Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2006-06-08

Comic Books: A New Kind of Magazine?

By now, most libraries have jumped on the graphic novel bandwagon in some way, shape, or form. Even some of the smallest libraries will have a few mangas and superhero comics in their collections, while some libraries have elaborate, diverse collections of graphic novels.

But having graphic novels is just one way you can have graphical storytelling in your library. Have you thought about having individual comic issues available to your patrons?

"But wait!" you say. "Comic books are so flimsy, they'll fall apart after two circs. And if they don't fall apart, we'll lose them!"

And my answer is, "So?"

Using the wear-and-tear or fear-of-theft as reasons to not carry comic books--well, we can use those same arguments if we wanted to stop carrying magazines, DVDs, CDs, videos, and books. Certainly there are concerns to stocking comic books in your collection, but there are ways to counteract these challenges.

In order to protect the comics and extend their use, clear tape is your best friend. You can use book tape, but plain old clear box tape can work fine, too. First, you apply tape on the outside of the comic, along the spine. This helps prevent the cover from being torn off. Then, on the inside, you place tape at the junction of the front cover and the first page of the comic, and then at the junction of the last page and the back cover. This way, the pages won't separate from the cover, at least not after two circs.

Many libraries treat comic books like magazines, so if back issues of magazines are allowed to circulate, so are comic books. Local comic stores will often offer a library a substantial discount if the library purchases their comics through the store. If that's not an option for you, Ebsco does carry individual comic series as subscriptions--they'll come just like your magazines. You can also work with various online retailers to purchase comics as a standing subscription. A big benefit to your local store, however, is that it's easier to resolve problems that way.

Sadly, comic books will get stolen from your library. But think about it from this perspective: you probably spent about $3 on the issue itself (if you had to pay cover price). Pennies worth of book tape, and a little of your time, and you have an item that can circulate like crazy. And beyond the circulation issue, think of the patrons that you'll be bringing into your library: visual learners, reluctant readers, ESL students, low-literacy adults.

Circulating comic books can also be a great way to dip your toe into the graphic novel waters. If you've got a limited budget, consider dropping a magazine or two and getting some comics to add to your collection. Hopefully, your patrons will notice, and ask you for more!

All in all, considering comic books like magazines is a great way to expand the graphic novel collections in your library. Give it a try!

Many thanks to the people from the GNLIB-L listserv, who responded to my question post with lots of information about comic book practices in their libraries. If you're interested in comics, graphic novels, and libraries, check out the listserv!

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