From Librarians

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    I'm looking for books about graphic novels to help me figure out what to select for my library. Any suggestions?

    Happily, there are quite a number of great resources for librarians. Some of the best, in my humble opinion:
    For Public Libraries
    The 101 Best Graphic Novels by Stephen Weiner
    Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections by Steve Miller
    Graphic Novels : a Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More by Michael Pawuk
    Graphic Novels Now : Building, Managing, and Marketing a Dynamic Collection by Francisca Goldsmith

    For School Libraries & Librarians
    Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens by Michele Gorman
    Graphic Novels in Your Media Center : a Definitive Guide by Allyson A.W. Lyga with Barry Lyga

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    How should libraries and librarians catalog graphic novels?

    There are three major rules of thought that I see daily on how best to catalog graphic novels. They are:
    1. Shelve by dewey number or Library of Congress, so graphic novels go in by their subject.
    2. Interfile graphic novels in fiction, with nonfiction titles by dewey number in their respective sections.
    3. Separate out graphic novels as a format, with a custom classification like "Graphic" before the call number (in this case, titles may be classified by author, by title, or in some cases by character)
    4. Some combination of all three tactics, depending on the age range and library community.

    Over the years, I've found that my patrons prefer option number three -- separate out the format, like we do with videos are audiobooks, and then within the format organize by the fiction/nonfiction divide. This seems to work for both how my patrons look for titles and how the librarians feel happiest looking for them. Not to mention this set up leads to a visible collection, which in turn tends to lead to higher circulation (especially than option two.)

    All that being said, I know libraries of all kinds that have had success with all options. Schools, for example, often do have success interfiling titles, especially as the nonfiction titles are thus found with their subjects and students can find there's a graphic novel option when they're researching. So it does depend on your library and your users -- check in with them!

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    What are your recommendations about shelving graphic novels?

    Over the past few years I've found the easiest and most painless way to classify graphic novels is to do it by title. Graphic novels (especially in US comics) tend to change authors and artists, so the one thing that remains consistent (and how readers look for titles) is by title. They are looking for Spider-Man, mostly, rather than looking for Brian Michael Bendis's run on Spider-Man.

    In terms of size and shape, I have also ended up separating my shelves by size -- the larger titles (US comics general size) are in one section and the smaller titles (those shorter and squatter titles closer to Japanese manga in size) are in another. This is truly just to keep neater shelves. I found when they were all mixed together that everything kept sliding and toppling over. This way, the shelves are more often neater and thus titles are easier to spot.

    All shelving options depend on space, though, and you know best what your library can afford in terms of shelving and placement.

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    What magazines on comics do you suggest for library collections?

    At this point, if I recommend only one comics-related magazine, it has to be VIZ's Shonen Jump. This manga anthology magazine (aimed at teen guys but read by everyone) is the hottest magazine in my teen collection and is by far the most battered and beloved.

    There were once an array of other magazines available (Shojo Beat, Anime Insider, Wizard) but many of these magazines have ceased print publication. Thus, at this point, my recommendation of Shonen Jump stands alone.

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    What graphic novels belong in an adult collection?

    The short answer is: anything that appeals primarily to adults! Many folks think of adult graphic novel collections as being the place to put content that is too mature for the other age ranges of teen or kids, but truly adult graphic novel collections should be like any other collection for adults. The graphic novels shelved there should represent the range and variety of what adults finding interesting in the format. Sometimes that will mean more explicit content, but it may also mean concepts and storylines that are mature and complex. If you make sure you're selecting for the positives -- what adults enjoy reading -- as well as the perceived negatives -- what is only appropriate content-wise for adult audiences -- then you'll have a great (and successful) collection.

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    Do you have mature (M) rated titles in your library collection?

    Yes, I do -- in my public library and in my adult collection.

    We carry them, as do many libraries. And not just manga. We have the Hernandez brothers, we have Lone Wolf and Cub, we have Sandman, we have Warren Ellis, we have all manner of explicit scenes somewhere in our adult GN colllection. Think about the movie collections many libraries maintain, and make decisions along the same lines. If you have R rated films in your collection, then I believe it's comparable to have M titles in your graphic novel collection.

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    How should we divide our budgets between literary award-winners and the more popular graphic novels?

    When I first arrived at my current position, the teen collection was booming but the adult collection was lagging. I quickly realized, in scanning the titles, what the problem was: the adult collection was made up almost entirely of literary and award-winning graphic novels. Now, there was absolutely nothing wrong with this collection in terms of quality and all of them were titles that libraries should own. The problem was that none of them were titles that were especially popular with adults.

    I firmly believe there has to be a balance of critically acclaimed works with what folks just really want to read, just like any other collection. Therefore, yes, libraries should purchase the literary masterpieces like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp. But they should also purchase the best of the popular series like Bill Willingham's Fables, Brian K. Vaughan's Y the Last Man, and Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. The circulation will be boosted by the popular series, and hopefully sharing their shelf space with lesser known works will encourage browsers to give the less popular titles a go.