Senpai Success Story #9: Shannon, the International Librarian Who Promotes Manga, Anime and Drama

Welcome to the Senpai Success Story, where you can read about others who have walked a unique career path using their Japanese language/cultural skills. If you have your own SSS to share, please read more here. (Psst: Senpai means “mentor” or “teacher,” and the concept is important to understand for anyone wishing to work in a Japanese business setting.)

My name is Shannon O’Leary, and I have the best job in the world.

Everything started the day I got sick of graphic novels. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel and DC are great…but fifteen years ago, if I wanted a female superhero? I’d have to go for Wonder Woman or The Avengers and I had read all that my local library had by that point. I vividly remember going to the shelf thinking: Isn’t there anything else I can read? Then I noticed a strange looking book on a table called Inuyasha v. 8. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the cover art on volume 8 has Kikyo on the center of the cover. So, I picked it up. As I began to read it, I became entranced with the storyline. Not only did this book have women in it, but they were the main characters! I was thrilled. Thus began my addiction with manga, anime, and Japan.

Fast forward a couple years, I entered college and met other people who enjoyed anime and manga as well. They taught me about series, music videos, conventions, and Expanding my horizons, I decided that no matter what it took or how much stress it put me under, I was going to take Japanese. I ended up loving it. I took 2 years of it and the summer of my junior year,and I managed to take a 2 month trip to Japan!

Visiting Japan, using my language skills, experiencing Japanese culture, I soon fell completely in love. There was so much history in Japan! From Kyoto Imperial Palace to Nijojo to Studio Ghibli Museum. Everything was so unique and so special, I felt as if I had entered another world. 

But all good things must come to an end.  I graduated from college and soon started working. I was still watching anime, drama, and live actions, reading manga and light novels but inside I really wondered what I was going to do? Would I ever be able to utilize my Japanese (that I was still practicing at home)? What did I really want to do?

Finally life turned a corner for the better. I got a part-time job as a library intern at Novi Public Library in Michigan. Novi has a very diverse population and as a result the library has lots of international resources (books, movies, magazines, etc.) Surprisingly their biggest population is Japanese! After a couple months of working and getting up to speed to my job duties, my supervisor gave me the most fantastic assignment (or collection, if you speak librarian). Since I spoke Japanese, Spanish and could read Ancient Greek and Latin I was going to be managing Novi’s International Collection!

The International Collection over at NPL (Novi Public Library) is comprised of over 14 languages, one of which was Japanese! I was so happy to discover I could now order books for this and go through all our generous International donations to add to our collection. Our community is so great, we receive tons of donations each year in several different languages. This enables me to add books that I would not normally be able to purchase to our collection! The greatest part is that most of these donations are in pristine shape!

A couple months into my internship I started talking to one of my co-workers, who also enjoyed anime. We thought it would be a great idea to start an anime collection at NPL. Our supervisor approved, and considering the fact that we already had a decent chunk of anime (scattered throughout our TV series section, International Film section, Youth section, etc) it was a go. I’ve been buying anime for our library ever since and I am the go-to person for all things anime or manga at our library.

Two years later, I became Novi’s first ever International Librarian, a full time position. I manage all of our International and ESL (English as a Second Language) Collections, Programs and Resources. I facilitate all of our language conversation groups (French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, English, and Tamil), as well as our ESl Book Club and ESL Movie Discussion. I also get to attend certain international events in the area, such as the annual Novi Japan Fest, to raise awareness about these resources. 

I am currently working on a translating a brochure of all of our resources into different languages, and with the help of our dedicated community I have so far managed to create brochures in Chinese (simplified and traditional), Japanese, and Tamil. I have also managed to create bookmarks in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (simplified and Traditional), and Tamil. What fun!

My job has turned into my passion and I love every minute of it. Oh, and did I mention I now get to buy all our manga too? Yes!!!

Questions about Novi Public Library? Visit or visit our social media pages!

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