MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Librarians were out force this weekend at Comic-Con. It's the largest pop culture convention in the country. This year, there were panels on the new animated "Star Wars" movie and the TV shows "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica." So what are librarians doing at Comic-Con? Beth Accomando from member station KPBS reports they were looking for manga, Japanese comic books, to fill their shelves.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I'm here at the San Diego Comic-Con on the last day of the convention, and I'm here with librarian Eva Volin. And we're looking for manga on the floor. Eva, what have you seen so far here that you want to talk about?
Ms. EVA VOLIN (Librarian): Right now, we're at the Dark Horse booth, and I'd love to take a look and see if they have copies of "Rite of the Water Gods." Oh, they also have "Translucent" on the shelf, which is great. I love this series, particularly for middle school and younger high school students.
ACCOMANDO: At 40, Eva Volin is one of new breed of librarians, one that grew up loving comic books. So when it came to putting American comics and Japanese manga on the library shelves, she said it was a no-brainer. Fellow librarian David Serchay agrees.
Mr. DAVID SERCHAY (Librarian): We were the kind who were comic fans, and then became librarians. There are others who were librarians, who now are probably becoming comic fans because of the influx into it.
ACCOMANDO: Serchay, who's from Florida, got money from the Broward County Friends of the Library to come to Comic-Con. And there's one very simple reason why libraries are paying attention to Japanese manga.
Mr. SERCHAY: Well, it's been shown over the years that people do -especially teens and even younger - will read graphic novels and manga. Our circulation stats for that area are through the roof.
ACCOMANDO: If you want proof, just visit any library and look at the manga section. The shelves are likely to be almost empty, because up to 90 percent of the titles have been checked out. Libraries can hook young readers with a manga series like "Fruits Basket," which concerns a recently orphaned girl who moves in with classmate and his cousin who just happen to be possessed by animal spirits. It has more than a dozen volumes, so kids come back to the library because they want to keep following the story. "Fruits Basket" is what's known as shoujo, or manga aimed at girls. Eva Volin says manga attracts young women in a way that American comics can't seem to do.
Ms. VOLIN: I'm a typical girl reader, which means that I'm very attracted to character development, and I'm more about story than I am about action as a reader. And a lot of manga typically focuses on character development and growth, along with the action and the humor that you want to find in a book.
ACCOMANDO: Eva Volin looks back to the American Library conference in 2002, with its panels on comics, graphic novels and manga as a moment when libraries started to take note of manga. Since then, libraries have been working to meet the needs and interests of a new generation of readers, and those younger readers are showing an appreciation. Eva Volin recalls an encounter with a young girl who was at the library trying to check out some manga with her mother.
Ms. VOLIN: And, you know, being the helpful reference librarian that I was, I said, oh, you're really going to like that story. I enjoyed it very much. And the girl did a double take and turned to her mother and said see, mom? Even old people read these.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ACCOMANDO: For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.