Home Culture It Was Long Overdue

It Was Long Overdue


I went to the American Library Association trade show and conference in Washington DC. I was slated to moderate a panel during the three days of events as part of their focus on graphic novels. I went armed with the memory that it had been twelve years since I first attended an ALA when I was in my second year at DC Comics. This was back in 1998 and the event was coincidentally, held in Washington DC.

I knew back then that libraries didn’t carry graphic novels. I knew this from visiting many libraries over the years and having a year under my belt selling -– or trying to sell — to distributors who serviced the library market. So in order to mitigate the cost, I took a table in the small press section. I found it ironic that here I was with a little table top representing one of the biggest comic book publishers in the world, whose San Diego Comic Con booth was the size of the local Abercrombie & Fitch and I was in the small press section.

Most of the people walked by the booth without stopping; clearly, we weren’t worthy. Others would stop and look at the books like they were the last pieces of fish after a long day in the sun at the local market. My favorites were the ones who would stop, look up at the sign that read DC Comics and say with a chuckle, “DC Comics!? This is a library show –- what are you doing here!”

The reason these librarians were my favorites was because they pissed me off. First, let me say that I love libraries. I had one three blocks from my house and practically lived there. I think what librarians do is important and I support it. But these few arrogant, elitist librarians who practically held their noses as they passed became my enemies and I would prove them wrong. I was determined to make it my mission to get graphic novels into libraries. Bookstores -– as important as they were — buy books that they think will make them money. Libraries bring in the books they think people want to read and what they think need to be preserved because they are important. Getting a librarian to recognize that graphic novels deserved a place on their shelves seemed supremely important to me.

I realized that I needed some major institution to give us their stamp of approval. I targeted the American Library Association and their READ poster program. Wouldn’t it be great to have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman hanging in libraries all over the country? I went to the powers that be at DC and they supported the idea. It seems that there was a program back in the 1970’s that used the characters in a program called “Knowledge Is Power.”

It took some convincing, but eventually the ALA graphics department and DC Comics produced what was to be the first in a series of posters. You can still get most of them online at the ALA store. These posters served as something we could point to when we were trying to sell our books and say –- “We matter -– even the ALA thinks we matter.”

Over the years, a lot of hard work by many publishers went into establishing graphic novels in libraries: dozens of panels and meetings and discussions and account visits and the trade shows, always the trade shows. There was a group of publisher representatives who banded together in spirit and worked together to expand into this new market. I want to mention Michael Martens and Sarah Grace McCandless from Dark Horse, Chris Oar who was at CrossGen at the time, Alan Payne formerly with Tokyopop and now with IDW, and even Terry and Robyn Moore from Abstract Studios as some of those early pioneers who saw that comics belonged in libraries.

It wasn’t long before the crowds started appearing and soon the orders followed. At one show the DC booth was so busy I heard our booth neighbor talking into his phone, “No, we’re not busy, we’re next to the DC Comics booth.” Attention was being brought to the medium –- so much that in 2003 a band of librarians banded together to stage an all-day event at the ALA in Atlanta to educate librarians about graphic novels. These librarians not only staged a daylong event that librarians had to pay to attend -– it was sold out -– they were able to get Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Jeff Smith there to talk to the few hundred librarians who attended.

What I found sad at the recent ALA was that DC no longer exhibits at ALA; they have a few books in the Random House booth. Marvel was not there -– they often weren’t over the years but actually had a booth the past few years -– but were now again absent. There was a graphic novel pavilion, but it seemed like it was quieter than in years past. To balance it out, there was a graphic novel stage where there was three days of programming and panels promoting graphic novels. But it seemed distant from the graphic novel publishers, even if it was just a few feet away. I think the publishers who were in that aisle could have be more involved and promoted the programming better. They seemed to rely on a large poster in the aisle to do all the work. As for the mainstream publishers who publish or distribute graphic novels –- they all seemed to have the books tucked away in their booths where they wouldn’t disturb anyone.

Mainstream publishers have long seen the value of the library market. Many of them have marketing and sales departments devoted to this market. Even in these difficult economic times when libraries are having their budgets and staff slashed and as they try to find their way in the digital world – many report that their overall circulation is up. Libraries offer a valuable service to the community; some of them are actually community centers in their town – even in the looming digital age they are important.

Publishers of graphic novels need to better support this market. So, praise to the hard working publishers who attended the trade show and shame on the ones who have abandoned it.  There is still room for expansion in libraries and still librarians who don’t know what do to with these books. If the industry wants this medium to grow -– someone needs to be there to help them out and here’s why.

I was having a bad week at DC Comics -– I really don’t remember why -– one of those weeks where you wonder what the hell you’re doing with your life. I usually walked the dozen or more blocks from Port Authority, but that day there was a huge rainstorm, so I decided to take the subway. I was standing there feeling miserable when I looked up and saw a teenage boy standing about five feet from me reading a book I though looked familiar. I moved a little closer and saw that he was reading a graphic novel, one published by DC Comics. He was reading Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat. I looked a little closer and the top of the book had a stamp that read New York Public Library.

That’s why comic book publishers need to support libraries.

  1. Great observations, Rich. I’m curious to hear more of your take on the Libraries and digital initiatives.

    For our Captain Action series, we’ve just signed a deal with Overdrive to offer digital comics through libraries. We’re not the first – Marvel is already there with 100 Spider-Man titles available. It will be interesting to explore this opportunity, hopefully to create more awareness and drive more sales in comic shops.

  2. You’re right about the change in a comics presence at ALA, Rich. It has become both stronger and weaker, oddly enough. When the “Graphic Novel Pavilion” first hit the exhibition floor, a few years back, pretty much everyone who was anyone was there. It was a real enclave of comic-y goodness.

    The strength is exemplified in things like those 3 days of programming, plus a number of other events. But that’s balanced by a new weakness. Now, the Pavilion has only the publishers who aren’t distributed by larger conglomerates. And unless you’re savvy to the business relationships, you won’t even find everyone. It was about 3 years, for example, before I learned that Fantagraphics’ ALA presence was via the Norton booth.

    Now, perhaps, this disparate, fragmented presence is due to comics’ complete acceptance by libraries. Perhaps, now, comics publishers don’t have to adopt a “united we stand, divided we fall” approach. And that’s a good thing. But there is still value in a true Graphic Novel Pavilion. One-stop shopping to learn about all the new material coming out? That’s a good thing. Because that exhibits hall is HUGE–H U G E– and it’s nice to be able to hit all the tables you really want to hit in one place. It’s no different, really, than the International Pavilion, where I can stop and talk to all my international vendors without running all over the exhibits hall floor.

    And there’s still some proselytizing to do, of course. While public and school libraries have embraced the medium, academic libraries are catching up more slowly. The job’s not over, so it just seems crazy to de-mob the troops.

  3. DC Comics was (is?) very proactive. They convinced the New York Public Library to test graphic novels in the YA section back in 1998. There’s a beautiful poster Jim Lee made for New York Is Book Country. There’s a Batman family poster as well as a Sandman poster available from ALA.

    This year, I did find some interesting stuff at ALA. The New York Federal Reserve continues the strange tradition of government agencies publishing educational comics, these are about money and finance. The University of Nebraska State Museum was promoting their World of Viruses project with print and iphone comics! Lerner had an impressive display of their Graphic Universe titles, aimed at young readers.

    Yes, we’ve won the war… other publishers have active GN lines, and distribute other publishers. Many libraries now have special GN sections for kids, teens, AND adults. Panels are packed. Awards are being given.

    But, yeah, we need a better GN presence at ALA. DC not only was absent, but the small selection of titles featured at the Random House booth seemed to be ignored. (No “Unwritten”?!) Hopefully, Hachette and Disney will mentor Marvel on the proper way to market graphic novels. Norton was proactive with the Fantagraphics titles, and eager to promote Sophie Crumb’s upcoming book, as well as “Stitches”. Abrams had their art titles, but also promoted their Amulet line for young adults. (Abrams, a kids publisher? Who knew?) First Second had a good chunk of real estate in the MacMillan aisle.

    Lots of programming, on and off the floor, lots of comics here and there. There’s also behind the scenes stuff, like how to manage the collection, using comics to promote visual literacy, where to find reviews…

  4. I’ve been thrilled to see the amazing inroads graphic novels have made into public library systems. We’ve got a great local system here in the Twin Cities, with new graphic novels making their way into the system almost immediately. I’ve heard from many sources that graphic novels are some of the most popular check-out items, which in turn fuels their ordering policy I would imagine.

    However, I’d like for my local libraries to get smarter about shelving the graphic novels aimed at various age groups. They’re pretty good about it for the most part, but there are some real doozies that slip through the cracks….such as the decidedly R-rated “Empowered” being shelved in the kid-young adult graphic novel section. Yeah, at first glance the art looks kid-friendly…but the “Little Annie Fannie”-style hijinks are definitely not the “Hey, Kids…Comics!” stuff you want libraries promoting to kids. YIKES!

  5. I’m a big fan of giving the local library an attitude adjustment by doing a LOT of inter-library loan requests.

    If you can get a few people to do it with you, it starts being cost effective for the library to just start buying what you request.

  6. However, I’d like for my local libraries to get smarter about shelving the graphic novels aimed at various age groups. They’re pretty good about it for the most part, but there are some real doozies that slip through the cracks….such as the decidedly R-rated “Empowered” being shelved in the kid-young adult graphic novel section.

    Robin Brenner wrote:

    How many public libraries provide graphic novel sections for adults in their collections? A majority of librarians I’ve consulted put graphic novels for adults in their teen sections (crossing their fingers that no one objects). Those that do maintain adult collections focus on award winners or literary titles including the deservedly acclaimed Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home or David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, but not popular series.

    That shelving policy makes sense if there aren’t enough adult-specific GNs for a separate section. Having GNs in a physically separate section makes more sense in bookstores — someone wanting to buy a GN goes to that section — than it does in libraries, in which books are cataloged. Having a GN section of shelves forces a cataloger to use the broadest subject heading, so biographies, fantasies, genre stories, etc., will all be shelved together, arranged alphabetically by either author or title.

    A sign of success for GNs will be when they’re shelved with prose books, because patrons will be looking for books by authors or on subjects, without caring whether they’re prose or comics-format books.

    BTW, the Graphic Novel Reporter Web site has had several features on GNs in libraries: Graphic Novels in Today’s Libraries; How Graphic Novels Thrive in High-School Libraries: A Discussion; How the Great Graphic Novels for Teens List Comes About.


  7. Great column Rich! As you know (and we discussed while we were both at ALA) I agree with all of your points. You have always been a great ally to we librarians, and I salute you!

    Karen, I fear that the absorption of comics publishers larger distributors and publishers is not helping the cause for graphic novels in libraries. The bulk of librarians I speak to at ALA have absolutely no idea that the graphic novels from DC, Fantagraphics, etc. are there. Librarians are not going to find them unless they’re prominently displayed and, even more importantly, that the publishers representing these titles both know about the titles and are capable of selling them to a librarian who walks up to the booth. Every time in the past few years I walked up to, say, Random House or Norton, they have very little knowledge of what they are or even the titles from the publishers they’re ostensibly representing. It’s hugely disappointing, and it’s a complete turn off to anyone who just wants to find out more about a book.

    Synsidar, I disagree that we want graphic novels to be integrated with fiction or nonfiction. Remember, according to Dewey, fiction SHOULD be in the 800s, and no one is calling for that change. Browsing collections and formats (videos, audiobooks) are almost always pulled out in public libraries, and for many people that’s how they prefer to find them — all in the same place. This is especially true of videos and audiobooks, and DVDs are rarely distinguished by genre. Musicals and nonfiction are potentially pulled out, and I do the same sort of thing with my graphic novels in every age range: fiction on one set of shelves, and nonfiction by Dewey in another. They’re all still in the same place, and my patrons are the one that advocated for this arrangement.

    Also, in what way aren’t there enough adult graphic novels for an adult collection? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of graphic novels aimed at adults.

  8. Syn…
    Many libraries use a GN genre classification because it allows a library to feature a popular category. Also, by using a simple classification scheme (category, followed by the first letter of the author’s last name), it allows library staff to quickly shelve titles in a category that is heavily shopped by patrons. Personally, I’d rather see a prominent display of graphic novels than to have to browse the unending stacks of fiction! (And who looks for manga titles by author? It’s all about Pokemon, Naruto, One Piece!)

    I can’t speak for all libraries, but I would guess that most shelve the non-fiction GNs by call number.

    Ironically, prose fiction is not shelved by call number, although it could be. So GN fiction will probably continue to get a category sticker, just as libraries continue to have fiction, mystery, science fiction, and romance sections. Browsers and fans can find the section readily, and researchers treat “GN” as a call number or special collection.

    And… taking your idea to the crazy extreme, why not shelve CDs and DVDs with the books? The how-to DVDs should be next to the home improvement books, right? Philosophically, cataloging is simplified to: recording and storing a particular object so that it can be readily located for future use. A graphic novel could be shelved in 741.59, or in GN, or Local Interest. Librarians make those decisions based on the needs of the community.

    Many libraries make good use of subject headings on records, as each can be a reference point, and computer memory is vast. Subject headings can be annotated with more specific descriptors, such as “Ainu –Comic books, strips, etc.” With subject keyword searching, titles can be found which might otherwise remain hidden. (The Library of Congress has 3173 distinct subjects with the keywords “comic books, strips, etc.”)

    Also, some libraries are now following a bookstore model in shelving, using categories instead of classification schemes. Aficionados know that cookbooks are shelved in 641.5, but the general user doesn’t want to bother with that, they just want to browse.

    Myself, I’ve become quite crafty at finding GNs in libraries. I really don’t care where stuff is shelved, as long as the library shelves it. And if you can’t find it? Ask a librarian.

  9. My thinking re GNs is that, ideally, patrons would care less about the format — both prose books and GNs are books — than about the content. Dean Koontz, for example, has already had In Odd We Trust adapted and has original Odd Thomas GNs coming out. Ideally, fans of Koontz’s fiction could look for all of his fiction in one spot, which would mean shelving all of the Odd Thomas books together.

    Look at LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR TRUTH to see how it’s shelved, and you’ll find libraries, even those which use the Dewey system, putting it in different locations.

    My library background is in cataloging and reference work, not circulation, so I care less about individual patrons having trouble finding books than I do about the cataloging being consistent.


  10. Robin, I’m glad you agree about the problem of a fragmented publisher presence! I just feel it’s crazy to hurt one’s own cause that way. I will say that the Norton folks do tend to promote, and be knowledgeable, about the Fantagraphics holdings, but it’s much less so at, say, the Random House booth.

    And this consequence of subsidiary houses is a disturbing trend outside ALA as well. I can’t remember off the top of my head who the large conglomerate was that had a booth at NYCC 2009, with some of their subsidiary’s GNs on offer, but I do remember that the booth-person I spoke to was utterly uninformed as to the titles. At a freakin’ comic con. Disgraceful.

    As to shelving: academic libraries use LC call-numbers, not Deweys, but the problems are similar, and it’s on the catalogers, not the libraries. LC has the PN6700s as the “Comic books, strips, etc.” subgroup of PN’s “Literature.” That’s where about 85% of our GN holdings sit, with an almost impenetrable classification model within those numbers.

    About another 10% of the collection is in the NC1400s, which is the “Pictorial humor, caricature, etc” subgroup of NC’s “Drawing. Design. Illustration.”

    The final 5% is actually shelved by subject matter, so for example:
    *Sabrina Jones’ Isadora Duncan is in the GVs
    *Chester Brown’s Louis Riel is in the F1060s
    *Percy Carey’s Sentences is in the MLs
    *Josh Neufeld’s A.D. is in the F379s
    *Jim Ottaviani’s science comics are in the Qs and QCs
    *Harvey Pekar’s book about SDS is in the LAs–and his book on Macedonia is in the DRs

    That so much content is in a grab-bag medium category like “Comic books, strips, etc.” is infuriating to me…although it does also allow readers to browse the collection in a way that would otherwise be impossible (due to LC also having no one unifying subject heading that could be used to bring up the entire collection in a catalog search).

    This is a source of enormous frustration to me, as you may be able to tell!

  11. Thankfully we have a terrific person here in Indianapolis who is in charge of ordering product from my stores for the Indianapolis Public Library system. She pushed and pushed the board of directors to allow graphic novels into the libraries about 5 or 6 years ago and gave her a trial program. They were just knocked out by the circulation numbers and quickly expanded what they carry to all the Indianapolis Library locations. The orders for the graphic novels just went up and up. It’s been great for us to really work with her.

  12. Torsten: And… taking your idea to the crazy extreme, why not shelve CDs and DVDs with the books? The how-to DVDs should be next to the home improvement books, right? Philosophically, cataloging is simplified to: recording and storing a particular object so that it can be readily located for future use. A graphic novel could be shelved in 741.59, or in GN, or Local Interest. Librarians make those decisions based on the needs of the community.

    Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (where I worked until laid off last week) does shelve the nonfiction DVDs with the books, and I doubt they’re the only ones.

    They have the GNs in a special browsing section (Juvenile, Young Adult & Adult in separate areas). And the manga is shelved by title–at least in the branch where I was–just like a bookstore.

  13. Synsidar — I think that last point is where we differ. While I loved cataloging, and find its intricacies fascinating, I come down on the side of the readers being able to find the books. Shouldn’t that be the point of cataloging? Not hiding them away in sections that make them hard to find? I fear that’s been my experience of interfiling graphic novels with fiction or nonfiction — people just can’t find them, and no one browses for them, so they just sit on the shelf, unnoticed and unread. Mark also makes the obvious point — it depends on your patrons and your own collection.

    I do agree that whatever you decide about cataloging, it needs to be consistent, and I fear the bulk of MARC records for graphic novels are not that at all. THAT’S something I’d love to see fixed.

    I do see your point about having similar authors together — to take a comics author example, you could easily have all of Greg Rucka’s novels next to his comics work, or all of Neil Gaiman’s comics next to his prose works. In the future, when there is less prejudice against the format, we may well end up doing that. But — do you shelve all your videos and audiobooks with the authors prose works? Because that’s the same thing, to my mind.

    Karen, does LC not have a graphic novels subject heading? We do, and I’ve noticed it finally being used more.

  14. One more thing: Mark, I do see libraries that shelve their nonfiction videos with their nonfiction books. Again, it makes browsing for a subject easier. I’ve yet to see people do that with fiction, and honestly, that’s what people are doing by interfiling graphic novels with prose novels. It may well work in some libraries, but in most I haven’t heard of that much success.

    I feel almost like we should apologize to Rich for letting the comments sidetrack into a cataloging discussion — oh, librarians! It’s so easy for us to do.

    To bring it back to the main point, I do have a question — how do we, as librarians, put pressure on the publishers to represent better at shows? How do we let them know one, the money they could make, and two, the necessity for their presence? Can we do anything individually?

  15. Robin
    To your point:
    “To bring it back to the main point, I do have a question — how do we, as librarians, put pressure on the publishers to represent better at shows? How do we let them know one, the money they could make, and two, the necessity for their presence? Can we do anything individually?”
    First I believe they are already making money on the library market – and the publishers need to be reminded. It seems that the publishers who are still there either are new – like Boom and see the potential of non-returnable sales into the library market or a few like Dark Horse and IDW who have been exhibiting for some time are invested in supporting the market because I believe someone there is paying attention to it.
    I am not sure what type of communication there is between you guys and the big, absent publishers. Comic shop and big box retailers are loud and they are persistent in voicing their needs to the publishers. How vocal are librarians and if you are – how do the publishers respond? If librarians believe that they are being ignored by these publishers they need to be more visible and more vocal. And I think I know how those librarians are.
    According to ICv2 in 2008 the library market represented 35 million dollars in sales – up from 30 million in 2007. I don’t have the figures for 2009, but that is a significant amount of money. Maybe someone should remind these publishers of that and that they are all non-returnable. Or maybe someone should shame them that at the recent ALA there was a huge crowd for most authors and artists who were signing. Hell, there was a huge crowd for on publisher who gave away free cake and champagne.

  16. If one goes to authorities DOT loc DOT gov , one can search by subject headings.

    Graphic novels:

    LoC has some 2860 titles under GN and 2006 under “Comic books, strips, etc.” This does not include subdivisions such as “Librarians–Comic books, strips, etc.”

    Yeah… we librarians love to dissect cataloging… Is Neil Gaiman a British or an American author?

    The ICV2 white paper at C2E2 did not break out library purchasing. How does one track that?

  17. It’s difficult to get a complete picture of how big the library market is because librarians buy from so many sources; wholesalers, retailers, online, etc. Publishers can get reports from wholesalers that will tell them how many of their books were sold to libraries. When the wholesaler is purely one for the library market – like Brodart or Follett, it’s pretty simple to see a sales report. I am not sure if Diamiond specifically tracks library sales, but I know that many librarians even buy from their local comic book shop.

    So much like Bookscan I would assume that even if you take the time to add all these up it would represent about 70% of the market for libraries. I don’t know how ICv2 got their number – but I am going to assume that it’s bigger than they have estimated.

  18. Griepp reportedly said at C2E2 that graphic novel sales to libraries were flat, and blamed budget cuts.

    A check of a couple of writers indicated that in North Dakota libraries, GNs are generally shelved with the prose books.

    I wonder how libraries go about budgeting for the purchase of GNs. Ideally, GNs should be read by a cross-section of the library’s patronage, or budgeting for them creates a “GNs versus ____” situation, which is undesirable. There’s also the matter of reading skills. In the endless “Should we buy what patrons want to read or buy what they should read?” argument, I’ve generally sided with the “want to read” advocates, because unread books are a waste of money, poor turnover stats will cause trouble, and reading something will foster interest in books that might lead to more demanding material eventually. If GNs are so different from books that reading them doesn’t improve reading skills or lead to greater interest in books generally, then there’s a drawback to emphasizing them as reading material.


  19. Excellent posting Rich. The commentary has been quite excellent.

    With the publisher participation at ALA, we need the librarians to basically “storm the castles” and demand better representation from the houses. Raina Telgemeier wouldn’t have been in DC to promote Smile if I hadn’t invited her. Scholastic hadn’t planned on bringing her to the show….seriously.

    This will take a campaign, by the librarians, that is a lot like the I WANT MY MTV campaign. When MTV started running that promotional spot kids started hammering the phone lines of their local cable operators. Look where we are now.

    With the publishers who did exhibit in the gn pavilion, we(at Diamond) are working harder to educate them on what the environment will provide them. The library shows are more of a two-way conversation than any other show. Publishers learn just as much about the market as the librarians will about the new books-IF they are ready to listen.

    So, why didn’t we see more graphic novels in the booths of the major houses? Their marketing teams just don’t have a clue as to what the graphic novel format delivers. They have great books or they are distributing for houses like DC, Viz etc and they just don’t see the total numbers on the growth of the format. Probably because they keep looking for a “Harry Potter”. If they studied the growth of the market, they would see that the entire category is Harry Potter.

    And though we are seeing a lot more great titles coming for older teens and adults the gold rush will be found in the tween category. That day is fast approaching.

    We just need more librarians, and now teachers, to demand greater publisher support for the graphic novels that are getting produced.

    Email, or call the publishers and tell them I WANT MY GRAPHIC NOVELS!

  20. In my library system a portion of the juvenile/young adult budget has been specifically designated for graphic novels for a few years now.

  21. Robin, you asked about a “graphic novels” subject heading from LC.

    The short answer is “yes and no.” (Helpful, right?)

    LC added a Genre/Form term of “Graphic novels” that catalogers can choose to add to a record. If you look at OCLC records in WorldCat, for example, you’ll see that it’s listed separately from the rest of the LCSH (which OCLC calls “Descriptors”). You can search on Genre/Form terms just like subject headings but they aren’t, technically, subject headings, because they aren’t indicating a topic but a medium.

    Again, how aggressive or comprehensive an individual cataloger is will play a factor.

    If you search in OCLC for the Genre/Form heading of “Graphic novels,” there are over 58,000 results.

    If you search in OCLC for the LCSH of “Comic books, strips, etc.” you get over 147,000 results.

    If you go for the Venn Diagram of how many use both terms in a single record, you get over 45,000 results–13,000 fewer than the Genre/Form usage, which means that, as I noted, some catalogers are just slapping a Genre/Form heading on there without including what has been used traditionally.

    If you do a Boolean search for “Graphic novels” NOT “Comic books, strips, etc.” in order to see those 13,000 records, you find something like this record for “American Born Chinese”:

    Descriptor: Graphic novels.
    Chinese Americans — Fiction.
    Identity — Fiction.
    Schools — Fiction.
    Cartoons and comics.
    Genre/Form: Graphic novels.
    Graphic novels — United states.

    That’s just…just a nightmare. Someone has used Graphic novels both as Genre/Form AND as LCSH. And now there’s an LCSH I’ve never even seen before: “Cartoons and comics.”

    What this means is that there is even less of a possibility of anyone being able to go to an online catalog and pull up the entire collection at one go, in order to browse it online.

    It’s really unfortunate.

  22. This is a really basic question, but I’m betting it’s something that many librarians wonder about. We’re all for making noise (as a profession we do that rather well for something we care about, despite stereotypes of being shushers). I’m more at a loss of who to talk to at publishers. I’ve TOLD publishers at the shows, and after the shows, and I’m frequently brushed off. How do I know who to speak to? How does any librarian know who to speak to at an individual publisher?

    The only list I know if is over at Early Word: http://www.earlyword.com/publishers/

    Karen, I totally feel your pain — I run into much the same problem. So, clearly we need a group of librarians to storm OCLC and fix all of the cataloging from years past! Once more unto the breach! :)

  23. One thing that could get the attention of comics publishers is for folks who write/blog about comics for librarian readers and the library press is to send clips or links of their reviews/articles to comics marketing reps. Most publishers, comics or otherwise, yearn for good–even merely decent–reviews. Some publishers (and cartoonists) do run excerpts of librarian press reviews/articles on back covers and websites, even if they don’t put the bucks into exhibiting at ALA. And YALSA should make sure (if they don’t already) that marketing reps from GGNT publishers know that their titles have been selected.

  24. Here’s the reasoning, several years ago, for using Dewey’s “741.5” with its subdivisions for graphic novels, cartoons, etc.:

    We have tentatively decided to keep graphic novels in 741.5 and its subdivisions, where we have been classing them with cartoons, caricatures, and comics. Our proposal is to improve the development at 741.5 rather than to relocate graphic novels to another set of numbers. First, the DDC puts works that combine graphic arts and literature in the 700s with the arts, not in the 800s with literature; hence graphic novels belong somewhere in the DDC 700s, not with strictly textual novels in the 800s. Second, graphic novels share so many characteristics with comic books and collections of comic strips that separating graphic novels would be difficult for classifiers to do consistently. We also believe it would not be helpful for most end users. Many discussions of graphic novels, even though they may acknowledge a narrow definition of the term, go on to use a broad definition that includes not only stand-alone stories in comics form published as books but also collections of stories initially published serially in comic books and collections of newspaper comic strips reprinted in book form. We have tentatively decided to treat everything from single-frame caricatures to three-frame newspaper comic strips to comic books to graphic novels all in the same way. Although this is a broad range of material, we have found no good places to break the continuum so as to separate the material usefully into different categories. We propose to change the notes and captions at 741.5 and its subdivisions to make clear that all these kinds of materials are being treated the same way.

    A lot of librarians hate that approach. One blogged about it:

    Here’s what bugs you about us librarians: we might all agree to call Garfield a comic, but we librarians do love to call everything else a graphic novel. Even if it is not a novel. Laika, about the Soviet dog in space? We call that a graphic novel. It’s not. It’s non-fiction. Smile, a memoir? We call that a graphic novel, too. Myths? Legends? Bring ‘em on. We’ll call ‘em all graphic novels. Part comic, part text, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Absolutely. Graphic Novel. Frankly, if it has a story that goes on beyond four panels, we graphicnovelize it.

    That bothers you. A lot. I heard you loud and clear. [. . .]

    Meanwhile, if I bought a biography in graphic format, it went in biographies; and it if was a Max Axiom book about energy, it went in the 300s. And that’s technically correct cataloguing, too — if the book’s primary purpose is to “persuade or inform,” it goes into the subject area to which it belongs.

    Guess which titles circulated? The 741.5s. Guess which ones didn’t? The biographies and 300s. Guess which books I moved into 741.5 so they’d start getting kids’ hands? Yup. [. . ]

    But here’s the thing. The 741.5 Club, the GN Brigade and you, the creators, have the same objective: to get your works into users’ hands. All librarians are trying to do is put items that are visually similar into the same place, because our users/patrons/students are currently choosing what to read based on the format it’s in. If we put T-Minus next to the space books, it’s not going to get into users’ hands as much as if we put it next to Bone. We’d rather have your stuff get read. And so do you.

    So help us out. Give us some time to build our collections until the point that graphic content / comics / sequential art / books with panels-and-balloons can be further subdivided (or the economy improves and we aren’t so frightened of taxpayer/administrator backlash). In the meantime, try not to fret. And keep writing. Our kids love what you do. That’s why we put it where they can find it.

  25. In reference to the question about “who do you talk to at the publishers?” The real challenge there is getting the comics guys to comprehend what cataloging means or what PCIP means. The conversations I’ve been having with them is that a MARC record is your electronic finger print. If you dont have this created, and you dont have accurate LOC subject headings, you have a greater challenge of having your books found. Houses like First Second, or GT Labs know how to do this. Jim Ottaviani at GT Labs has an excellent grasp of this(I think he was actually a cataloger during his school years). But the guys who come from the comics world are only now just figuring out the size of the traditional book trade market. There’s a lot for these guys to absorb. Some of them are now bringing ‘book trade’ people onto their staffs which is a nice start.

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