed the library administration to do their jobs. Almost all libraries have distinct procedures for handling challenges, and very few challenged books are actually removed. In this case, the library came up with an intelligent solution that appears to be working for everyone.

When non-librarians, especially politicians, get involved, things get murkier. That’s what happened in Wicomico, where the superintendent of schools pulled the trigger on Dragon Ball.

A couple of things popped into my head as I read this.

One, ‘Psychic Academy’ was deemed too traumatizing for pure sweet little minds? Really? Okay, yes, there’s some fan-service, and the uninitiated might be startled by the glimpse of partially censored boob, or girls in underwear. But… really? The spirit of Mary Whitehouse lives on, I suppose.

Two, who is responsible, at these libraries, for the acquisition of material? Given the repeated controversies regarding comics and manga and such, does it not make sense for that person to *check* the book for age-appropriate material before sticking it on the shelves? Yes, there’s big-eyed cartoony kids on the cover, but omg bewbs!

Three, I’m having some difficulty wrapping my head around the severity of this ‘problem’. In 2010, with iPhones, iPads, Borders, Amazon, and near-ubiquitous internet access, are swarms of American children and teens going to their local public libraries, searching for five to ten year old manga books?

Eric, policies may differ somewhat among libraries, but many of them do have solid collection development policies to help them deal with challenges. And, while not all libraries have staff members who know a lot about comics and manga, there are sources available to them to help with selection. The thing to remember here is that the library in Crestview did NOT have the manga in the children’s area, so yes, the librarians were being very responsible. Please remember that the teen STOLE the books from the library in the first place!

And yes, believe it or not, lots of teens and children use their public library to find ALL KINDS of books, not just manga, many of which are older titles. Many of these children can’t afford iPhones or iPads and live in households that can’t afford computers, much less Internet access. I live in one such community where the library sees a lot of use, for computer access, for books, for programs.

Sijo –

I agree that the media loves to fan the flames of hysteria, but I do think it’s fair to condemn these nutso parents. The kid stole books from the library, and the Mom claims the manga twisted her innocent kid’s mind. Seriously, any adult that believes the comic book (even an erotic one) is responsible for turning a kid into a thief has some serious issues.

It reminds me of the joke about the cuckolded husband that caught his wife having sex with her lover in the living room’s couch. His solution? Burn the couch.

“Manga warps kid’s mind” is a sexy headline. The far more realistic headline of “Kid’s mind already twisted by nutso, drunk, abusive, absent, emotionaly unavailable, and/or domineering parents” isn’t that sexy, unfortunately, it’s just sad.

You know who can’t buy booze and guns?

Anyone under 21.

Thanks, Kat Kan. I freely admit, being a 30-something single dude with no kids, that I’m hardly ‘in touch’ with what kids and teens are doing, and it’s reassuring to learn that some public libraries are bustling with young geeks-in-training.

I certainly wasn’t trying to blame or impugn this specific library or its personnel, and I’m glad to see that the resolution is such a sensible and reasonable one.

On a slightly related tangent, I’ve noticed some manga sections at bookstores (Borders, in particular), where the adult/mature titles are shuffled right in among the rest of the titles. I’ve been in a couple of stores where Berserk and Battle Royale, two of the most ‘Not For 6-Year-Olds’ books I’ve seen, were on low shelves, without being shrink-wrapped. Just seems like trouble waiting to happen.

In the town where I lived up until about a month ago, there was really only one area with manga. It was by the DVD’s and tapes were, which was a mainly child-oriented area in the child/teen section of the library. Basically, this library had rather odd priorities, I think. Books that were fine for anyone 9+ who is capable of reading it were sometimes found in the teen section, and as far as I know they only have manga that is rated 13+. (I have rarely found anything with a lower rating anywhere, I might add.) The had nothing 16+ or higher anywhere at all. And also, there were books in the childrens’ books that I remember reading when I was around 11 that had a lot of swearing, usually “shit”. That was a great series, but when I was 11, although because of my family and neighbors I was thouroughly desensitized to swearing, I was sorta shocked to find it in a book.

But seriously, when will people learn that you can’t just remove books from library shelves completely? You can move them, but you can’t make them remove them. And seriously, 13+ manga is usually fine for anyone capable of reading it (I read it to my little brother, who is eight, all the time). And 16+ manga is fine for anyone over 13 or 14 usually. Unfortunately, most people think that all anime/manga is either for small children, or all hentai. Do you homework, people.

I don’t think not knowing much about manga is a valid excuse. If you’re going to condemn something and demand it’s removal, I think you have an obligation to educate yourself about that thing.

She lied and misled people to get her shitty petition signed. She apparently wasn’t watching her son too well if he was able to read and steal books she didn’t want him to get. And she’s refusing to acknowledge the real causes behind her son’s mental problems. She has to have talked to his doctor’s and counselors, surely they’re not claiming the book exploded his mind.

I think the teen room is ridiculous pandering and a complete waste of resources. My library had one, and it didn’t keep me sequestered there-I roamed throughout the whole library, rarely going into it out once I had exhausted it’s supply of Mercedes Lackey novels and manga.

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