Way back in my early days as a media specialist at Stewart, I created a manga section. It was by far the most popular section of the library, and I would have students come in to check out multiple books every day as they worked through a series. When I started at Tampa Prep, I focused on other areas of the collection at first (especially creating a graphic novel section basically from scratch). But in the last few years I’ve begun building a manga section and I’ve been learning a lot in the process. Our section is currently tiny, but I’m continuing to add to it every year. Here’s what I’ve learned:
How to Plan Your Manga Order
There’s a lot of things to consider when planning your first manga order. Working through these tips will help you to get a better sense of what to prioritize for your school.
1: Survey your students about Manga
What books do your students want to read? Many of your manga readers likely have favorite series. Use a Google form or other survey (link to survey) and find out what their favorites are. When I sent out this survey to students, within 48 hours I had over 100 responses.
Here’s some of the questions I included:
- Do you prefer to read manga in print? Digital/eBook? Both? This question helped me decide how much to allocate to purchasing titles on Sora.
- Which of these manga series would you be interested in reading? This question had checkboxes for popular series that I was familiar with and had heard requested.
- What other manga series do you think we should get for the library? I always like to have at least one open-ended question on my surveys, as it helps me get a better sense of what students think. Some of the responses to this one included extra details like “I really like this series, but I don’t think it’d be appropriate for 6th graders” (we’re a 6-12 school) and “OMG I’ve never been so excited to fill out a Google Form before!”.
2: Do some research if you aren’t familiar with a series
When I don’t know a series well or when the age level ratings I find for it are more mature, I’ll often get the first volume or two from the public library and preview them. Ebooks can be great for this, as they make it even easier to skim through a book to see if there’s any content that might be an issue for my middle schoolers.
I’ll also talk to my students about series I don’t know. They tend to be pretty forthright about when a series might not be a good fit for the library. Sometimes they’ll bring in volumes from home to share with me as well.
3: Consider what types of Manga formats you want to buy
Print vs. eBook
We use Sora at my school, and my students (especially the middle schoolers) love it, so it made sense to me to order some of our mangas in digital format. When I sent out my survey, about 40% of the students who responded said that they read manga digitally. I’ve actually spent a good portion of my eBook budget this year on manga. While many popular titles do have a metered access (I’m essentially leasing them for two years) the price is still pretty good for the number of circulations I know I’ll get.
After noting what the most popular series were from my survey, I prioritized ordering the first five volumes of the five most popular series. I also ordered some other series that were from publishers that offer One Copy/One User.
While I haven’t used it myself, I’ve heard good things about Comics Plus through MackinVia. I love that all the titles are simultaneous use, so if that’s within your budget, that might be a good option for you.
Paperback vs. library bound
Most mangas are sold as paperbacks, but some vendors (such as Mackin) offer library bound versions. At my previous library, I would buy library bound almost exclusively because the manga was constantly flying off the shelves. Paperbacks would fall apart after a few circs. Since I’m working on building up my collection at my current library, I’m focusing on paperbacks for now, and plan to order the first five volumes of the series we get in library bound format in the future.
Individual volumes vs. omnibus
While most mangas are sold as individual volumes, sometimes they collect several volumes into one book called an omnibus. This can often be more cost effective, as you get several volumes for the price of one book. I find that some students prefer the smaller individual volumes while others are fine with the omnibuses. Consider adding a question about this to your survey.
4: How to Process Manga Once You Get It
Since we’re buying so many paperbacks currently, I take the time to reinforce them. I use Demco Circ Extender Bookcovers to help keep my paperbacks lasting longer. It takes more time up front (and practice to get it right) but I find it to be worth it. The 8.5” by 13” size fits most mangas, while the 9.75” x 15” works well for larger mangas, like some omnibuses.
My school catalog is on its own, so I have a lot of control over spine labels. The default for manga is 741.5 Author Last name. But except for die-hard manga fans, most students know the name of the series rather than the name of the creator. And I keep my manga separated from graphic novels. Also, the volume number is really important. So I format my spine labels like this:
Series abbreviation (i.e. DBZ for Dragon Ball Z)
I keep a Google Sheets file with a list of all my series abbreviations so I don’t forget them. I find that this makes more sense for my students, and it’s easy to reshelve things.
To label or not to label?
At my previous library, I used manga genre stickers to designate which books were manga. At my current school, I’ve chosen not to. Almost all manga is the same size and it’s very easy to tell that it’s manga by looking at the cover. And my spine labels also designate it as manga. All the manga is shelved together with good signage, so students can find it easily. I thought about adding genre stickers, but it just covered up more of the spine and didn’t seem necessary, so I decided not to use them.
5: Do your research and check out these resources
While this post is just what I’ve learned in the process of creating a new manga section, there are entire blogs devoted just to this topic. I rely on these resources heavily while selecting what manga to buy, and I highly recommend them.
- Manga Librarian
- Check out her Manga for Middle Grades recommended list (6-8) and Manga for K-5
- School Librarians United 141: Manga Librarian with Ashley Hawkins
- Manga in Libraries – I just ordered her book and am so excited to read it.
- The Graphic Library
- Manga in the Middle
- School Library Journal has been publishing some great articles on manga as well