February 17, 2018

Michelle Gorman | Movers & Shakers 2003

Graphic Attraction


You better believe it when Michelle Gorman says, “I’m way too edgy for story time.” At the tender age of 26, Gorman is making a name for herself as a diehard advocate of introducing nontraditional materials such as graphic novels and computer games into library collections.

Gorman’s charge is to make libraries cool enough for today’s teenagers to spend time there. “Libraries are good at bringing in two- and three-year-olds with their parents, and we do a decent job of providing services for adults,” she says. “Between childhood and adulthood, we miss the boat.”

Though Gorman does not have a special passion for graphic novels, she understands the importance of giving the patrons what they want. “I think that if we as librarians only use tools that we understand, that we enjoy ourselves, then we’re going to miss a majority of the kids whom we serve.” Though she is proud to call her library a “middle-school hangout,” she also makes it clear that the library “is not an extension of school.” She estimates that between 50 and 60 kids a day walk through her doors to check on the latest graphic novels, not to do homework. These are, she notes, “kids who would otherwise not be in the library.”

“Kids learn on all different levels,” Gorman says. “We’re raising a bunch of visually literate young people who connect with comics in a way they don’t with text-only books. They can have literary experiences with something that doesn’t look like a traditional book.” To Gorman that means using Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
to teach flashbacks, foreshadowing, and satire; mining Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
for its rich trove of allusions to great literary works from the past; and working with Art Spiegelman’s allegorical graphic novel Maus
to teach kids about the Holocaust.

In college, Gorman figured she would be a teacher, but she didn’t appreciate the “red tape and bureaucracy. Librarianship offered the best of everything. Yeah, I’m a librarian, but I’m also a social worker, a big sister, and a teacher. I teach every day, and every day I learn something new. That’s something I never expected but that I absolutely adore.”




Current Position: Wired for Youth Librarian, Austin Public Library, TX

Degree: MLS, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, 2000