Spidey and his Amazing Friends: Team Spidey Does It All!

Peter Parker teams up with Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy for the Spidey and His Amazing Friends franchise, which features the trio having adventures together as Spidey, Miles, and Ghost-Spider. Based on the Disney Junior TV show, this comic is aimed at young children and features silly humor and childlike, prank-pulling versions of villains Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Rhino. While it follows the show’s premise, this volume is made up of all-new stories.

This comic begins with an introduction to the heroes and villains, then a brief explanation of how to read comic panels. From there, it dives into a series of over a dozen short adventures, each ranging from two to eight pages long. These stories are fast-paced but gentle: no one gets hurt, including the villains, and there are often silly twists. Occasionally, we get cameos from other Marvel heroes, like Black Panther, the Hulk, and Ms. Marvel.

In some stories, the heroes face villain-free challenges like getting to a movie on time or making cookies for Aunt May. When villains do appear, they are up to mild or nonspecific mischief – Green Goblin tries to steal parade balloons, Rhino threatens to “smash the city” unless Spidey races him, Doc Ock tries to turn a park into a giant aquarium, and so on. These are often resolved with outcomes that leave even the villains satisfied: for instance, it turns out Green Goblin is playing pranks at the library because he is upset he can’t check out books, but he is happy to stop when the heroes help him get a library card.

Given the pace and length of these stories, there isn’t a lot of time for character development. It is clear, though, that the three heroes are friends, and they support and care about each other as well as others, like Aunt May and her cat Bootsie. Like good superheroes, they will drop what they are doing to help others.

The art is bright and dynamic. All of the heroes and villains except for Rhino and the Hulk are drawn child-sized and with childlike proportions, which is especially clear when they appear with an adult character like Aunt May. Backgrounds are colorful and detailed, but do not compete with the characters, in part because the characters tend to have thicker, bolder outlines than anything else in the panels. Most pages have three or four panels each, but the layout varies, adding visual interest.

A dozen words throughout the story have asterisks marking them as vocabulary words, which are defined at the end of the book. Many of these are terms specific to the Spider-Man universe, but the list also includes words like “trap” and “invisible.” The book specifies on its back cover that it is a “Level 1 title tailored for ages 5 to 7” and that its Lexile Level is 400L, all of which may be useful to potential readers and their parents and teachers.

Spider-Man has long been popular with children. Unlike a lot of superhero media, this comic offers action and humor but no scary danger or violence, making it a good fit for young fans.

Spidey and his Amazing Friends: Team Spidey Does It All!
By Steve Behling
Art by  Giovanni Rigano, Antonello Dalena, Ellen Willcox
Marvel, 2022
ISBN: 9781368076074

Publisher Age Rating: 5 to 7
Series ISBNs and Order
Related media:  TV to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
Character Representation: Afro-Puerto-Rican, Assumed White,

Deadpool: Samurai, Vol. 1

The idea behind Deadpool: Samurai feels like a corporation trying to generate a profitable book based on a premise: “Teens like manga, right? Teens like Deadpool as a character, right? A Deadpool manga should be something teens would love, right…?” I think they would have been right too, but this particular book makes a very odd choice: it takes an incredibly simple story that would be a great entry point for newer/younger readers and then adds just enough violent gore to make this book inaccessible to that age group. For all the tropes one might expect from a Deadpool book and a Shonen manga, this should be a great marriage of humor and action, but it can’t figure out who it wants to be for and ultimately unravels into nothing.

Early in the story, Iron Man shows up and asks Deadpool to join The Avengers, except it is a side-team offer. Japan is getting a team of its own called Samurai Squad and this is where the book immediately gives up any aspirations it had of being interesting or unique. We meet Sakura Spider, filling in for Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, who is the first new member of this team. She wants to hold Deadpool to a hero standard, but is mostly the straight man for Deadpool’s joke cracking. Captain America makes a cameo, encouraging them to recruit someone like teen idol Neiro. Neiro is not only a pop star, but she also has a Symbiote attached to her called Kage (or “Shadow” in Japanese.) So, now we have a Venom/Spider-Man/Deadpool book without the copyright issues of the original characters being here. Loki is the bad guy in this book, but it could have been literally any Marvel Universe villain. There is no motivation and the MacGuffin he is searching for in Japan isn’t even identified until the last few pages of this volume.

So much of what makes Deadpool a fun and funny character felt clunky and out of place in this book. Deadpool breaking the fourth wall and the snarky asides to the reader work best when used sparingly and with intention. Precision is key to the decision making and execution with a Deadpool story and everything in this book feels too loose and unmotivated. Again, if they hadn’t illustrated blood and been less over-the-top with the violence, there is a huge audience of younger teen readers who would have loved this. Conversely, had they written a tighter plot with a more motivated villain, this could have appealed to the age group the publisher recommends it for.

Viz Media has this book rated T+ for older teens, which I agree with to a point. For a library looking to add manga along these lines, I would recommend instead something like Kaiju No. 8 or One-Punch Man. If you’re looking for a Deadpool book that is closer to the age recommendation here, the books written by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, starting with Deadpool, Volume 1: Dead Presidents, are a great starting place.

Deadpool: Samurai, Vol. 1 
By Sanshiro Kasama
Art by Hikaru Uesugi
VIZ, 2022
ISBN: 9781974725311

Publisher Age Rating: 16-18

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)

Basilisk Vol. 1

Graphic novel fans might be familiar with the name Cullen Bunn. They may remember the name from his run on superhero comics like Uncanny X-Men: Superior, Vol. 1 and Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. He has also earned considerable fame with horror series like Shadowman and the Eisner-nominated Harrow County. Bunn once again flexes his horror muscle in his latest, Basilisk, Vol. 1, a revenge story involving superpowered beings that may or may not be gods.

The story opens with Hannah tracking down Regan, a mysterious woman in a blindfold. Regan’s eyes are blindfolded because anyone who looks into her eyes dies a bloody and painful death, and Hannah is the only survivor of the town slaughtered by Regan and her four brethren, known as the Chimera. The Chimera all have powers based on the five senses, have amassed a group of followers, and have left destruction and carnage wherever they go. The other four will try to rescue their wayward member and make Hannah pay for her insolence, bringing the wrath of their followers as well as their own abilities down on her. Hannah, though, will not go down so easily, not when she’s had plenty of time to prepare and is determined to make these self-proclaimed deities pay.

A criticism of Cullen Bunn is that he doesn’t divert too much from an established formula, but in this book, he does a lot with the formula of a brutal revenge tale while generously sprinkling elements of superhero comics. Hannah is basically a woman single-mindedly pursuing vengeance, owns a cache of weapons that would make Rambo jealous, and has literally nothing left to lose. Regan, who has voluntarily left the Chimera, offers to help stop her fellow Chimera members. The other four godlike beings all have their own distinct looks and personalities that prevent them from becoming lazy superhero/horror tropes, all while displaying their sense-based abilities indiscriminately and in very public places.

Bunn’s stories don’t ever skimp on the violence and artist Jonas Scharf’s artwork complements this aspect of the story well. The evil members of the Chimera use hearing, taste, smell, and touch in creative and horrific ways and Scharf depicts the pain and horror they inflict in ways that could turn a more sensitive stomach. There’s also the final battle in this volume that shows all the bodily damage modern weaponry can cause. Not just showing his talent for illustrating violence, Scharf also draws the characters, particularly the members of the Chimera, as looking completely different from one another, from Jimmy-Boy’s civilian Wolverine cosplay to Cara’s child-of-the-meadow appearance.

This book, with its graphic violence and disturbing imagery, belongs squarely in the adult collection, but it also belongs in libraries where there is a solid fanbase for horror graphic novels. Bunn is quite prolific when it comes to horror comics, and Basilisk is definitely one of his stronger entries, even though this is only the first volume. The book ends on an excellent cliffhanger that is sure to generate interest in a Vol. 2 of this series.

Basilisk Vol. 1
By Cullen Bunn
Art by Jonas Scharf
BOOM! Studios, 2022
ISBN: 9781684157488

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

Shuri and T’Challa: Into the Heartlands

Princess Shuri of Wakanda may be just a kid, but she has invented a weather-control device. Surely this will win her the kind of respect accorded to her older brother, T’Challa. And when the sacred Soul Washing Ceremony is threatened by rain, Shuri sees her chance. Fancy tech isn’t allowed at the ceremony, but surely this is worth making an exception! But when she tries to use her invention to clear up the weather, T’Challa steps in to stop her and things go terribly wrong.

Now a frightening illness is striking people who were at the ceremony—including Shuri’s mother. Is it a curse brought on by Shuri and T’Challa for angering their ancestors? Shuri has to fix this, and she might know a way. A cure is said to lie in the fabled Heartlands and while most people don’t believe the Heartlands are real, Shuri thinks she knows how to find them. Since no one will listen to her, she’s going after the cure alone. Or she would, if T’Challa didn’t insist on following her…

This action-packed story features much younger versions of Shuri and T’Challa than we see in most Black Panther stories, but with the seeds of their adult personalities: a serious T’Challa who desperately wants to live up to his title and responsibilities, and a brilliant Shuri who loves making fun of her brother. Readers are treated to the rich backdrop of Wakanda, including technology, traditions, clothing, and more. There is also a secondary setting, the Heartlands, where over a third of the story takes place: a fantastical jungle in which Shuri and T’Challa meet strange creatures and uncover secrets about themselves and Wakanda’s history.

Our two young heroes have some typical sibling arguments and resentments, but they come through for each other when it counts. The events of this story prompt them to talk about a tough issue: Shuri only exists because her mother married their father after T’Challa’s birth mother died, leading Shuri to wonder if T’Challa resents her. This question is handled with sensitivity and warmth. The siblings clearly love and support each other, though with a hearty dose of good-humored ribbing.

There is a small amount of comic-book violence, with no blood or serious injury to anyone. The “techno-organic virus” is visually creepy, and the illness adds high stakes to the story, threatening the lives of Shuri’s mom and others. The story does not shy away from serious and emotional issues like complicated family dynamics and the importance of doing the right thing even when it might have a heavy cost.

The art is vividly colorful, with many panels flooded with pink, purple, turquoise, and other lively colors that emphasize the vibrant setting. The characters are expressive, but at different levels, suiting their personalities: exuberant Shuri has her big emotions on display, while T’Challa can be more restrained. The outfits—from ceremonial finery to casual wear to uniforms—contribute to the immersive setting, as do the various backgrounds, ranging from jungle to laboratory to the palace library.

This fun and heartfelt stand-alone story presents a kid-friendly adventure with relatable versions of two popular Marvel characters. Hand it to young fans of Black Panther and other Marvel properties.

Shuri and T’Challa: Into the Heartlands
By Roseanne Brown
Art by  Claudia Aguirre, Dika Araújo, Natacha Bustos,  Ellen Willcox
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338648058

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Brazilian, Ghanian-American, Mexican, Spanish, Lesbian
Character Representation: Black

Big Hero Six: The Series, vol. 1

Fans of the 2014 Disney film Big Hero 6, loosely based on the eponymous Marvel superhero team, will enjoy this manga adaptation of the spinoff Disney XD series Big Hero 6: The Series. The first volume includes three chapters, each of which has the same title as its corresponding episode of the series. In Chapter 1: Issue 188, Hiro’s thermodynamics professor pairs him up with an unfriendly girl named Karmi, whose place as the youngest student at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology was supplanted by 14-year-old Hiro. In a Big Hero 6 showdown against mother-daughter supervillain team High Voltage, Hiro saves Karmi’s life, leading Karmi to develop a huge crush on Big Hero 6 member Hiro—whom she doesn’t realize is the same person as her classmate. Big Hero 6 member and comic aficionado Fred tells the group about the infamous comic Captain Fancy Issue #188 and suggests they may glean useful information from the elusive comic. That is, if they can convince Fred’s archnemesis, 10-year-old comic collector Richardson Mole, to let them read it.

In Chapter 2: Failure Mode, Hiro is tasked with creating a miniature building that can withstand an earthquake with a Richter magnitude of 9.0. He procrastinates, and the building he ends up turning in instantly falls apart. When he finds out that all of his follow-up ideas for the building have already been tried, he becomes disheartened. Healthcare companion robot Baymax shows Hiro video footage of his late brother Tadashi considering giving up after his 58th attempt to create Baymax; obviously he persevered, since he successfully completed Baymax. Meanwhile, local villain Globby attempts to steal art from the local museum, and Big Hero 6 member Honey Lemon teaches Baymax about art. This subplot is very charming, with the logical robotic Baymax struggling to understand emotional concepts; it is reminiscent of and will appeal to fans of Data’s characterization in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Case in point, Baymax’s mechanical explanation for his desire to learn about art: “I am coded to expand my therapeutic capabilities. Perhaps I should increase my understanding of art.”

In Chapter 3: Baymax Returns Part 1, we see how Hiro recreated Baymax after the events of the Big Hero 6 film. Yama, a criminal whom Hiro defeated in bot fights in the film, steals Baymax’s exoskeleton and attempts to blackmail Hiro into stealing a mysterious sculpture from his professor’s office. This chapter occurs chronologically before either of the other chapters, so the choice to place it at the end of the first volume of this manga is strange. Since it’s a two-parter, it seems the decision was made solely so this volume would have a cliffhanger. But the cliffhanger’s tension is undermined by the knowledge that Hiro must succeed in retrieving Baymax, since Baymax appears in the other chapters unharmed.

The art differs between the film and series, and since this manga is based on the series, one would guess the art would mirror its 2D hand-drawn animation style. But by drawing the characters in kodomo anime-style art, Hong Gyun An evokes the rounded 3D animation of the original film. The illustrations are rendered in full color, though the colors are more muted than those of the film or the series. Unlike typical manga, this book is read from left to right. Consider purchasing this series where the Big Hero 6 franchise is popular, or where kodomo adventure manga like Pokemon Adventures circulates well.


Big Hero Six: The Series, vol. 1
By Hong Gyun An
Yen Press JY, 2021
ISBN: 9780316474641
Publisher Age Rating: 8 and up
Related media: Movie to Comic, TV to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Japanese-American

Ask the Comics Librarians: Small Spaces

One of the frequent questions we have all encountered in our professional work with comics and libraries is the question of how best to maintain a comics collection in a library where the physical space available is limited.  We all wish we had unlimited shelf space and unlimited budgets, but we all struggle to make the best choices within limits for our collections and community.

For this Ask the Comics Librarians column, two of our contributors with experience in building collections in smaller spaces, Meredith and Shannan,  weigh in with advice.

What does your space look like? What’s your collection size? 

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Meredith

Everyone loves a cozy library but one of the downsides of working in a smaller branch is lack of shelf space, especially in our children’s area which is less than half the adult area. Until recently, I only had 6 shelves for my branch’s graphic novel collection, which is our second most popular children’s collection, behind picture books. It was only thanks to a closed-during-the-pandemic weeding project that I was able to expand to 10 shelves. Our current children’s graphic novel collection is somewhere between 150-175 items. 

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Shannon

I’ve worked in a few smaller library environments, but my current is just about my smallest, not helped by the fact that all of my books are on carts while the teen space gets renovated! Currently I have about 990 books (a mix of novels, nonfiction, and Spanish materials), 68 audiobooks on CD, and 762 graphic novels (combining manga and comics) in the teen collection. 

Is there a struggle with small spaces you’re still trying to find a solution to?

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Meredith

I struggle with graphic novel series, especially if it’s okay to ever split them up and weed some of the less popular titles in the series. Some, like Amulet, see consistent checkouts for all volumes. Other series, primarily ones without an overarching story, might have a few volumes that are checked out frequently with others spending more time on your shelf. It’s okay to weed the ones that aren’t moving. You’ll have more space to give other series a shot or replace the worn out copies of titles in other popular series. But it’s still a struggle every time to decide what’s the best call for each series!

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Shannon

Finding ways to carve out space for displays is the toughest thing for me. It feels like if there’s an empty countertop or shelving unit, then I should be using that to maximize storage of other things or for flyers. There’s no perfect solution for this because it really depends on your space and your resources, but having a small book cart that’s dedicated to the department means it can serve as a rolling display and maybe also passive programming supplies. 

What are some ways you’ve found to maximize your space?

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Meredith

Weed regularly. I personally love weeding! It’s a great way to find the gaps in your collection and get a better understanding of what your readers are looking for. Some graphic novels have lasting popularity but others are, unfortunately, much more an of-the-moment trend. Don’t be afraid to get rid of that beat-up copy of a book that hasn’t circulated in 3 years, even if it was the hottest hold back then. 

Another thing I’ve found to be helpful in my small space is shelving by book title. This was a system already in place when I arrived at my branch. This includes kids’ non-fiction graphic novels. How does this relate to the small space? When readers come in looking for a specific title, it’s easier to direct them to an alphabetized layout. For non-graphic novel series, we keep them shelved by series title. With graphic novels, especially ones with popular characters like Marvel or DC superheroes, being able to point to all the Spider-man or Batman books makes for easier navigation. Plus, it helps you see what characters your readers want and which ones maybe can make their way to the weeding cart. Kids who like a particular series won’t be looking for each individual book but instead, they can find them all in one spot together.

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Shannon

One of the lucky things about being part of a system library is that it takes some of the guilt away at curating my collection more closely to my population, and it means that if there are books I can’t keep at my location, there are other locations that might want them so they’re not just getting weeded. So, I generally try to pack as much manga in my space as I can, because that’s really been what the majority of teens have been asking for the last few years, cycling out the series I’m noticing aren’t really moving, and checking with patrons on what they’d like to see at the branch. This is true of duplicates too; if I see that I’ve got more than two copies of something on the shelf, I put the duplicates up for grabs for other branches. Those duplicates are taking up precious shelf space for new and interesting books. 

Do you have tips for someone starting work in a small space for the first time?

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Meredith

Don’t be afraid to curate for your community. I read a lot about new releases for kids’ graphic novels and get grand ideas of being able to get them all for my branch. Realistically though, I know what’s getting checked out. Some libraries can’t keep manga on the shelf. At my branch, with the exception of a few Pokemon books, kids’ manga rarely goes out. Rather than continuing to hope it gets popular, I don’t purchase it with my discretionary money. 

Be sure to talk to your readers about what they’re looking for! Booklists are always helpful but patron feedback is crucial in making sure what’s on your small shelf space is what the community wants.

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Shannon

I think one of the biggest things for starting work in a small space is to be aggressive with the collection. Weed books that are grubby, aren’t circulating, and are just gathering dust on the shelf. A small collection needs to be one that’s moving because there’s no room for those books people pass over time and again. I try to keep the weeded books and comics that are in better condition to use for future crafts, within reason (because lack of space). This also means being aggressive in promoting the collection, with displays and other ways to bring attention to it, and bringing it to the attention of patrons who may not realize what’s available. Weeding comics and manga can be nerve-wracking because if a series isn’t complete but has dropped in popularity, there’s every chance it’ll flare back up when say an adaptation comes out but the older volumes won’t be available anymore for purchase.

Have a question about comics, graphic novels, manga, and libraries?

Send us a question through this form. We may use it in a future column!

Ask the Comics Librarians: Manga FAQ

Manga collections provide some similar and different challenges for selectors.  To help anyone new to collecting manga (or who want to consider their collections again!), read on for our comics librarians tackling frequently asked questions about best practices for organizing, labeling, ordering, and weeding a manga collection.

Jump to:

We hope this installment of Ask the Comics Librarians has given you all helpful advice and practices about how to best organize your manga collections.

How do you define manga at your library?  What goes into that collection? Anything you keep out of that collection that people might think is manga?

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Eva

For us, manga are comics made in Japan for a Japanese audience. There are plenty of books that are the same trim size as manga that aren’t actually manga. Same with art style. Just because the characters have big eyes and small mouths (noses optional), doesn’t mean it’s manga. But since we shelve all of our graphic novels together regardless of country of origin, the definition doesn’t really matter all that much.

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Shannon

I’ll admit I don’t know our official definition, but I have seen works like Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip by Mira Ong Chua in manga, so I think we look more at format than country of origin. There’s also manwha (comics from Korea) in our manga collection, and we collect manga for all age groups. There are definitely comics of Japanese origin that aren’t in manga, which has to do with their content being more like indie comics than manga.

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Robin

I follow a fairly strict definition for our manga section: Japanese comics originally published for a Japanese audience.  We have occasionally included titles which are manhwa from the Korean market or manhua from the Chinese market, but the overwhelming majority are titles from Japan. I aim to be clear, through shelving, that manga can be just as varied as other comics traditions, including everything from kids comics to indie literary sagas to instructional titles. This helps dispel the perception that manga is only the classic genre or visual stereotypes.  We don’t include titles that are manga-style in our manga sections, like Scott Pilgrim or Nightschool, but instead those titles are shelved in our graphic section.  We are lucky that our shelves are flexible and plentiful enough that we can accommodate the taller or larger volumes (omnibus or special editions) without a struggle.

How many manga volumes do you have in your library collection?

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Eva

I’m a children’s librarian (serving ages 0-12), so not nearly enough. That said, I have a bunch. I just did a major weeding of my graphic novel collection, so there used to be more, but I still have at least 55 different manga series. If we average a conservative 10 volumes per series (some have fewer than 10, Pokémon has eight billion), that’s 550 volumes.

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Shannon

It varies from branch to branch; my last branch had 785 adult graphic and 876 for teens, but my current branch is a bit smaller, so I’m looking at 744 total graphic novels (with about 400-500 of that in manga) for teens and only 383 for adults, with 100 or so of that in manga. We just don’t have as much space in this building to support a larger collection. The teen space is also currently under renovation, so it’s all on carts right now! I can’t wait to get it back on shelves.

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Robin

We have around 2,400 volumes of comics in the Teen section — 1,342 of those volumes are our manga collection.  Tween also has a substantial number of titles, but Teen has the largest section at this point in time.

In terms of balance, how is your entire comics collection balanced — roughly how many manga series do you have, compared to superheroes?  To other graphic novels?

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Eva

Like manga, I don’t have nearly enough superhero graphic novels. Thanks, Marvel and DC, for never keeping your books in print. (Weasels.) Right now, graphic novels from traditional book publishers are what gets purchased the most because it’s what’s available the most for my clientele. But I buy the manga and superhero books I think our kids will enjoy as often as I can.

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Shannon

Just from judging the balance at the branches I’ve worked in, we have more manga for teens than comics for teens, but more comics for adults than manga for adults. It’s definitely a struggle against books going out of print, and the increasing number of imprints from publishers, even Marvel and DC, with more and more specialized series coming out that aren’t part of the general comics continuum. In both age groups though, we definitely have more cape comics than graphic novels.

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Robin

In terms of series, the rest of those standing orders include 17 superhero series and 8 graphic series (including series like Heartstopper, Lumberjanes, and Star Wars.) In terms of volumes, 19% are part of our graphic collection, 24% are our superhero collection, and 56% are our manga titles. So, in terms of shelf space, manga takes up a lot of space! In terms of narratives represented (stand alone volumes or ongoing series), 50% of our titles are graphic titles, 35% manga, and 15% are superhero tales.

How do you shelve your manga?  Is it interfiled, or in a separate collection, or something else?

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Eva

We interfile all our graphic novels together. We have the luxury of space to do that.

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Shannon

I separate comics/graphic novels and manga. The manga is shelved by title in volume order, on its own shelving when possible. The adult collection only has one small range, so I have the manga separated and on the first few shelves, then the comics and graphic novels on the lower shelves to help with visibility.

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Robin

We have separate sections for graphic, manga, and superhero titles within all of our age range sections, so our manga is separated into its own shelving.  We shelve by title and volume number, adding subtitles as needed to distinguish between sequel and variant series.

Do you have manga for different age ranges?  If so, how do you decide which series go where?

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Eva

We have three distinct graphic novel collections, one for kids, one for teens, and one for adult readers. We generally rely on professional reviews to tell us where to shelve the books, but that doesn’t always help with manga that is fine for tweens but labeled for teens. That’s when I’ll often turn to Twitter and ask people who have read the series if they think it’s appropriate for a 10-year-old. Not really a technique I’d recommend, though.

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Shannon

Like Eva, there are three collections in my system: one for kids, one for teens, and one for adults. We decide based primarily on publisher age range, and occasionally on how other libraries have them shelved. Of course, series can be shifted locations based on patron or staff feedback. 

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Robin

We also have manga in all of our age ranges, though we are lucky to have four sections (and separate spaces): kids, tween, teen, and adult.  I work closely with our Tween Librarian, so we often discuss in selecting and meeting reader demand which series fit in Tween versus Teen. For the most popular series, we do allow overlap, in that multiple age ranges might have copies of the same title, but we try to minimize that to save our budgets. I look at publisher age ratings, and consult with colleagues online as well. I also check the original published magazine in Japan via Wikipedia. Knowing that a title’s original intended audience is shonen (guys up to age 16 or so), shojo (girls up to age 16), seinen (adult men), or josei (adult women) helps me assess just where it might best fit in my collection. Those target audiences may or may not always match up to its audience here in the US, but I have a better sense of what might show up in terms of typical content.

How do you label your manga collection?  How does that labeling relate to how you label your other comics collections (is it the same, different, and if different, why?)

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Eva

We have our children’s graphic novel collection labeled by series/title rather than by author. My priority is the reader, so we’ve made it as easy as possible for the kids to find what they want to read. If they want to read about Superman, they can go to the S’s, rather than try to find all the different people who have written for that series. Same with Sailor Moon. The kids know they want Sailor Moon and that Sailor starts with S, but probably won’t remember who the creator is.

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Shannon

All comics and manga are labeled the same across the system, with spine labels stating ‘graphic novel’ and then the author’s last name. I’d love to change this to series (so the spine label would list Batman instead of say Snyder), but in a system our size that would be a pretty ambitious project. Here’s hoping!

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Robin

Our manga titles get an “M” sticker on the top of their spine (white bold M on a dark pink background), and then the classification is by title (subtitle if needed) and volume number.

How do you handle ordering manga?  Do you have standing orders, or create spreadsheets of ongoing series, or…?

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Eva

Since I only order books for children, standing orders have never really been worth setting up. When I decide to pick up a series, I’ll order as far in advance as possible, so that if I miss a release, I have a buffer. I also subscribe to Any New Books, which alerts me to graphic novels being released that week. It’s not foolproof and it doesn’t catch everything, but it’s tremendously helpful when it comes to smaller publishers that may not get noticed by the review sites.

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Shannon

I don’t handle ordering for the most part; we have a collection development department who does ordering. I believe they have standing orders on continuing series and keep their eyes open on new and upcoming ones. I will occasionally send requests for series to add when I see a gap, such as yuri manga for adults. 

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Robin

I rely on our standing orders, which I create via Ingram, to automatically order all of our ongoing manga series.  I definitely keep an eye out for reviews and coverage of new or newly popular series, and will add a few volumes in a series to test their popularity before I commit to adding them to the standing order list.  Right now I have 51 series on standing order, 26 of which are manga series.  I do check in every 6 months or so to adjust our standing order, taking out what has completed and adding in any new titles that have made the cut to be added to our standing orders.

How do you weed a manga collection? If a series is waning in popularity, do you weed the entire series? Or only the volumes that aren’t going out?

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Eva

You all have heard me say this a million times, but manga isn’t like most American and European comics in that each series tells one long story, rarely in story arcs. So only having a few random volumes of a manga series is like having a few random volumes of the Harry Potter series. Sure, you can read the individual volumes, but you’ll never know what’s really going on. So I weed a series if it has waned in popularity (this rarely happens) or if 15% of the volumes are missing and can’t be reordered. Skip one volume and you can still figure out the story. Skip four volumes? You might as well skip it altogether. Also — and I know this is controversial — I need books to wear out, go missing, or get weeded. Otherwise I won’t have room to bring in new materials. I rarely agonize over weeding.

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Shannon

I tend to go with grubby first; if they’re worn out, it’s time to go. From there it goes to how long has it been since it was last checked out. Since I’m part of a system library, often even if something isn’t circulating at my branch, it might at others’ so I’ll offer it up before moving to weeding. So really, the big one is condition, though the two can coincide like the poor last copies of Wish I encountered recently. No recent checkouts, and looking their age. And thankfully since I am part of a system, if I weed volume 15 of a 30 volume series, there’s a good chance we still have other copies available.

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Robin

I usually weed an entire series, rather than leave only parts of it on the shelf. That decision is driven by the popularity and availability of replacement volumes. I have kept some series on our shelves longer, provided they’re circulating, if I realize that I won’t be able to replace volumes because the title is out of print.  However, circulation is key, and as with most graphic series they circulated robustly until they fade out of popularity. I am lucky that I have a substantial budget, so if I need to replace volumes, I can do so regularly and easily. I also will take advantage of omnibus volumes (especially the 3-in-1 paperbacks) to replace the grubby early volumes of our consistently popular series, like Naruto or One Piece.

How do your patrons ask for manga at your library?  Has that changed anything about how you shelve, display, or label the collection over the years?

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Eva

In my library, kids don’t often ask for manga unless they’ve seen the anime. Pokémon is a perennial favorite. Dragon Ball is always checked out. But once they’re done reading those (can anyone really be done reading Pokémon?), they’ll browse and find Sugar Sugar Rune or Twin Spica, etc. Or non-manga comics. Browsing is one of the main reasons I interfile all the graphic novels together.

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Shannon

I’ve actually noticed recently with teens that they’ll see the manga on the shelves and comment to their friends “Oh look, anime!” I think because they’re getting exposed to anime more easily now than manga. So I’m often getting requests for series that have an adaptation, which means I can’t keep My Hero Academia on the shelves. It does mean that for displays, I focus more on series that aren’t as popular or don’t have an adaptation to help highlight them. 

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Robin

We have many, many browsers and a lot of teens who stand in our comics hallway and recommend manga back and forth. They know a number of our librarians on staff and can suggest titles, and I often ask them myself about any series they might like us to have or that we might be missing. When they do ask, they tend to ask by title or by describing the plot, rather than by creator or genre.

If there was one piece of advice you’d want to give a librarian new to collecting manga, what would it be?

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Eva

Ask yourself what you’d do if you were collecting cookbooks, but don’t cook. Read reviews, ask people who love the format to make recommendations, look to see what libraries consider to be core titles (NFNT can help with that), etc. Most of all, read. Pick the series that circulates best in your library and read that. Or find a series in a genre you already love and start there. Be patient. Reading manga will take some practice, so give yourself time to get used to reading from right to left.

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Shannon

If you don’t already read manga personally, try some out. Even if it turns out to not be your thing, it can help to be familiar with some of the features of the format and the styles of storytelling you can find in manga. It means you can also potentially help new readers who come to you with questions not just on what to read, but maybe how to read. And this is cheating since it’s technically a second piece of advice, but consider your space. If you have a smaller space, you might want to focus on collecting just the first few volumes of lots of series rather than the full series of just a few. Hopefully you can then help fill in the gaps from there with interlibrary loan if you’re not part of a system library.

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Robin

For your readers: listen to them, and let them educate you!  I rely on my readers to tell me what’s exciting now, what’s just been released as anime, and what old school title might be making a resurgence. I love hearing what they think about series new and old, and it helps me immensely in making sure we keep up to date.

For yourself: try actually reading manga, and make sure it’s of a type that you’d normally enjoy in other formats. Whatever you like to read in terms of genre or style — romance or mystery or biography or sci-fi — there’s a manga that you might like. (We here at NFNT would be happy to help you find a story that you’d enjoy!) I think a lot of people who don’t read any manga still retain a lot of stereotypes about it, but there are just as many types of manga as there are in other comics traditions (if not more!).  You don’t have to become a manga fan, but if you have read a volume or a series, it will help you understand a bit more what your readers get out of it, and what it’s different from other types of comics.


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Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin

Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin

Kamala Khan’s keeping it together. Sure, she’s got high school, family obligations, moderator duties on her favorite site, updating her fan fiction, and Avengers training. She might be falling asleep during her classes and her body does keep randomly reshaping itself. But trust her, she’s got this. 

Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin, written by Nadia Shammas and art by Nabi H. Ali, is a stand-alone middle grade graphic novel from Scholastic Graphix about Jersey City’s resident teen superhero. It focuses on the pressures of being both a teenage Muslim Pakistani-American girl and one of the younger members of the Avengers. The story begins less than a year after the Terrigen Mist, the event that gave her the power to shapeshift. 

Kamala is still learning how to navigate her body’s ability to embiggen and her secret identity as Ms. Marvel. She trains at Avengers Tower in Manhattan with fellow teen superheroes Squirrel Girl and Spider-Man under the one and only Iron Man; together, they’re Team Awesome Next-Gen Superheroes. In her regular life, she’s got her best friends Nakia and Bruno, as well as her increasingly worried parents on her case. She’s messing up at Avengers training, she’s napping through her entire school day, and one of her hands keeps randomly turning into a baby sized hand. At one point, she is literally stretched thin, as Nakia points out to her. 

At least Kamala has babysitting her nephew Malik mostly under control, thanks to a weird rechargeable action figure one of her fellow website mods sent her. It might not hold a charge very long but it keeps him occupied while she updates her latest fanfic, the one she’s been getting lots of positive comments on. Things are somewhat more manageable until, while at an important party with her family, Malik’s new favorite toy turns out to be much more than just some random toy. Suddenly, on top of everything else going on in her already strained life, Kamala must focus on keeping her Ms. Marvel identity under wraps and protecting the people around her.

Throughout the book, Kamala faces the reality of being an overworked teenager. The stress starts to manifest in her physically, due to her sometimes uncontrollable ability to shapeshift. Her parents are brushed to the side and she hides in her bedroom, behind her computer screen, away from her family. She begins to recognize the impact this is having on their relationship and it seems like every conversation ends with someone’s feelings getting hurt. Kamala realizes her parents’ stress is actually out of concern and love for her and maybe she hasn’t been the daughter she’d like to be.. 

Kamala Khan is scheduled to make her official debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in late 2021 so be prepared for readers looking for more Ms. Marvel content. Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin is a great introduction to the character and one only needs a basic idea of the Marvel universe to enjoy the story. The art is perfectly suited to the story being told, including slight changes in the color palette when the action ramps up. The shapeshifting scenes and the character’s excellent facial expressions will make readers laugh.

Readers who enjoy middle grade Marvel books like Miles Morales: Shock Waves and the Marvel: Avengers Assembly series will get to see some familiar faces and get to know Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel herself. 

Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin
By Nadia Shammas
Art by Nabi H. Ali
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2021
ISBN: 9781338722581

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Pakistani-American, Muslim

Ask the Comics Librarians: How do I label my collection?

One of the frequently asked questions librarians ask themselves in collecting comics boils down to: how do I classify my collection?  How do I make the organization and labeling clear, easy for both patrons and staff to find?  What can I do to work within the limits of the physical space I have?  What do I do with manga?  Superheroes?  Nonfiction titles?

We recently had a question sent in about how to best arrange a large comics and graphic novel collection in a public library. 

Right now in the children’s area, we have all our graphic novels and comics by title (or series title if there is one). I would like to re-arrange them so we have Manga (by series or by author), Superheros (by character name or by Universe + character name, i.e. DC – Batman, and all Other graphic novels & comics – by author. Currently the collection numbers 1,600 items, and we probably purchase about 160-200 titles a year. If we have different shelves, the spine label must be different enough that a staff person could see exactly which shelf it goes on.

Do you have any suggestions or advice?

A Children's Librarian

At a public library

I’ve gathered together a group of we NFNT staff to talk about collection organization, including current systems, what we see as best practices, and the variations that can work in different institutions.

How do you have your graphic novel collection organized currently? 

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Katie

In our smallish branch library (about 60,000 volumes), we have approximately 2,200 volumes of graphic novels, separated equally between juvenile material and YA/adult. Juvenile graphic novels are shelved prominently, right next to new releases. They are shelved alphabetically, usually by author or occasionally by series title. This section houses everything from easy reader style graphic novels to the Amulet series. Our adult/teen graphic novels are shelved near our study area. They are separated into nonfiction, fiction, superhero titles, and manga. We use color coded tape on spines (and shelving notes in the catalog) to differentiate between subsections.

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Matt

When I worked in a public library, we had our childrens’ GN and teen GN collections separated into their own special areas. Adult GNs were filed among the books in our Adult Fiction collection, which was not separated out according to genre. The three sections were in different physical areas of the library and numbered roughly 2000 volumes altogether.

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Shannon

 I work in a public library system with 30 locations. I’d say there’s probably 500 total young adult titles, combining manga and comics, and slightly more than that with the adult graphic novels. Our collection floats between branches, so that’s not a solid number unfortunately. I have the manga and comics separated physically, on different sections of shelving for the adults and on different small bookshelves for the young adult. Both adult and young adult have manga organized alphabetically by series title; comics are separated into two sections, with Marvel & DC organized alphabetically by character, then the independent comics organized alphabetically by author. Juvenile is handled by the children’s librarian, and she has all juvenile graphics interfiled by author.

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Robin

I work in a public library, and we have three locations — all with graphic novel collections for every age range: children’s, tween, teen, and adult. We have around 12,000 (distinct) titles but many more volumes. For example, our Teen section alone at our main location has 2,400 volumes.

The four sections are set up in each audience’s spaces, and at this time all of the collections are organized the same way. All graphic titles are shelved separately as a collection with three major, color-coded sections: graphic, manga, and super. Each section has a color label featuring the section letter that goes at the top of the spine: G on a green background for graphic, M on a pink background for manga, and S on a red background for super. These colors were chosen to not duplicate already used colors in our labeling, and we include the letters to make sure it works even if the colors don’t jump out at a patron. Any age range stickers (Tween and Teen) also go at the top of the spine.  The titles are then classified by title or character first, then the first word or words of a subtitle added, plus the volume number if needed, on a label at the bottom of the spine.  Nonfiction graphic titles are integrated into each section and classified by title.

What is the logic behind your current classification set up?

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Katie

The juvenile graphic novels are shelved where they will be highly accessible. Because it is a smaller collection, all types and genres of material are shelved together. In the YA/adult section, graphic novels are separated into smaller sections (superhero manga, etc.) to enhance browsing and “findability.”

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Matt

The idea was to keep the graphic novels separated according to reading level and age-appropriate content.

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Shannon

The spatial separation is partially because we do have a small teen space and want to encourage it as a space for them and their materials, and the adult graphic novels are with the rest of the adult fiction. Separating manga and comics was something I did when I came to the branch because I felt it made things easier to find for manga fans, who generally know the title but not the author. It also made finding all of one character, like Batman, easier, since he’s been written by a few different people at this point.

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Robin

In the past we had different systems depending on the audience and selectors while also taking physical space into consideration at each location. Three years ago all interested parties (selectors, catalogers, and our Head of Collection Development) got together to come up with one system for all age ranges and locations.  Our goal was to be clear and easy to understand from a patron point of view while also being consistent so that our technical services folks could catalog and classify titles consistently.  Creating a consistent procedure makes each section familiar as patrons age up as well as makes browsing easy.  Our patrons were already expressing a preference for being able to browse only manga or superhero titles, and we hoped that separating out the graphic would also keep those stand-alone titles from getting lost amid the long runs of manga and superhero titles. Also, manga is most often of similar size, as are superhero comics, and thus shelving them together means we can shift our shelving height to best suit those sizes.

Do you like the current system you have?  If you could change one thing, what would it be?

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Katie

For the most part I believe our system works very well. One thing I would change would be to intershelve nonfiction and fiction graphic novels. So many graphic novels are a mix of fiction, history, autobiography, and folklore that I think the division between fiction and nonfiction is not a very useful one.

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Matt

I would have liked to separate out the adult fiction section by genre and have a separate graphic novels section, as with the children and teens, as I feared the adult GNs got lost in the shuffle. Of course given the content complaints and challenges we got on the teen graphic novels, that may have been intentional on the part of my bosses. Still, it was an improvement on when I first got there and all the graphic novels were in a single section, with Watchmen shelved next to Babymouse! 

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Shannon

I’m not completely happy with how I have the independent comics organized compared to Marvel & DC, because I think it’s confusing for people less familiar with comics. Otherwise, I like it!

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Robin

I am very pleased with our current set up!  After many years of the system being less consistent, it’s wonderful to have a collection organization that really encourages browsing.  For me, the ultimate point is clarity — I want patrons to be able to find what they’re looking for without needing to ask us, and this system is both aesthetically clear on the shelf and easy for patrons to parse.

One issue that crops up for youth services librarians is what to do with extremely popular creators, like Raina Telgemeier, who write stand-alone titles. In our current system, they are shelved by title, so it means her titles are scattered throughout the collection instead of next to each other.  However, at this point most kids know which title they’re looking for, and ask for them by title, so up to now this hasn’t been a barrier to patrons finding the titles.

Do your readers like the set up?  How do you know?

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Katie

We don’t receive a lot of feedback overall about our shelving practices, so we don’t have a lot of information about this. Our graphic novel collections circulate well, so we feel confident about our system. Sometimes we do need to orient new users to our layout, but once patrons understand it, they seem to easily find what they’re looking for.

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Matt

I never heard any complaints about it, apart from adults having no idea we had graphic novels filed among the general fiction.

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Shannon

I’ve gotten positive feedback from patrons about the change to manga who remember how it was organized before, and when I explain the comics usually they appreciate it.

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Robin

We’ve had a lot of patrons who are long-time comics browsers let us know how much they like the new system, especially the manga and superhero fans.  In observation, I’ve also noticed how much more easily readers find the graphics section, including nonfiction tities.

Are there other systems you’ve seen or heard about that you think work particularly well?  Why?

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Katie

With the caveats I’ve mentioned, I haven’t seen other systems that work better. One option I’d be interested to see in practice is separating out more advanced Juvenile titles from younger ones.

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Matt

The LCC method of sorting graphic novels works well, in my experience.

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Shannon

Not that I can think of, though I’m always looking for more and better ways to organize them.

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Robin

I think a lot is defined by your physical set up — limits on shelving and separate collections are so varied across libraries. I definitely understand that classification is impacted by those limitations.  I am lucky to work in a library that gives us the space to have multiple collections, but I completely understand if some arrangements are not feasible because there just isn’t the room.

In an ideal world, how would you set up your graphic novel collection for your patrons?

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Katie

In an ideal world, we would have the physical space to shelve much more of our graphic novel collection face out. Our space is always limited, and graphic novels are tight on the shelves. Face out shelving is a great way to encourage browsing and trying new things, and I think it would also increase circulation.

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Matt

I think separating the books based on age level is essential in a public library, if only for ease of organization. However, I like the LCC practice, which allows for series to be sorted by volume number without worrying about the author’s or artist’s last name. If possible, I’d favor a hybrid approach that would separate out graphic novels according to age range but sort them within those sections according to series, title and creator.

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Shannon

Ultimately, I’d love to have graphic novels all by series (since of course there are series outside of Marvel & DC), then have it alpha by author within the series, for all comics. Manga I think really does best being organized by series.

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Robin

The one thing I wish we could do to make it easier for patrons is to somehow convince mainstream superhero publishers to 1) title series in a way that makes them distinct and 2) keep up a logical volume number run.  With our current system, we’ve been able to separate major character runs (example: SPIDER-MAN Miles versus SPIDER-MAN Peter), but the repetition (or lack) of series names and restarting volume runs makes our major superhero comics sections a bit of a mess.  We have way too many BATMAN vol. 1 volumes, and keeping them in order by subseries feels like a losing game.

If you could give this librarian any two pieces of advice, what would you say?

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Katie

I would take a careful look at how kids and families are using the collection before making a decision. Think first and foremost about what will make it easier for them to find what they are looking for, rather than what makes most sense in your mind. When we have done this, we’ve always ended up making shelving systems simpler rather than more complex.

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Matt

However they ultimately organize their books and manga, I would suggest creating unique spine labels for each section – preferably different colors. The biggest challenge I ran into with my collection was having teen comics shelved in the children’s section because I used two spine labels to denote JUVENILE and GRAPHIC NOVEL and one spine label for GRAPHIC NOVEL in the teen area. The nuance was lost on many of our volunteer shelvers, unless I specifically instructed them on how there were two sections where graphic novels went. I could have saved a lot of trouble had I just printed off a unique Teen Graphic Novel spine label that looked different from the juvenile sticker, but my boss at the time thought that was a bigger waste of my time than having me explain the labeling system to each new volunteer.

Beyond that, I would make sure their system is simple enough that all the staff, even the ones who do not track graphic novels, can understand it and navigate it.

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Shannon

Spine labels will definitely help, whatever your choice: they’re key to not just reinforcing the shelving decision for staff who shelve and find books, but makes it easier to identify at a glance how the collection is organized. If you want to add identifying stickers on top of that (YA or Juvenile, that kind of thing) it might help if your library already uses these kinds of stickers. Also, it’s definitely worth your time to talk to your staff about the change and encourage them to ask questions if they’re confused so they feel involved in the process. 

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Robin

I want to emphasize Katie’s points about talking to and observing how your patrons use the collections and note what’s working as well as what’s creating confusion, and be led by those observations. Nothing is more important than your readers being able to find what they want.  To that end: make sure your catalog listing matches the spine labels! Nothing is more confusing than a mismatch between where your catalog says a title is and where it physically is on the shelf.

Check your own biases. If you’re already a comics fan, try to look at your collection as if you aren’t.  If you aren’t a comics fan, try to think through what fans want as well as what novice readers want and strike a balance.  If you are used to adult comics, understand that there may be different needs for a kids comics section, and vice versa.

Keep it as simple and clear as possible. While you may need to train your patrons to understand a change to a new system, if you have to put up a sign forever that explains how your shelving works, then that system fails.  You shouldn’t have to include additional signs or primers for shelf organization — it should be comprehensible to your patrons as is. I definitely agree with Matt’s point that you should also always check with your shelvers — they too may need to learn a new system, but if it’s too confusing or complicated for the shelvers to learn, then it’s too confusing for your readers.

We hope this installment of Ask the Comics Librarians has given you all some ideas about how to best organize your collections.

Have a question about comics, graphic novels, manga, and libraries?

Send us a question through this form. We may use it in a future column!