Robin Brenner, Creator & Editor in Chief of, wrote to give us some much needed background on the graphic novel panel at the recent ALA show which Neil Gaiman reported on and we quoted:

First, just to say, we were all thrilled that Neil Gaiman took the time to attend our panel. Both the panelists and the audience were very excited to have such an honored guest attend our presentation.

There was, however, context for the panel that may not be apparent.

At ALA, there have been numerous programs in the past on graphic novels in general, from how to start a collection to where to collect them to what titles are the best for all kinds of librarians. We librarians have been supporters of graphic novels of all kinds for many years now. I can personally attest to the years of work that have gone into establishing the first official ALA list recognizing graphic novels, YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List, the first list to be announced in January 2007. All of our panelists have been working for years (some for decades) as advocates for graphic novels.

When planning this presentation, we decided to concentrate on new information rather than repeat what had been presented before. This particular panel was intended to focus on new trends in the graphic novel, manga, and anime world. The panel was sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) serving library patron age 12-18, and the presentation was specifically about teen preferences as well as to provide guidance to teen librarians on new trends they were likely to encounter in their work.

As the focus was on the teen audience, manga became a large part of what we addressed. Teens are currently the largest audience for manga and on top of that, manga is the subformat of graphic novels with which librarians need the most help. From my own experience working with librarians over the past few years, I can say that most teen librarians feel confident in starting and evaluating graphic novel collections but are much less comfortable or familiar with manga. Hence we sought to fill the need for more information on that front.

Just to reassure you that we librarians are far from concentrating only on manga, I presented a workshop the day before at ALA on graphic novels for kids (which focused on the wide array of titles availble, from picture books to chapter books to indie graphic novels and which only briefly touched on manga). Our discussions at the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List meetings, open to all to attend, demonstrated the diversity and richness of what we are planning on recognizing on our inaugural list in January 2007. The nominations, in case you have not seen them, are listed online, and there will be many more to come in the next months as we continue to seek out the best graphic novels for teens:

These additional programs and discussions help show how much we embrace and advocate for all graphic novels. We wanted to write to reassure you and your readers that in no way are we ignoring or discounting Western graphic novels.

Thanks for taking the time to hear the origins of our panel, and the reasons for its focus.