February 17, 2018

Librarians Out Front at Comic Con

By Ann Kim & Michael Rogers

Librarians’ pioneering role in bringing graphic novels to the public was celebrated at the second annual New York Comic Con (NYCC), held February 23 – 25, at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center. Some 400 librarians attended, a fourfold leap over 2006. Four library-centric panels featured librarians tackling, for example, ‘Graphic Novel Classics Every Library (public and school) Should Shelve and Circulate’ (example: Alan Moore’s Watchmen).

Graphic novels and comics, it was evident, aren’t just guy stuff. More than half the panelists were women, as were about one-third of the 40,000 attendees, who helped pack the show floor and sessions featuring Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, and Stephen King.

Circulation & shelving

Libraries account for ten percent of all graphic novel sales, equaling roughly $30 million annually, according to Brodart’s John Shableski, who moderated all four panels. He praised librarians for recognizing, ahead of retailers, the lure of graphic novels. Indeed, Andrew Kaplan of the Las Vegas – Clark County Library District, NV, reported that graphic novels generate 54 percent of YA circulation at his branch.

Shelving graphic novels poses difficulties, and panelists bemoaned that many fellow librarians still view anything in a graphic format as kid stuff. Jennifer Feigelman, Goshen PL, NY, suggested using stickers to discern between YA-oriented and adult graphic novels to prevent the former titles from falling into inappropriate hands. Brooklyn PL’s Alison Hendon warned against separating titles by genre. All reported that circulation rises if the materials are clustered rather than shelved individually.

Anime enters

Anime, video cartoons from Japan, has followed on the heels of graphic novels, challenging libraries regarding selection, presentation, and community acceptance. Eva Volin, Stockton – San Joaquin County PL, CA, warned librarians to check ratings; the genre can be more graphic than print versions, even if both are based on the same source material.

One way to boost patron interest in anime: host clubs in the library with a staffer as point person, which requires a room with a TV and VCR/DVD player. Anime producers seeking a foothold will freely permit public performances, said graphic novel consultant Kat Kan. Manga and anime, both of which emanate from Japan, have ripple effects. ‘Not only do kids want to create manga,’ Kan said, ‘they want to learn Japanese and pick up bits about the culture.’