Weeding can be a satisfying process, but there’s no doubt weeding a consistently popular format like graphic novels can be a daunting task. Prompted by a reader question, we weigh in with our tips and tricks for the process.

Our two contributors introduce themselves and the collections they manage:

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Kacy

I’m a centralized collection development librarian in a 15-branch system. Day-to-day, I’m not weeding in my system, but I do train coworkers on weeding, occasionally weed collections when the need is dire, or I give the final word on what to keep/weed when branches are in need of a subject specialist or a second opinion. 

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Adam

I’m an adult services librarian purchasing graphic novels at a medium sized, suburban library. I maintain the collection and am responsible for weeding this and several of our non-fiction sections. Our library uses some standard time frames when running weeding reports, but I have the final say in what stays or goes.

What are your general rules for weeding your comics collections?

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Kacy

My system is most often weeding for shelf space. I have a healthy budget and I’m buying a lot of graphic novels and comics every month. We nearly always start with “dead item lists”. Most branches have comic collections defined as dead after 2 years with no circulation and our smallest busy locations are weeding after 18 months with no circulation. When looking at a dead list, I have the option to keep, transfer to another branch, or remove. I like to look at the whole series at that branch and across the system. I try not to get sentimental about characters I personally like, since I’m not in the branch handselling that comic. Because I’m buying a lot (I’ve purchased 4300 volumes so far in 2023), I’m usually advocating for removing a lot of titles. Our Main branch does have a large comics collection (11,600+ items across juvenile, YA, and adult) that gets weeded less rigorously than the branches, so it makes it easy to choose to remove things from smaller branches when Main has a copy, or to transfer to Main rather than remove a last copy.

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Adam

I’m at a mid-sized library that isn’t part of a branch system, so I only have to consider our immediate collection. I may refer to our consortium to see if we are the only library in the group that owns a particular title, but depending on how well it has circulated in the past that isn’t always a determining factor. Much like Kacy, I am weeding for shelf space and start with 2 years of inactivity for “dead items.” We’ve seen better circulation stats the last couple of years so our budget for graphic novels reflects this increase. The flip-side of that coin is now space is more precious as we’re ordering more, so there is no room for sentimentality. I try to visually inspect the collection every other month for condition (as much as possible anyway) as some spines simply don’t hold up well and some covers take a beating. I get a report every month for dead items and I try to keep a balance of how much we have incoming versus what I’m deleting. We’ll touch on it later, but books in a series are the only real complication to this process generally. 

In terms of weeding superhero series and collections, what is your advice? 

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Kacy

Often later volumes in a series are not circulating, but then I see volume 1 has gone missing or been withdrawn after many circulations (likely has fallen apart). So if a branch has Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 3 on its dead list, my first 2 questions are, “do they have vols.1 & 2?” and “are those circulating?” If those items exist and are circulating, then volume 3 should soon circulate again and needs to be kept. Sometimes, I end up re-purchasing volume 1 instead of removing a large series. 

One big issue with superhero comics is they often go out of print before I can repurchase them. So if volumes 1-8 are out of print and I’ve only got volumes 3, 5, and 7, I’ll recommend weeding all of them. If I have volumes 1-3 and 7, and the first couple are circulating, I’ll recommend keeping at least 1-3 and if the branch is large, also the random 7, with the hopes that our patrons can interlibrary loan the rest. 

If series starters (volume 1s) and standalone superhero titles aren’t circulating, I may look up the hero’s name to see if there’s an upcoming adaptation or other reason to recommend keeping. In early 2023, a branch consulted me about a weeding list and Spider-man 2099 (2015) volumes 1-6 was on it. I recommended keeping them because I knew Miguel O’Hara would be featured in Across the Spider-Verse and now those titles are circulating again. For the most part, if a volume 1 isn’t circulating and you need the space, you can remove the whole series. (This also applies to manga.)

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Adam

Kacy summed it up perfectly. The toughest part is gauging what isn’t doing well because it’s not supported well, i.e. Vol 3 isn’t going out because there is no access to 1 or 2 and what books are genuinely falling out of favor. With all the TV shows and movies coming out, it is more important to keep an eye on what characters/teams might be about to pick up in popularity, but I also will try to see what new books are coming out about them. If there is a new Blue Beetle book coming out I won’t feel as bad weeding older ones that might not be popular anymore. I will sometimes check out digital resources (Hoopla, Libby, Comics Plus) to see if any series might be complete if you could read online a random volume 4 that might be missing. It is sometimes the only solution when you simply cannot purchase replacements and I will advertise those services right next to our physical books.  

if a branch has Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 3 on its dead list, my first 2 questions are, “do they have vols.1 & 2?” and “are those circulating?”

Kacy

How do you keep track of which versions of superhero characters are doing well (in terms of circulation) and which can be let go?

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Kacy

I go through holds lists weekly to see all the titles with 3+ holds on them, to see if I need to buy more copies. When I’m buying the next volume in a series or a new title about a character I just look and see how the last few circulated. For what can be let go, dead item lists are the way to keep track. 

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Adam

I will check which books in a series are circulating well internally first and then check what availability looks like across our consortium. I also am friendly with our local comic shop and I’ll ask them what is really doing well or picking up steam locally. Blue Beetle might not be a character someone knows well, but with the movie coming out, readers are interested in it; it’s important to make sure you’re handing them a book with Jamie Reyes in the suit and not Ted Kord. Same thing with Spider-Man, do they want a Peter Parker book or, thanks to Across the Spider-Verse, are they looking for Miles Morales?

Do you have advice on how to identify which superhero series are “classic” or “must-have” series?

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KACY

Superhero fandom is huge and dedicated. Wikipedia or specific fandom wikis are great for this. If you look up a series and it has a very long, detailed entry in a fandom wiki, that’s a good sign. Just searching for “must read comics for [character name] fans” or “reading order for [character name]” will bring up multiple blog posts. Publisher marketing can be helpful for this too. DC’s Essentials Catalog gets updated often, tells you what DC consider to be their 25 essential titles, and they keep those books in print. Special collected editions and books that are reprinted are ones to consider too. 

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Adam

Sometimes it’s easiest to see what books the movie/tv studios chose to use when adapting a character for the screen. Those usually are good starting points for getting to know a character/team. What books are considered “must-haves” is sometimes dictated by the publishers, too. DC and Marvel might re-print certain runs based on what sells well every time, like X-Men: Days of Future Past or Superman: Red Son. That said, I also think tastes change and certain creative teams can alter how people think of a certain character. There are lots of “classic” Daredevil stories, but tonally they are very different and Mark Waid writes the character differently than Frank Miller. This is where the sheer volume of positive reviews can help steer you right.

Blue Beetle might not be a character someone knows well, but with the movie coming out, readers are interested in it; it’s important to make sure you’re handing them a book with Jamie Reyes in the suit and not Ted Kord.

Adam

Do you have any tips or tricks to share on how to keep track of which superhero comics are which, and how to tell which runs are which in order to weed?

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Kacy

Wikipedia & publishers’ websites, but also I am often just looking up the title of the book with the writer’s name and the publication year. Our cataloging staff is trying to add consistent series statements to all our comic bib records, but “title and author” searches have been my best bet.

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Adam

The larger publishers usually have decent Wikis you can use to keep things straight, but I will also use the Goodreads community and League of Comic Geeks website if I’m really lost. In terms of what to weed, I’m with Kacy—author/artist is usually the starting point and then double checking which issues are supposed to be included in each volume. Most of the time there will be a subtitle that can help you make sure you’re keeping books together like Captain America: Winter Soldier versus Captain America: Man Out of Time.

Do you weed individual volumes, story arcs, entire series runs, or some other way of weeding series?

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Kacy

I recommend weeding story arcs and entire series runs when the majority of the series (especially the first few volumes) are not circulating or have gone missing and cannot be replaced. I also find that tie-in comics for superhero shows and movies are not popular for long, unlike books that are the source material for adaptations. 

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Adam

Yeah, I basically stopped purchasing tie-in comics because they fade so quickly and I have to be space conscious. I try to start with story arcs when I can because there may be a reason that portion is less popular, maybe a change in author or artist, while the rest still circulate. Sometimes you just have to take the hint though and move on. Rat Queens had been popular at my library once, but in my July weeding report all except the very last volume were on the list, so the whole series is getting pulled. They are making more new comics every day, can’t lose sleep over what isn’t popular anymore.

Do you make any distinction between titles or series that appeal to dedicated superhero fans (i.e. have a lot of backstory/continuity) and those titles or series that work as introductions to characters/worlds?

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Kacy

When I’m ordering I do pay attention to that, but not when I’m weeding.

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Adam

Our Youth Services staff will sometimes hold on to books that serve as an introduction in both Teen and Juvenile graphic novels, but I don’t use it as criteria when weeding Adult GN. Again, in a pinch I’m okay referring people to our digital services where some of those classics/introductions are easy to find. 

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  • Kacy

    | She/Her Youth Collection Development Librarian, New Orleans Public Library

    Editor

    Kacy Helwick loves her day job where she gets to buy all the books and AV for kids and teens as the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the New Orleans Public Library. She received her MLIS from LSU, and is an active member of ALA's ALSC & YALSA Divisions, and the Rainbow and Graphic Novels & Comics Roundtables. She has served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens list and the Children's & YA Stonewall Book Awards committee.

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  • Adam

    | he/him Technology Specialist

    Reviewer

    Adam is a Technology Specialist at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg, Ohio. His duties include helping patrons understand how to use various library related apps, where he is sure to point out which have access to graphic novels and comics. He curates and has presented on the library's "Beyond Books" collection and takes secret joy in ordering video games as an actual job function. His favorite duty is ordering graphic novels for the adult section of the library, which he feels better equipped for than ordering books on say, transportation. A lifelong comic reader, he still remembers buying X-Force #1 and his mom throwing away X-Force #1. You can find him yearly at C2E2's librarians meet-up complaining to no one in particular about Rob Liefeld's inability to draw feet.

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