FanimeCon - Day One - Gilles Poitras
This could be the most influential anime fan in the U.S., because he reaches people who make a living out of literacy. Gilles Poitras, who was born in French-speaking Quebec, grew up on a California farm and makes his living as a librarian in San Francisco at Golden Gate University. For years, he's been advising other librarians on how to use anime and manga to attract young people to books in an era where youth are said to be watchers, not readers. "Librarians know the value of popular literature," Poitras said at Fanime Con on Thursday night. "Librarians are interested in what appeals to kids. Young adult librarians are very flexible in what they're buying...you have to find something that interests kids and shoot for that."
California may be different from the rest of North America, but Poitras has found that many youth are asking for anime and manga in libraries - especially in Oakland and across the bay in San Francisco. Librarians have to be careful of the titles they make available, he admits. "If there's sex or violence in the show, they have to be careful, but if librarians choose the tamest stuff in the world, someone's going to get upset." He recalled a story, told by another librarian, about how one parent questioned the risque humor in an episode of Ranma 1/2, until that librarian explained what was going on (there's a tradition of mixed-sex bathing in Japan).
Poitras has taken his love of anime to Internet newsgroups and the World-Wide Web. He regularly posts a list of available titles and maintains a web site that recommends what shows libraries should stock. Poitras' next step is to create a web site certification program, to identify pages with the best information on anime and manga series. Since he's a fan, Poitras has decided to call the program the "Onsen Mark," after the high school teacher in the Urusei Yatsura series. Poitras planned to start the program in April, with the best sites eventually being identified on the Anime Web Turnpike.
Poitras has spoken to overflow crowds of librarians, readers and anime fans about the special Japanese art form. People at FanimeCon also followed the path of the anime Pied Piper on the convention's first night. When a (false) fire alarm sounded in the middle of Poitras' panel discussion, people had to evacuate the hotel. Most of the people who had been listening to Poitras followed him outside, into the cold and rain. Like the ancient Greek philosophers who taught on a hillside, the discussion continued on the covered walkway outside of the hotel, despite the uncomfortable weather.

Day One

Day Two

Day Four