Yesterday we told you about Seattle area resident Travis de Nevers, who asked the King County Library System to change its circulation policies for minors after his unsupervised 10-year-old niece checked out the yaoi manga Hero-Heel 2. In response to de Nevers’ complaint, KCLS Director Bill Ptacek has issued a letter strongly defending the presence of such manga in the library’s collection and making clear that parents and guardians bear responsibility for setting limits on what materials their children may access.
First, Ptacek explains how KCLS strives to build a diverse collection:
In keeping with the 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. Materials are selected based on a variety of criteria including, but not limited to, current and anticipated needs and interests of the public and contribution to the breadth of collections. We also expand the collection by responding to requests from patrons, and graphic novels are one of the most requested areas of the collection.
Then he provides some background on manga and dispels the myth that all graphic novels are geared towards children:
Although many people associate graphic novels with children and teens, the industry increasingly publishes titles for adults thanks to the popularity of Anime TV shows. The material caters more to Japanese sensibilities than American values and may contain elements rarely depicted in American graphic novels.
Finally, Ptacek cites the KCLS Parental Responsibility Policy and reiterates that library staff are happy to guide parents and guardians in helping their children choose materials, but they do not act in loco parentis for unsupervised youngsters:
The title your niece checked out, “Hero Heels 2” [sic] was cataloged as Adult Non-Fiction….The parental advisory sticker on the cover was adhered to the book by the publisher. KCLS does not apply ratings to its materials but recognizes that certain items in the collection that are popular with some may be considered objectionable by others. For that reason, staff relies on the authority of parents and legal guardians to supervise the reading, viewing or listening use of library materials for their own minor children.
CBLDF applauds Ptacek and KCLS for their polite but firm defense of manga! The entire letter can be found at B-Town Blog.
Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.