Librarian How To: Graphic Novel Collection Development in Academia


Dear Internet,

As my tenure at MPOW gets closer to the end, I’m in the process of writing lots and lots of documentation for my successor1. One of my projects I’m most proud of, and hope will be continued, is my graphic novel collection (which will always be mine no matter what). Since I seem to be fielding lots of questions from people in all sorts of places about graphic novel collection development in academia, I usually point people to my project Graphicdemia since that has all of my resources. But there are a few questions I have not really answered such as WHAT I’m collecting and HOW I’m marketing the collection to my community.

This post should answer those question. (Warning: Some of the content is culled from stuff I’ve written in emails, comments, and documentation so it may sound a bit familiar.)

Collecting graphic novels at a community college is a weird niche. We’re not a research institution nor are we a public library, so our needs are different and are often left unaddressed. If you look at a lot of professional publications, they more often than not push their recommendations towards public libraries (mostly) OR gear their recommendations for research libraries. Thus, trying to collect and being active in this area  while considered a niche area is is kind of difficult at times.

With that being said, when I started ramping up the collection in the spring of 2012, it contained less than two dozen items and as of today, now contains closer to 300 items.

Not too shabby.

How do I decide on what to collect?

The collection is split into two with history, how-tos, criticism, and biographies of the creators located in 741.5s. Graphic novels themselves are located at the beginning of the fiction collection with the local call number Graphic Novel, are alphabetized by the creator’s last name, and have a “Graphic Novel” designated sticker on the spine.


We did this for a couple of reasons.

While the collection circulates, much of the circulation was happening outside the community via interlibrary loan. As I will later note, we were doing quite a bit of promotion within the library, but since the core collection was still stuck in the stacks (and students seemingly hate browsing the stacks just for fun), we weren’t seeing a lot of internal traffic happening with the collection. The librarians had recently decided we were going to clean up our fiction collection (adding more local authors, getting in more popular materials, updating existing copies) and I thought this would be a good time to move the core graphic novel collection to the beginning of the fiction stacks for better visibility. Our fiction stacks are prowled through quite a bit and the hope was to increase circulation within the local community by their shelf-reading.

This tactic worked. Our circulation has improved dramatically.

How did I select works? Works were selected with the following criteria:

  • If the work is geared for ages 16+
  • Preference is given if the work is an anthology, biography, historical (fiction or non-fiction), cultural, literary, standalone, regional, or independently published
  • If the work is currently not fairly represented in MeLCat (our statewide consortium) or in GRPL or KDL
    • Example: Gail Simone’s Red Sonja, which came out in March and was highly anticipated, is not currently showing up in MeLCat at any of the over 300 libraries in the state. So I ordered it for MPOW.
  • If the work is being used for an event on campus, classroom, or other college related activities
  • As space is limited, and GRPL is located across the street, long running or complex series’ and manga will not be considered unless they fall into the above definitions

Because of the nature of the collection, I use the following for collection development resources:

I bought criticisms, how-tos, commentary, and anthologies in addition to the stand alone books because I wanted to provide historical and popular thought to the collection. While it is important to me that people read comics, it is also as important to know the hows and whys comics are the way they are. I attempted to keep these titles more mainstream and less academic-y but still provide diverse thought and various reading levels.

On to promotion! You’ve got the collection started, now what?

  • Like any good librarian, the first thing I did was create a Subject Guide. In addition to keeping in line with the template the librarian’s developed for the guides, I decided to also add tabs for blogs and journals; reading lists and collections; museum, societies, and careers; conventions (local AND national) and comic book stores; and then a direct link to our graphic novels board on Pinterest.
    • Monthly, I would also update the “New Title” section of the guide to showcase latest titles received at the library.
  • I routinely advertise to various departments (English, History, Art, ESL) who also create assignments based on the collection though we do not have a graphic novel class yet! 
  • I blogged about graphic novels on MPOW’s blog, which also cross-posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
  • As previously mentioned, I curate a board on Pinterest that is updated monthly with new titles and links back to the library’s catalog
  • I advertise through various college communications for events (banned books week, free comic book day, etc)
  • When we were doing displays throughout the library, I would create and rotate themed displays featuring graphic novels
  • We created promotional materials (bookmarks, mini posters) to display or hand out
  • I contacted our local public library system to partner with them for various events that could not be handled here at MPOW for whatever reason
  • I contacted our local comic book store (LCS) to also do promotions and events as well as to buy our comics through them (support local businesses, yo!)
  • I also did outreach to various student groups on campus that might be inclined to read comics (anime club, gaming club, etc)

As I mentioned last month when I wrote up Kristin’s panel at C2E2, colleges AND other educational institution can get involved for either local or national events by doing the following:

  • Partner with your local public library AND LCS to do cross-marketing for their events
  • Create displays around the library to promote the events
  • Create Pinterest boards to showcase your graphic novel collection
    • Also utilize social media
  • Volunteer at LCS and/or public library for the event (if applicable)
  • Work with departments to use graphic novels in their instruction, promote their teachings / class list

In addition to all of the above (phew!), you can also join the Graphic Novels in Libraries mailing list, while geared towards public libraries, is chock full of info. Additionally, there are several MOOCs happening dedicated to comics and graphic novels. Coursera has a class starting in August and Canvas Network has class going on right now.

And as always, all of this information (and more) is always available at the Graphicdemia project page.

How To: Free Comic Book Day At Your Library

Kristin cosplaying as Aquaman

Dear Internet,

It’s early spring which means C2E2! This is one of my favorite times of the year as I get to meet up with my CMMRB BFFs, I’m in Chicago, the weather is brilliant, and of course, comics.

This year Kristin was asked to do a panel on setting up a Free Comic Book Day event at the local library, along with reps from Comix Revolution and Diamond Distributors. I live tweeted the very informative session and it was requested I turn the tweets into a blog post for easier referencing.

The session was broken out into four parts. Due to some of the questions asked at the Q&A, I’m going to add a fifth step. To keep the flow, I’m going to bullet point and expand on my original tweets to provide additional/expand on information.

To get an idea of time frame, FCBD is the first Saturday in May every year. (Note: LCS = Local Comic Store, FCBD = Free Comic Book day)

Before you begin

  • Because of time involved, you should set up a workflow to begin the prep for FCBD months in advance. As with many libraries, you should think about costs when doing your annual budget to plan for staff, marketing costs, and other auxiliary costs so the funds are already budgeted when you need them
    • How to get additional funds to support? Donations, donations, donations! (prizes, sponsor, volunteer)
  • You should plan on contacting artists, local groups, vendors, do a call for volunteers, and other related at least six months ahead of time. This is one of the busiest times of the year for the comics industry — it’s like the Christmas season for comic retailers
  • You should also ask in advance for sponsorships, donations, and etc from local vendors and merchants. Take advantage of donations for prizes, business volunteer programs for staffing, and more
  • You should plan programming leading up to and day off at this time, including passive and active programming and think about those associated costs / staff / volunteers
  • Promotion: Make sure to work out hashtags, get sites up, FB pages and events up and running before FCBD to do seamless promos
    • Social media: Make sure someone is constantly updating twitter/tumblr/facebook etc AND interacting before /during event.

 Contact Diamond

  •  You should contact Diamond (via the Free Comic Book Day day website) no later than early January. Diamond will supply you, for free, comic books, marketing and promo materials, templates, and ideas to do press releases and a whole lot more.
    • Diamond chooses the comics and the amount sent, based on library size
    • If you would like to choose your comics or have additional comics, you can pay a nominal fee ($.25 – $.50  per comic) and order via your local comic book store. This also needs to be done before mid-January
    • About 15-20 comic titles are available, ranging from popular to new to one offs. Great way to expand taste and get into new works
  • Diamond sends out promo and marketing materials like buttons, stickers, etc to about 500 libraries each year

Contact Local Comic Store

  • You should reach out to your LCS before early January, even better before
  • Why partner with LCS: The relationship works to exchange new patrons for the library, new readers/customers for LCS
  • In partnering with LCS, libraries could/should set up tables at LCS to sign up new patrons during the LCS events
  • Cross-promotion: This includes different FCBD selections, advertising each others activities, and then having a punch card to get stamped for lottery to win prizes

Plan out FCBD programming

  • Designate time and spaces for events
  • Last year as FCBD landed on May 4th, Kristin’s library partnered with Great Lakes Garrison, 501st Legion; Princess Leia and Darth Vader were on hand to do photo ops, signings, and more
  • There were artist alleys and panels on variety of topics
  • Passive programming included board gaming, color sheets from DC/Marvel (download and print for free), trivia around the library to earn extra stamps on punch card
  • Costume contests! Encourage people to cosplay. Prizes were donations from local retailers
  • Library partnered with other local retailers for sponsorship, volunteers, and prizes
    • Marketing 101: If you partner with anyone, make sure to put their logo on all materials!
  • Library also made sure branches were involved, such as doing Superhero Cinema at various locations, and there was trivia events throughout the month to earn more prizes
  • In addition to FCBD day of events, the library does a month long themed displays and programming leading up to FCBD
  •  Encouraging kids (and adults!) to create their own superhero, turn it into a poster, and public will vote on best one
  • Hold classes during the lead up and on the day of FCBD on drawing / comic book making / writing

Get Volunteers

  • How many volunteers do you need? Break out jobs happening, this includes game masters, manger of speakers, photos, handing out comics, updating social media, and more
  • Where to get volunteers: Teen advisory board, local businesses with volunteer programs, partner orgs will often send staff, friends/family
    • Also local student organizations, local like societies/groups (board gaming groups, anime groups, etc)
  • Remember volunteers are also fans! Relieve them so they can have fun. Encourage them to cosplay. Get group pics to feel valued and part of the event

Here are some of the questions asked after the presentation:

What if you are a school and cannot be open on Saturday?

  • You are allowed to use the materials from previous years FCBD to hold events and such before the current years FCBD.
  • Diamond requests that you DO NOT give out that years books prior to the day of FCBD.
  • If you do not have access to previous years materials, contact LCS to get some. Many (most!) will be happy to help.
  • You can also partner with LCS to hold events before and after the day to cross-promote.
    • Use this to cross-market so students/fans can enjoy FCBD at school/institution and on the day of

How to determine how many comic books to give out per person?
Last year Kristin’s library allocated 1 per person while her LCS was unlimited per person. This year, the library will plan for 2-3 per person.  How to determine how many? Plan on FCBD to be bigger than most of your other events, so for the first year you may want to go with lower number and then use that to base future years.

Spanish language FCB?
Not yet, but coming. there are challenges in getting spanish language books

What to do with extras/left over promos and materials?
Keep them to use as teasers/prizes for next year, donate to other libraries, schools, etc

What if you are an academic library, what can you do?
If you are open on Saturday, you can plan the same events and programming as you would for any other event types. If you’re not open on Saturday or do not have the space to do it, here are some ways you can also celebrate/promote by:

  • Partner with your local public library AND LCS to do cross-marketing for their events
  • Create displays around the library to promote FCBD
  • Create Pinterest boards to showcase your graphic novel collection
    • Also utilize social media
  • Volunteer at LCS and/or public library for FCBD
  • Work with departments to use graphic novels in their instruction, promote their teachings / class list

In addition to the above, for the last year or so I’ve been working on a project called Graphicdemia. Graphicdemia is “a resource for collecting, promoting, and circulating graphic novels at non-research institutions, special libraries, archives, and community colleges.” On the website, I’ve organized and vetted my blog posts, presentations, recommended books, and websites that are applicable to the type of libraries I just mentioned.

You will also find previous presentations by Kristin and I on comics in the library.



Banned Books Week: Graphic Novels


By Lisa M. Rabey
Systems & Web Librarian

The reasons why books are banned or challenged can span dozens of reasons, ranging from preceived sexuality, content, language, or violence. But censorship is not limited to just a book, but can also be applied to movies, music, and graphic novels.

To highlight graphic novels that have also been banned or challenged, the American Library Association and the Comic Book Defense League created lists highlighting the top accused graphic novels. GRCC library has numerous of those titles available for check-out:

In addition to the above titles, GRCC library also has large selection of graphic novels available in the stacks the second floor.

[Continue Reading]

Originally published at: Lisa @ GRCC

Bagged & Boarded: Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections


Bagged & Boarded: Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections | 3.5/5

Quick summary: As the title states, it is a collection development book aimed at librarians who work with k-12 on purchasing, promoting, justifying, and defending their graphic novel collection.

tl;dr summary: Despite the fact this is geared for public librarians, there is a lot of rich material and resources that are relevant to academics or special librarians. Miller ditches chatter and presents the content in a clean, organized style. While I read this on consecutive order, you could easily jump from section to section. Each section is summed up with main points presented, which I found refreshing and easy to track. While the most content is still relevant nearly a decade after publication, it is not without its flaws. Which brings us to tbe problem of the book: It was published in 2005 and many of the recommended titles are out of print or recommended web resources are dead. This title should should not be a one off, but should be revised every few years to keep it fresh.

When looking for titles for support in graphic novels, titles are usually geared for public libraries, school libraries, hard core research, [Continue Reading]

Originally published at: Lisa @ EPbaB

May 4th: Free Comic Book Day


By Lisa M. Rabey
Systems & Web Librarian

If you’ve met me around campus or ended up in one of my classes, you probably already know I’m fairly passionate about comics and graphic novels. One my goals as an instructor and a librarian is to use sequential art not just as a teaching tool or use comics creatively but to ultimately inspire passion for comics in others.

For those reasons, and more, I’m always super excited about the advent of Free Comic Book Day every year. This is a great way to get others introduced into reading comics and to do so for free.  The world of comics can be completely overwhelming and FCBD is a great introduction into that world without getting overly lost.

How does it work? Simple. Every year FCBD organizers have a list of titles that will be given away by local comic book stores. You show up, ask for the titles, and tada! They are yours for free. Now not all titles are available all stores, so you may have to call yours and ask, but chances are pretty good you’ll get what you want.

Other awesome things is that depending on where you live, comic book stores will often [Continue Reading]

Originally published at: Lisa @ GRCC