200910261255A couple of stories spotlighting the matter of graphic novels in libraries– GNs remain among the most popular books to check out, and libraries have been a major force in getting younger readers exposed to comics. But their popularity is not without controversy, as this story shows: Two Kentucky librarians were fired for not allowed a child to check out LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN.

“Residents in Jessamine County do not realize that these books that are so graphic are available in the library let alone to their children,” former Jessamine County librarian, Beth Bovaire, said.

Beth Bovaire worked at Jessamine County Public Library up until a month ago. She and Sharon Cook worked as librarians- the two were fired last month when they say they didn’t allow a child check out a book from the league of extraordinary gentleman series.

“My friend Sharon had brought it to me on Wednesday, and she said ‘look at this book it’s filthy and it’s on hold for an 11 year old girl,’ and I said well okay, lets take it off hold.”

A follow up shows local opinion divided.

§ On the PLUS side, the New Jersey State Library has awarded $3000 grants to 14 libraries to “assist them with establishing and growing graphic novel collections.”

This grant was specifically designed to help smaller libraries in the state with their graphic novel collections.

“We recognize that our smaller libraries face funding challenges when it comes to providing their customers with the variety of products they’d like,” said Norma Blake, New Jersey State librarian. “Although it’s rare for the State Library to fund a core collection like this, we believe it’s important to bring this popular genre to smaller libraries who otherwise couldn’t afford these books.”

As part of the grant, the State Library conducted workshops featuring experts discussing various aspects of graphic novel collection development, and furnished a core graphic novel bibliography for the librarians to use to purchase books for their collections. Workshop panelists were John Cunningham, vice president of marketing for DC Comics, Laverne Mann, librarian with the Mercer County Library, David Inabnitt, librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library, and Sophie Brookover, librarian with Eastern Regional Senior High School, Audubon.

[Both links via Kevin Melrose.]


  1. That story’s gotta be bogus or, at the least, heavily slanted. I notice there’s no quote from the library. Since when does a KENTUCKY library fire librarians for not checking adult-themed books out to children?

  2. I’m very nearly a free-speech absolutist. However, children aren’t ready to deal with some things, and it’s a well-established principle that adults are responsible for protecting them from those. The library and the parents of that community simply need to work out who’s going to do it, and how they’ll decide. There are sound arguments for the librarian doing it and sound arguments for the parents doing it. So work it out. Set a library policy – one that applies to everything else in the collection – and abide by it.

  3. I’ve noticed the trend of libraries expanding their graphic novel collections. When I was in high school in the early 90’s, the only GNs at my local library were few, and all had to have a “literary” bent to even be on the shelf.

    Considering how inept the big comic companies are at selling to the mass market these days, libraries are definitely an avenue to getting kids into comics.

  4. The “librarians” (apparently clerks, not actually trained librarians) violated library policy regarding open circulation of materials to everyone. They did not consult with librarians before restricting the book.

    That was the policy of the library… let anyone check out anything, unless a parent decides to opt out, telling the library they do not want his or her child to read certain books. I suspect that the clerks were fired after the child or the parent protested the clerks’ action.

    Is The Black Dossier pornography? There is probably enough literary merit in the book to argue against that statement. Of course, kids (and adults) will look at pictures out of context, noticing sex appeal while ignoring the message behind the image.

    Most libraries have policies regarding everything. How titles are selected, how titles circulate, and how challenged titles are reviewed.

    Here’s what the American Library Association has to say on the subject:
    Many resources are available from the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Intellectual Freedom Round Table.

    From the recent “Books Banned & Challenged in 2008-2009”:
    Riley, Andy. The Book of Bunny Suicides: Little Fluffy Rabbits Who Just Don’t Want to Live Anymore.

    (Caution: You may become dismayed reading about challenges to classic literature. Did you know the NAACP does not like “To Kill A Mockingbird”?)

  5. As a professional librarian (not in the US) it’s my firm belief that a library policy to lend any material to any patron regardless of age without any sort of control is absolutely insane. Well meaning, idealistic – INSANE.

    The amount of trouble “concerned” parents could cause if inappropriate material were issued to their children is immense, regardless of what the policy might say. Try shiedling yourself with a piece of paper when parents are rending their clothing on the 9 o’clock news.

    If this had been a matter of a film rated R or NC-17, I’m sure everyone would quickly agree that such material is inappropriate to lend to a child of 11, but a comic book must automatically be for kids.

    The only recourse with such a potential powder keg policy is to strip the library of any potentially offensive material (yes, including classic literature), or wait to be forced to do it under threat from some well-meaning crusader. THAT is censorship – making sure that age-inappropriate material isn’t handed to a child is NOT – it’s just common sense.

  6. Terry, go to the linked site, this is what HTML is all about: “The Jessamine County Library director says it’s against their policy to speak about employee terminations but he did give me a copy of their policy and it clearly states the responsibilities of the child’s reading must lye with the parents and not with the library.”

  7. As a librarian, let me point out something that should be self evident, and should be understood by parents wishing to monitor their child’s reading. No public library can or will operate “in loco parentis”.

    Parents are responsible for their own children, and libraries have neither the right or the ability to assume authority over what a particular child can or cannot read. It sets a precedent which allows parents to presume a “caretaker” relationship between the library and their children, and that simply isn’t the library’s place or function.

    “Concerned parents” need to be concerned enough to preview and approve materials for their own children. It is not the Library’s place, or responsibility, to make those sorts of judgement calls.

    As for the argument that children can have their own cards, and parents may not know what is checked out on them…well I have yet to work in a library where a parental signature isn’t required to get that card. Parents who want to keep total control over what their children read simply don’t get them a card…they bring them to the library, browse through the materials with them, then check them out with the parent’s card. If it is too much trouble for the parent to monitor the child, why would one think the library would do it?