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Washington Library Responds to Complaint About Child Borrowing Yaoi Manga

posted on 2012-10-16 16:15 EDT
10-year-old checked out 2nd volume of Makoto Tateno's Hero Heel yaoi manga

The B-Town Blog, a local news blog for the Burien area of Washington state, reported on Friday that Travis De Nevers, a local resident, contacted the King County Library System (KCLS) after finding that his 10-year-old niece had checked out the second volume of Makoto Tateno's Hero Heel yaoi manga.

Resident Complains to Library to Change Checkout System

According to the blog, De Nevers' niece, described by De Nevers as a "huge anime fan," checked out a few manga titles after her grandmother dropped her off at the library, including the Tateno title. De Nevers found the title a few days later when going through her books.

De Nevers noted that he saw that the book had a "Parental Advisory" sticker on the cover, and told the B-Town Blog that he opened the book and "couldn't believe what I saw inside." De Nevers described the volume as containing drawings of two men having "rather violent" sex.

De Nevers wrote a letter to Bill Ptacek, the director of the KCLS, as well as Jim Wigfall, the KCLS' board president. The letter explained the incident and said:

How can it be that a young girl can check-out this book? Why would it even be located in a place where children would have easy access to it? It was by chance that I happened to pick up the book from a pile of her library books and noticed the label.

I do not want this to happen again to my niece or other children. I am asking that you review your check-out practices and make the changes necessary to prevent it. Please send me a response detailing your steps to correct this serious situation.

De Nevers also told the B-Town Blog that "What also sickens me is that people are going to the library to read this kind of content? An anime comic book section is where people go to read porn? Around kids? There is no good coming from this being in our library."

King County Library System's Statement

The King County Library System confirmed the incident with ANN, and provided ANN with the following statement:

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. When evaluating suggested titles, staff consults industry-related websites, newsletters and blogs. If overall reviews are positive, a title is purchased; conversely, if the consensus is negative, the request is declined.

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 title checked out, “Hero Heel 2” was catalogued as Adult Non-Fiction. All non-fiction titles, including children's non-fiction, are shelved together. 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. KCLS' Parental Responsibility Policy ... states in part, that:
“Parents and guardians are responsible for their children's behavior, safety and welfare while their children are in the library or on library grounds, which includes their children's access to library materials and electronic resources. KCLS strongly recommends that a parent, guardian or other responsible party be present to supervise children ages 12 and younger. KCLS staff is available to assist parents, guardians and their children in the use of the library; however, KCLS staff cannot act “in loco parentis” (in place of a parent) for children in the library.”
The Policy also states that
“KCLS will not limit children to the use of books in the children's section of the library, as these materials may not meet the needs and interests of all children. In addition, library staff is not responsible for determining whether materials used by children and teens are “age appropriate.”

These policies are not unique to KCLS. They are consistent with public library policies across the United States.

KCLS is always happy to suggest reading materials that are in keeping with a family's values and show parents how to use the library catalog to find out more information about a book before it is checked it out.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Responds

Maren Williams from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) also responded to the situation on Tuesday, stating that:

As CBLDF readers are aware, comics, graphic novels, and manga often face challenges from those who think any book with lots of pictures must be for children. That certainly seems to be the case here, as de Nevers expresses surprise that “an anime comic book section is where people go to read porn.” While Hero Heel 2 likely doesn't qualify as pornography by a strict definition, it is definitely intended for adults, who make up a large part of any library's patron base. Modern public libraries build their collections with a wide variety of ages, tastes, cultures, and interests in mind. There may be indeed be materials in those collections that some parents do not want their children to access, but the responsibility for setting those boundaries lies with the parents, not the libraries.

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