Thursday NYCC report: Graphic Novels and Libraries: Beyond the Basics

The panelists were from a variety of libraries. First topic of discussion was top manga titles in the circulation. They included:

  • NARUTO
  • DEATH NOTE
  • SCOTT PILGRIM
  • FRUITS BASKET
  • FULL METAL ALCHEMIST
  • LIGHTNING THIEF
  • BLEACH
  • DRAGONBALL Z
  • The manga version of VAMPIRE KISSES

Mentions were given to mainstream DC and Marvel titles as well that increase in circulation and in-house reading when a cartoon or movie is out.

  • THOR
  • BLACKEST NIGHT
  • THE LOSERS
  • RUNAWAYS
  • POWERS
  • FABLES

The interesting way one librarian tracks popularity is not based on check-outs but in thefts. POWERS and FABLES were quite popular in her library. Popularity can be difficult to determine in accurate statistics because graphic novels can be read in one sitting without the numbers that would generate when a book is signed out. Walter Simonson’s THOR will circulate beyond the movie crowd because of its notoriety rather than movie affiliation.

Graphic Novels are not always part of ILL (inter-library loan) programs. Christian Sabrinski (not sure of his name since it was not in the program) is a founder of the Urban Librarians Unite group. He finds it amusing that the kids think the reason manga isn’t allowed to be requested through ILL is because the stodgy grownups don’t want them reading when the truth is that it would create too much workload for their current staff size. He loves that the kids think it’s forbidden reading material because it makes them want to read all the more.

The Mid-Manhattan Public Library houses over 1,000 graphic novels in its collection. In order to bring awareness to libraries having graphic novels available, it was suggested that parents groups especially ones for autistic children are notified. In NYC branches, most of the comics can be found in the adult sections because the ones specific to children are already catalogged in the children’s section.

Pro Tip: Offer up soft seating in the comics section especially if the books are shelved in the teen books. Comfortable seating really helps the kids who can’t take them home to have access to comics.

Digital distribution isn’t much of an issue (yet) in NYC public libraries because many of the patrons can’t afford the ereaders or the downloads. Other libraries, such as universities, are just formulating plans for how to deal with ereaders. The platform used by libraries is called “Overdrive” and includes Kindle downloads – though it seemed there was some disagreement on this interaction with Amazon. There are not a lot of titles available, according to the panelists; the collections in Overdrive target younger readers and include things like X-MEN, WOLVERINE and MARVEL ADVENTURES. The panelists said if Marvel made more available, they would order more.

Catalogging the comics is a big issue. There is no clear cut guideline and some librarians are choosing to identify the comics as non-fiction because it’s the easiest way. The books are coded in 741 under “decorative arts & drawings.” The librarian from Columbia University said the lack of direction is quite frankly opaque and insane.

For the first time, libraries were participants in Free Comic Book Day and offered up free books just like retailers. The public librarians were very excited about its success and look forward to next May’s FCBD.