Real Otaku Experience : Your Local Library
By Charles On 21 May, 2012 At 08:41 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSometimes we fans forget where we came from. It’s not really our fault. We have internet access, data flying everywhere, and untold stimuli waiting to be uncovered. So it’s not a surprise when we sometimes forget our humble roots of yesteryear. But we are also in a very unique position to return to those roots, and perhaps aid and abet them back to prominence.

Earlier today I was heading home from class when I decided to stop by the local library in search of something to watch on TV tonight. You see, I recently discovered how expansive and contemporary my library’s media collection actually is. Hundreds of movies, music and even games, all for free (if you can return it within 3 days), just waiting for someone to check them out. When it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks.

How many of you readers actually use the library? How many of you might view it as some outdated relic of youth, when books and movies were too expensive? How many of you have even been to one recently? I’m hoping a lot of you. I spend a lot of time at my local branch, reading, researching and presenting to the kids. I take advantage of the collection, and even contribute to it when I can. I was practically raised in my local branch, in fact- it’s one of the key reasons why I’m such a voracious reader.

But libraries are being increasingly seen as a thing of the past, suffering from budget cuts and reductions in both hours and books. Some people mention that they don’t have the same importance they once did, or that the money would be better used elsewhere. They have forgotten what libraries were- and are- and how important they can be to the modern generation.

Which is where we come in. We are fans. We know what we want. We have a powerful, collective voice. We have passion and fire. We can speak up.

But how do we speak up? Well, that’s up to you. For starters, look into whether or not your local branch has an anime or manga club. This might not sound very important, but trust me, it can be. Two years ago, I walked into my local branch and asked the very same question. Turns out they had one…sort of. It didn’t meet all that often, though there was a real demand from all the kids and teens reading from the manga wall. This question led to a series of lectures that have since worked their way throughout the library system where I live, and in turn have given these youths a new gateway into appreciating manga and Japanese culture. If your local branch doesn’t have one, then offer to run one. A few hours of your time could bring in plenty of potential new fans, and help spread love for your hobby. At the very least, it has the potential to bring in more people, and direct attention towards what the community wants.

Have a large collection of manga or novels you never read? Why not donate it, then? In a time when cuts threaten the acquisition of books, it often falls to the community to keep the library stocked. And believe me, the librarians will appreciate it. So will the patrons, when they see your books on the shelves and clamor to grab copies. Increased circulation might destroy your book, but it will show the demand and in turn (hopefully) lead to more and more acquisitions of similar style.

Donate your time, if anything else. Volunteering is a way to fill necessary roles while helping the library remain within budget. It also gives you access to books and administrators, who have the potential to listen to you in the end. Sometimes these same people are actively looking for feedback on how to improve standards or on what to order next. Sometimes they are seeking dedicated persons to implement projects or run prospective clubs. If you are there, and you are passionate, you might be able to help in ways you never thought of before.

Just because someone might say the library is dead, that doesn’t make it true. We tend to forget about them, or think “I haven’t been there in forever” when we walk by but not inside, but they are still a vibrant part of the community that deserves attention and a voice. Libraries are one of our best cultural creations, and a valuable resource for just about anybody. So I urge you to visit your local branch and see ways in which you can help. Contribute your time and your love to making the library great. Because it’s too easy to miss something, or become passionate about it, when it’s already gone.

About - Charles has written for ROG since 2010. An anthropologist and culture lecturer, he has previously been a featured panelist at Anime Boston and Otakon, the first educational guest at Anime USA, and frequently speaks at cons up and down the East Coast. He received his MA in cultural anthropology in 2011, and currently writes on convention culture, sacred culture in media, otaku identity and mythology.

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