There’s many reasons to build out an adult graphic novel collection in a library. Graphic novels aid in keeping a library relevant with the current culture. They serve as an entry to reading for those adults that aren’t fond of traditional novels. Graphic novels are excellent tools in increasing literacy—both prose and visual—for adult literacy and ESL programs. But none of that matters if patrons can’t find those graphic novels easily.

That seems to be the biggest foundational hurdle libraries are facing when building an adult graphic novel section based on insight from  the Strategies for Successful Adult Graphic Novel Collection Development in Public Libraries panel. Moderated by Monica Barrette (Escondido Public Library) with panelists Cassidy Charles (Santa Barbara Public Library), Marcela Peres (Lewiston Public Library, Director), and Amie Wright (Edmonton Public Library, Library Manager) the panelists shared experiences that could easily transcend into the world of retail.

Panelist first noted how best to make the case to those in charge for budget approvals. This required reminding to at times forego the theoretical merits for the practical merits of hard data. This data could be shared as one-sheets with critical data for decision makers to understand your needs.  Another idea was to use existing circulation data of the library’s books to invest in similar genres for the graphic novel collection.

Making graphic novels intuitive to locate is the biggest hurdle, and any obstacle might turn away a potential new reader. Cassidy Charles found buried in the children’s collection 1000 items categorized incorrectly, making it difficult even if you did know what you were looking for. Should one organize by genre, publisher, writer, artist, title?

“Build the correct metadata from the beginning. Make the metadata work for you. Set yourself up for success so that when you want those stats you can pull them.”, stressed Amie. Including notes or custom data fields is an important step to gain minute data driven reports. If data can be abstracted from the details, that data is important for making a case to grow a collection correctly, because much of that data isn’t available or reported.

Amie continued, “Scholastic book club [is succeeding] in schools.But those numbers aren’t reported in Book Scan. They’re not reported in Diamond. So all these different numbers are not necessarily building the case to what we know to be true.” This same data could be provided to publishers to find and grow readers in all markets. “Right now in France the people who read the most graphic novels are—wait for it—women in their mid-fifties.”

A graphic novel collection is like maintaining a library within a library. Making categorization the priority is the secret and there’s no one solution, as each library needs to organize based on its patrons needs. A basic approach to the problem was implied.

  1. Find and pull all existing graphic novels in the library.
  2. Provide a separate prominent, welcoming space for the graphic novel collection.
  3. Organize the collection based leveraging metadata.Separate within establishing metadata
  4. Grow the collection based upon existing novel circulation and insights from research and collaborations with comic shop retailers.

In the end it’s important to break from traditional practices to grow readership and circulation in graphic novels. What good is marketing a graphic novel collection if your patrons still can’t find what they’re looking for?


  1. I love sci-first and fantasy comics so was exceeding happy when my library had brand new stuff. Only to find out it was adult orientatated for the children’s section. Why didn’t you complain, simple here in Santa Barbara,CA the I stumbled upon a LGBT community event, it was hosting a talent show featuring “vagina”, a 13 yo. or younger by the looks of it. Behind the stage were toddler’s in some kind of farie costumes being prepared for something. I just gave up. I dunno, me thinks as in the days of Noah. ✌

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