Bringing Graphic Novels to Library Fans
Amy Alessio is the teen coordinator for the Schaumburg Twp. Dist. Library in Illinois, where she has enjoyed the advice of her teen patrons for over 10 years. She cowrote A Year of Programs for Teens (ALA Editions, 2006) and edited the 5th Edition of Excellence in Services to Young Adults (YALSA, 2008) and Missing, an anthology (Echelon Press, 2009).
Graphic novel collections in the library can significantly increase traffic and circulation numbers. Many libraries are branching out from having GNs in the teen area to having separate children, teen, and adult collections as more titles are published targeted to different audiences. Keeping up with popular series and trends can be daunting and expensive. Here are some ways to keep GN fans coming back to your school media center or public library.
Check out some print resources. Yes, online sources like GraphicNovelReporter.com will keep you up on the latest, but the print resources help you fill in subject areas for a core collection. There are many fan guides on essential manga or introductions to Japanese Manga viewing or reading. Here are 10 of the resources written for librarians and teachers on the subject:
Brenner, Robin. Understanding Manga and Anime. Libraries Unlimited; annotated edition, June 2007. ISBN-13: 978-1591583325
Robin is a reviewer for this site as well as on her popular noflyinnotights.com resource. This is a guide designed for librarians.
Cornog, Martha and Perper, Timothy. Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries. Libraries Unlimited, August 2009. ISBN-13: 978-1591584780
This is coming out in 2009 and looks to be a good resource for updated trends in the format for libraries.
Frey, Nancy and Fisher, Douglas.Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills (Paperback).Corwin Press, January 2008. ISBN-13: 978-1412953122.
A good resource for educators.
Gorman, Michele. Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids. Linworth Publishing, November 2007. ISBN-13: 978-1586833275.
This is designed as a collection-development tool for librarians serving youth in grades 2–6 and has lots of great lists and resources.
Gorman, Michele. Getting Graphic: Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens (Literature and Reading Motivation). Linworth Publishing, November 2003. ISBN-13: 978-1586830892.
Gorman’s earlier title is also aimed at collection development. Great lists here too, including “safe” graphic novels, ones for younger teens, and more. Curriculum tie-ins make this one useful for school media specialists also.
Gravett, Paul. Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know. Collins Design, November 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0060824259.
This book is a great introduction to the format for newbies, with analysis of trends and interests as depicted by 30 titles.
Lyga, Allyson and Lyga, Barry. Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide. Libraries Unlimited, June 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1591581420.
A nice resource catering to the issues of school media centers.
Miller, Steve. Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections (Teens @ the Library Series).Neal-Schuman Publishers, March 2005. ISBN-13: 978-1555704612.
Neal-Schuman continues their popular teen library professional series with one devoted to graphic novels.
Pawuk, Michael. Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More (Genreflecting Advisory Series). Libraries Unlimited, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-1591581321.
A different way to promote the format—by genre.
Weiner, Steve. The 101 Best Graphic Novels. Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, January 2006. ISBN-13: 978-1561634439.
This guide from a library director is geared toward children and teen collections.
Getting teens and other ages in the door to look at the graphic novels is easily done with engaging programs. Many libraries already offer forms of anime and mange events. Here are five ideas to increase appeal of the library to fans of this format.
· Graphic novel swap: This is inexpensive and fun, not to mention green! Swaps could be set up by ages to keep titles appropriate. Fans often have tons of these at home, including some they don’t read anymore. Or offer tickets to teens who donate some to the library, which could be redeemed for prizes.
· Clubs: anime viewing clubs, drawing clubs, writing comics clubs, graphic novel reading clubs: All of these appeal to the fans. Hiring professionals is the easiest way to do this, and many of them freelance all over the country. Call your nearest comic shop to see if they know of any artists or authors. A monthly program will garner you a regular audience. A reading club could operate year-round for graphic novels, with targeted prizes and promotions. In a school media center, it could be a lunchtime or afterschool event.
· Cosplay: Invite teens or other ages to come in dress to watch an anime movie. Or offer workshops in creating the costumes, makeup, and more.
· Japanese culture: Research Obon festivals or invite someone in to teach simple Japanese phrases or cultural norms. Help fans see why manga and anime are so prevalent in Japanese culture.
· Contests and festivals: Invite creative artists and writers of all ages to design creatures, superheroes, comic strips, or simple storylines to be acted out. Have a festival or reception to celebrate the winners. Some libraries host anime- or manga-related events over a week or weekend, including art shows and other programs.
Do fans of graphic novels in the community know you have them in the library? How could they find out?
· Comic shops: These are always the go-to resource for graphic novels in the community for libraries. Consider posting fliers there, hosting events in the stores, buying from the stores, and inviting staff as speakers or leaders for programs. If there is none nearby, ask art teachers from the high schools or community colleges to lead anime workshops and promote your events to students.
· Reviews: Does the library website have a place for people to post reviews? Even a bulletin board in the library with tacked-up patron reviews will help spread the word of mouth that folks are reading and enjoying graphic novels.
· Displays: Add GNs to displays within other media to attract new fans. “Match the Movie to the Graphic Novel” is an easy way to begin this.
· Workshops: “What’s New at the Library” visits should not be limited to summer-reading promotion at the schools. Many staff give talks at retirement centers, camps for kids, and business centers. Find ways to include promotion of graphic novels. Lists of books by genre or topic can be handed out at many venues.
· Face-out shelving: Display GNs so their covers show whenever possible. The art is the big seller with these.
· Staff promotions: Help other staff learn about GNs by talking up the titles, putting them in staff newsletters, and mentioning the high circulation of that collection.
Mostly, graphic novels are selling themselves to fans! While those unfamiliar with the format may not know where to begin, simple programs and a basic knowledge of trends and series will go a long way toward making the library appealing to fans. Then, rely on patron suggestions to guide future promotions.