Gene Luen Yang

Author Gene Luen Yang on the Importance of Libraries

School librarians are central to the mission of a school

Well, I was partially raised by the library, I feel. My parents used to drop me and my brother off at the library all the time, especially during the summers. I learned how to read in the library I developed a deep love of Dr. Seuss at my library. I remember going to the programs that they used to have in the common room under the...you know, downstairs. I saw my first episode of Star Trek in the library. Libraries were hugely influential on me.

I did a book in 2013. It came out in 2013, called "Boxers and Saints," which is all about the Boxer Rebellion, a war that was fought on Chinese soil in the year 1900. When I started that project, I barely knew anything about the Boxer Rebellion.  Everything I learned, I learned at the library. I specifically went to the library of Cal State East Bay, which is where I got my master's degree, and over the course about a year and a half I would visit at least once a week and spend several hours there, every time I would visit, reading about turn-of-the-century China.

Do have a favorite a librarian?

Well, I work at a high school, and our school librarian is named and Annette Counts. She is absolutely amazing. Anytime I have a question, either as a cartoonist or as a teacher, she's able to answer it. She's really like an embodiment of Google with the soul.

Yeah, I think that the job of school librarians has gotten much more complex, because our information is much more complex now. It comes in a variety of forms. It needs to be archived in a variety of different ways, and students expect to be able to access it in a variety of different ways as well. Even so, I think school librarians are central to the mission of the school.

You know, you can't just have information as as information. You need to teach students how to wade through that information, how to weigh that information against one another, and a school librarian can do that. The school library is the guide in this vast jungle of data that's out there. 

I think, you know for me, libraries  have always symbolized the freedom of information, that information ought to be accessible by everybody. And within a democracy, that's  foundational. That's foundational to who we are. I think that's why libraries have been around for along as America's been around. It's an important building block of who we are as a society.

Right now, I have a couple projects going on. One of them is I'm a writer for a series called "Avatar: The Last Airbender," it's a series of graphic novels that continues a story that was begun as an animated show. And then the other project I have coming out is in September. It's a  collaboration with an artist named Mike Holmes, absolutely amazing guy, and together we're doing a book called "Secret Coders," which is all about computer coding. This is my first explicitly educational comic. The way we're pitching it is we're saying it's like Harry Potter  in that a bunch of tweens find a secret school, but the secret school, instead of teaching magic, teaches coding. And we're hoping as our protagonists become coders, that our readers will, too.