I have had two different library-centric discussions about what to do with the new release of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, adapted by Sam Maggs, and with art by Gabi Nam.  The title is published by VIZ, one of the most well-known manga publishers, and is part of their new effort to publish manga-style comics sourced from creators outside of Japan.  VIZ dubs the line VIZ Originals, and all of the press and title descriptions call Fangirl manga.  So what’s a librarian to do? For the purposes of shelving, is it best designated as manga or as a graphic novel?

As always when considering classification, I keep our patrons in front of mind. What do they think about a title like Fangirl?  Is it most important for fans of the original novel to find it?  Does it fit in well with the expectations of our manga readers?  Where might it best find new readers who don’t know the source material?

With the understanding that every library will have to think through this decision on their own, here’s how I thought through where to shelve Fangirl in our teen comics section.

Consider your Fangirl readers

Rainbow Rowell fans may well love to re-read the novel in comics format, so think about where they would think to look for the title.  Would they look in your graphic novel section?  Would they look in your manga section?  How likely are non-manga readers to crossover to the manga section in search of titles?

In my library, we have divided all of our graphic collections into three major shelving categories: graphic, manga, and super. The goal of these sections is to help readers more easily browse our graphic novels, Japanese manga, and superhero titles, and all of our various comics readers have responded very positively to this setup.  

For our patrons, it feels more likely that readers of the original series would browse and find it in our graphic section. They would expect an adaptation of a US novel in that section rather than in our manga section.

Consider your graphic readers

We have a significant number of comics readers who will not venture over to our manga shelves.  Whatever their hesitation, they tend not to venture into those shelves of series and stick to our graphic section.  Those readers look for titles that are grounded in realism and are teen versions of the younger slice-of-life favorites from creators like Raina Telgemeier, Faith Erin Hicks, and Victoria Jamieson.

To that end, the story of Fangirl will appeal to our typical graphic browsers, so I feel confident that those readers will be happy to find the title in our graphic section.

Consider your manga readers

Would your usual manga readers think of Fangirl as manga?  As a manga reader myself, I have a fan’s sense of what makes manga appealing to US readers. Fangirl presents as a manga in terms of the art style and the trim size of the volume, though it also reads left to right.

Japanese manga’s appeal, however, is not just defined by the art style. The enjoyment of manga includes making your way through a different culture’s pacing, editing, cultural references, and jokes. Part of the appeal of reading manga as a US reader is experiencing stories created by Japanese artists for Japanese readers. We are not the target audience, and that’s part of the fun of learning through reading. In this sense, Fangirl doesn’t quite fit into why manga usually appeals to its US fans. The intended audience is US readers, so the story, pacing, sense of humor, etc. may be less appealing to your usual manga readers.

Will it get lost on the shelves?

Previously, with titles all shelved together, stand-alone volumes would be lost in a sea of manga and superhero series.  Given that Fangirl will be only a few volumes as a series, it should be more findable through browsing the graphic novel shelves.

Thus, in the end, we decided to shelve it in our graphic section.

As more VIZ originals are published, I’ll be curious to see how this line expands and varies.  We may come to different decisions depending on how closely aligned with manga’s many facets these titles are.  

For Fangirl, though, I know the most interested readers will find it, and that’s always my goal.

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  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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