How to convince your librarian to include graphic novels in the collection

Many libraries are including comics and graphic novels in their collection, on the other hand a few may not have graphic novels and many only have a few. If your library is in the few or none category here are some thoughts on how to convince your librarian to join the trend, or as a library slogan for Teen Read Week said a few years ago, "get graphic."

First, you can explain to your local librarian that putting graphic novels in library collections is a trend, before the rule was only collections of newspaper comics were included in library collections, now graphic novels are included.

Part of the reason for this trend is that writers, artists and others in the comics industry have made a major effort to produce at least some quality literature, and they are dealing with important topics, for example, Maus, which deals with Hitler's Final Solution.

Beyond that graphic novels circulate well, always important to librarians. A graphic novel will circulate many times more often than the average book, and in many cases these will not simply be circulations stolen from the present collection. Put another text novel on the shelf and it may circulate, but most of its circulation may simply crowd out the circulation of other novels.

But beyond circulation graphic novels can encourage reluctant readers and reluctant library patrons. Teens and young people who might otherwise stay away from the library maybe lured in with graphic novels. This could increase the number of people with library cards, another important measure, along with circulation, of library success.

Finally, graphic novels can make the libray way cool, which in turn can help to bring in hard to reach teen deomographics.

What graphic novels should you suggest. This is important because librarians will often do things for you if you make a specific request. Instead of asking for graphic novels you might want to ask for a particular book

Many librarians prefer to avoid controversy. So in building up a graphic novel collection it is good to start with the uncontroversial titles. If you start with controversial material that can cause trouble, which can lead to the librarians avoiding graphic novels all together.

The Picture Bible by Iva Hoth is perhaps a good start. I have found that a large portion of libraries that do not carry graphic novels will include that in their collection. I sent one letter to a library system with only a few graphic novels and as a result almost half of their twenty branches added the book. The Picture Bible can work for adults, teens, or children and is not controversial. The picture Bible and other comic book Bibles are also popular with some librarians who do not like the whole movement toward graphic novels.

Historical graphic novels like Maus, Barefoot Gen, and many others maybe a bit more controversial but have made it into many libraries. You can probably find many titles in library catalogues which are usually on the Internet now. This is probably a good technique check what other libraries already have and suggest that.

For younger kids Tintin is a great classic, librarians like classics. I think that the Japanese comic Akiko is potentially another classic. I think it is even better than Tintin.

Bone is oriented toward older readers but it has gotten great reviews and most libraries will see it as safe.

Star Wars does not have the classic status of the previous two, but it does have the advantage that it will circulate well and is almost never controversial. The Star Wars organization seems to have some control over the comics and they are consistently wholesome.

Librarians are not anxious to put superheros in the collection, but Astro City is a good one if they are willing. It is intellectually sophisticated and respected and at the same time it has life affirming values. Many other comics have either sophistication or widely accepted values, Astro City has both.

Another possibility is historically important superhero stories. The older superhero stories can justify themselves as history while at the same time not offending anyone.

Well this should give you a start. Be patient, libraians sometimes tell you no, but then go ahead and do it anyway.

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This page was last updated on October 29 2009.