A student sits at a table across from her friends. She is reading a colorful manga and losing track of time as she becomes absorbed in the story. After finishing one volume, she eagerly returns to the bookshelf to pick up the next and returns to her seat.
It’s a scene that would not be out of place at any manga café in Tokyo, but the setting here is unusual: UCLA’s Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library. The student is using materials from the library’s extensive reading collection in Japanese.
This unique collection contains authentic Japanese-language reading materials. Extensive reading is a language learning approach that supplements classroom instruction with free reading for pleasure. Students select their own reading materials according to level of difficulty and improve their language skills as they read without relying on dictionaries or textbooks. The library’s collection includes not only manga but also children’s books, novels, and nonfiction works.
East Asian Studies Librarian Su Chen explained that the decision to collect extensive reading materials was based in part on recent trends in library space usage at universities nationwide. “Mobile technology and remote accessibility of electronic resources beyond library walls and hours have challenged libraries to rethink the library as a whole,” she said. The East Asian Library wanted to do its part in designing new spaces for teaching and learning.
Meanwhile, Japanese Studies Librarian Tomoko Bialock joined UCLA in September 2014. She had spearheaded a successful collection of Japanese-language extensive reading materials in her former position at USC. During the summer of 2013, Bialock visited the nonprofit Tagengo Tadoku, which promotes extensive reading in Japan. In Los Angeles, “I went out on weekends to hunt for appropriate books for extensive reading in secondhand and other bookstores in town,” she recalled.
Bialock’s arrival at UCLA allowed the East Asian Library to collect extensive reading materials relatively quickly. By building on her previous experience, she was able to launch UCLA’s collection by the end of 2014 so that instructors could make use of the materials in winter 2015 courses.
The East Asian Library also maintains an online catalog of readings that includes sample pages so that students can search the collection and find level-appropriate materials before they arrive at the library.