Foolproof Graphic Novel Collection Development
So many great graphic novels, so little time to get them in to your library. Where to start?
Do you approach your graphic novel collection the same way you do your books and periodicals? How do you let your patrons know that these fabulous graphic novels exist? David Lisa of the Camden County (N.J.) Library, Laverne Mann of Piscataway (N.J.) Public Library, and Stephen Hrubes, also of Piscataway Public Library, provided an easy answer at New York Comic-Con (NYCC). These three panelists covered graphic novels at length for the New Jersey Library Association, and said that there was a need to have a collection development primer for the genre at NYCC.
If you need convincing that these graphic novel things need to be in your library, Lisa provides five good reasons to do so:
- Graphic novels are published for all ages. There’s something for everyone.
- Many popular movies and TV shows are based on graphic novels and comics. You can look at the 2012 box office to see proof of this—two of the top summer movies (The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers) have their roots in comics.
- Comics fans go to libraries. They like to read.
- Comics were born in the United States and have taken hold worldwide, both as entertainment and educational tools.
- Graphic novels and comics are a form of literature. They are no different from the books already on your shelves.
Of all the aspects of your collection development plan, the most important part is your intellectual freedom policy, because something in your library will offend someone at some point in time, especially in a genre unfamiliar to some patrons. It is important to have a strong policy for challenges, and strong answers for those challenges. If you need assistance, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is at your disposal.
You can find specifics on collection development at comicsnj.pbworks.com, but David Lisa has a few ideas to get things started:
- Find a comics fan, either within your own staff or from your own patrons.
- Find a dependable distributor or partner with a local comics shop.
- Test the waters with a small collection.
- Visit comic shops and talk to patrons to find out what’s new and popular.
- Anticipate need; make sure there is enough to go around.
- Market the heck out of the collection. No one will know it’s there unless you tell them about it!
Laverne Mann and Steve Hrubes provided a case study for a strong graphic novel collection in their own library in Piscataway. Mann shared ideas on displaying and presenting your works, everything from finding connections with your book displays (copies of Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente on a World Series–themed book display, perhaps?) from proper facing of the works. In short, make the collection fun and easy to find.
Remember that graphic novels are both fiction and nonfiction works; the biographical graphic novel, such as the aforementioned 21 and Jim Ottaviani’s biography of scientist Richard Feynman. Graphic novels can also be an easy part of your programming. If you do it in your library, just add comics! Have a kids’ storytime? Include a few comics in the mix. Offer a movie night? Pick one of the recent films based on comics. You can even start a comic book club, as Piscataway has done.
It’s important not to forget about digital comics. Tools like Comixology and born digital/transmedia comics (the latter is a comic that is more multimedia in nature; an excellent example of one is Cognito Comics’ Operation Ajax) are quite popular. There isn’t a library model yet, though there is one in development with iVerse media, Comics+ for Library. The Comics+ product is starting beta testing later this year (librarians who are interested can contact iVerse to be part of the beta test) with a release date sometime in 2013. This is a place where librarians can set the tone of the conversation for the appropriate business model.
Although there are distributors for comics (Diamond, Ingram, Baker & Taylor), the local comics shop is an important part of the relationship. Steve Hrubes, former comic shop manager and owner turned librarian, testified to this and provided the dual perspective of business owner and librarian. Many comic shops love libraries but also view them as competition (i.e., every person who gets their comics from the library is one less sale for the shop). It’s competition in an already tight market since shops are already fighting Amazon, eBay, and the recession.
If your library wants to work with the comic shop, you can find local shops via comicshoplocator.com, and those shops that want to work with schools and libraries will have the “School and Library Partner” badge in their shop and on the locator site. (You can see a sample shop listing with that badge here.) What if your shop isn’t a partner? How can you entice them to be one without appearing as you are stepping on sales turf? You can offer to sell wares, such as discounted material. You can offer to bring in new demographic to the shop, such as women and teens. This does sound like a lot of work, so what can you get from the partnership? Quite a bit. You get the pipeline to the new and noteworthy material, free marketing for library programs, and (of course) free promotional stuff. As my mom always says, “It can’t hurt to ask.”
KATE KOSTURSKI received her MLS from Pratt Institute and is currently the Institutional Participation Coordinator (UK and Northern Europe) for JSTOR. She is a member of GameRT. Visit her site at www.katekosturski.com,and follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.