[Photo via The American Library Association’s photostream]

The annual American Library Association wrapped up its annual meeting yesterday and, as the above photo suggests, there was abundant graphic novel programming and presence. Our own Torsten Adair was there, and he blogged of many things, like the Dabel Brothers’ new imprint, Sea Lion Books:

Oh, and some BIG news. The Dabel Brothers have a new business, titled Sea Lion Books. Three initial authors: L. A. Banks, Richelle Mead, and…
(let me but it up in lights so you won’t miss it…)


Yeah, my jaw dropped. That’s a BIG name, an author who writes regular literary fiction, not some author known for genre work. Then they showed the book cover:

The Alchemist

Yes. THAT book. A book which has been been in print since 1987, and still sells tremendously (currently #316 among all books on BN.com). A book translated into 67 languages, and which has sold over 41 million copies worldwide.

He also reported on a new digital initiative:

What else… Supposedly OverDrive, one of the leading companies providing digital books to libraries and retailers, has signed an agreement with Marvel and Tokyopop. (I heard this secondhand, that OverDrive announced this at their luncheon today.) Now, I’ve seen that they’ve offered ebook versions of some of Marvel’s and Tpop’s titles since April 2010. Searching the web, I see certain issues available via public libraries. OverDrive requires an account to see the entire selection of titles, so I can’t see much beyond the link above. It seems that the content is available, but only for lending, not for direct sale. Perhaps today’s announcement will change that. Or maybe this is just a re-iteration of what they are already doing. I see single issues from Marvel, not graphic novels, although Marvel could easily bundle them together. I wonder how much they charge the libraries?

The Official Blog of the Public Library Association reported on a presentation covering the Brooklyn Library’s success with graphic novels:

The “cost/circ ratio” is simply the cost of a book divided by the numbers of times it has circulated. In the Central Library’s young adult collection, graphics had better value for their dollar investment than even high-interest titles such as the Twilight and Harry Potter series.

However, this formula is not meant to be used as a weeding tool. “Instead of weeding, do some seeding,” Zabriskie suggests. The high circulation numbers of graphic novels can allow libraries to keep less popular materials without sacrificing circulation statistics. The classics, for example, may never be circulation blockbusters, but they should be available when patrons need them: they are “part of our identification as libraries,” notes Zabriskie.

Colleen Doran was there:

Had tea today with Barry Lyga, and went over many details on the new book. I am delighted with his reaction to my prelims. The prelims for the book are complete, though there’s a handful I will redo for my own good. This book is not only going to be very entertaining for the reader, it is very entertaining for me. It’s such a great pleasure to work on. Not to devalue any other projects I am doing, but this one is not so research intensive as my last couple of projects. And I am not inventing a new style or drawing technique as I often do.

Tina Coleman has more on the GN festivities:

Friday night featured a Drink & Draw reception that pitted graphic novel luminaries such as Owly’s Andy Runton, Unshelved’s Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, American Elf’s James Kochalka, and more against each other in drawing pictures on the fly based on audience input.

Finally, at least for ONE librarian, the attention to the category was fruitful:

I have never really been into graphic novels before, but after their talks I just may check them out.


  1. Thanks for the linkage.

    Two clarifications… the cost/circ analysis was performed at the central branch of the Queens Public Library. That presentation, as well as other GN panels, will be posted to the ALA server.

    An update about Overdrive… yes, in place since April, OD sells the copy of the book but controls the ebook site for libraries, cost seems to be retail digital price not retail paper price, AND there is a major comics publisher working with OD to get their titles added to OD’s site.

  2. “Comic books come of age” is the new stock media phrase. At least we’ve finally replaced “Zap! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids any more!”
    A slight improvement, but only slight. The blatant subtext is still that only kids would read this stuff.

  3. Librarians are to be commended for their bravery and tyheir ability to forecast a cultural shift.

    In terms of public libraries, I thimk you have to look at it in terms of generations. The generation of librarians who brought comics into libraries in the ’90s were fans who wanted to see graphic novels in libraries. Many of the people promoting comics in libraries today aren’t fans, but are convinced by the interest level and the circulation figures that comics are a good thing. The circ numbers for books like BONE or WIMPY KID overwhelm books like BLANKETS. Hopefully the next generation of librarians will see the value of comics for themselves rather than doorways to further reading.

  4. “Librarians are to be commended for their bravery and tyheir ability to forecast a cultural shift.”

    No, it was just the old feebs that began dying off, the ones who thought comic books gave you “funny i9deas” and turned you into a communist spy.

  5. Ed, there was a time lag…
    1) Fans of the new material mature and become librarians.
    2) Publishers build up decent, non-stereotypical (smash! pow! bam!) catalogs of titles which appeal to libraries.
    3) Reviews, the bedrock of selection policies, become more numerous. Librarians might search out reviews, or just find a starred review at random.
    4) Libraries focus on teens, and build collections on what teens want to read.
    5) Research papers and conference panels spread data and techniques, encouraging other libraries to acquire graphic novels.

    I’ll say it again… looking at market trends, kids comics are the new manga. This year and next is when the critical mass is achieved and we see breakout titles (Little Prince, A Wrinkle In Time) as well as dedicated fiction and non-fiction lines from major juvenile publishers.

  6. Searching WorldCat via NYPL, there are some 71,000 libraries around the world supplying information to OCLC/WorldCat. There are 126 comics titles (including comic strips) found in 1000+ libraries, and 22 titles found in 2000+ libraries. (Luke on the Loose is #1, at 2892 libraries.) (For comparison, The Da Vinci Code 0385504209 is in 4266 libraries.)

    Watchmen 0930289234 = 1284
    Maus II 0679729771 = 2406
    Dark Knight Returns (2002 ed) = 926 (1986 = 223)

    Please realize that this is the number of library SYSTEMS which have at least ONE copy of the book in their collections. Some libraries may have more than one copy circulating. (For example, my hometown library of Omaha, Nebraska, has eight copies of Watchmen, whereas NYPL has 118.)

    If you want to see which libraries have a particular book, visit WorldCat.org.

    To paraphrase the Furry Freak Brothers, “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” Support your local library! Even the New York Public Library faced budget cuts this year.

  7. Ed, I “was there,” so to speak, working in public libraries in the mid-1980s. MAUS was considered to be a freak occurrence, never to happen again. Almost the only librarians willing to take a chance on the format were those working with teens, librarians like myself. We have worked damned hard for more than a quarter-century to make comics “come of age” in the library world, and now it’s no longer a freak occurrence for comics and their creators to win literary awards. SMILE by Raina Telgemeier won a Horn Book Honor this year; Geoffrey Hayes won the Theodore Geisel Award for best easy reader – for his BENNY AND PENNY IN THE BIG NO-NO!; Jeff Smith took a Theodore Geisel Honor for LITTLE MOUSE GETS READY, another graphic novel for very young readers. Matt Phelan won the Scott O’Dell Award for best historical fiction, for his graphic novel THE STORM IN THE BARN. It goes on. It was a very long time between MAUS’s Pulitzer and Gene Luen Yang’s Michael Printz Award for AMERICAN BORN CHINESE. You have no idea how thrilling it was to be at the ALA Annual Conference this year, to see two major comics events on Friday evening and then three solid days of comics programming. I only hope it has set a precedent for the coming years.

  8. Kat—

    Sorry for sounding dismissive; it certainly wasn’t my intent. But that ALA banner just sounded a little…off… as I remembered all the mainstream press accolades given to those works mentioned, 23+ years ago.

    I’m supposing that the critical acceptance of those works years ago paved the way for my local Public Library to to stock a steadily-expanding section of Graphic Novels at the back of the Children section: 2 columns of multi-volumed Manga (including Tezuka’s ADOLF!), a Superhero sampler racks (mainly modern MARVELs), and a surprising eclectic “etc” (LAIKA, ROBOT DREAMS,an Adele Blanc-Sec (the one with the flying dinosaur?),
    USAGIs).Funny how the neighboring other Public Lib complements those selections: mainly DCs (the Oversized Alex Rosses, Alan Moore’s ABCs), Eisner collections, and “Indie” stuff like Campbell’s Monsieur Leotard. Strange though, that neither of those PubLibs stock WATCHMEN— or maybe it’s always checked out?

    And I’m also supposing that the (even-wider) acceptance of Graphic Novels today, with the accolades given to those works you mention along with the ‘breakthrough’ of ASTERIOS POLYPS will mean even MORE books to expand that section… even with the nationwide Public Library budget cuts.It’s just that it strikes me with the ALA signalling that in the “Comic World: Graphic Novels Come of Age”
    NOW (with those titles you mentioned above)—
    it undercuts the quite-remarkable ‘door-opening’ that those works from 23+ years ago have accomplished…

    AND dismisses the milestone works that have come between those two. Babner and Moore’s BROUGHT TO LIGHT? Darnall and Ross’ UNCLE SAM? The ASTRO- and SIN- CITYs? GHOST WORLD? BONE?

    I’m wondering how the ALA will treat Graphic Novels once this current phase of widespread mainstream ‘acceptance’ cycles out. Hopefully it WON’T be 23 years when Comics become worthy of attention again… when once more, a handful of GNs receive accolades… and banners are raised to announce that they have “come of age”. Again.

  9. Hey Torsten, I am always glad to see your coverage. Very insightful and hitting all the finer points. Ed, I can appreciate your perspective. Yes, there have been some great works in the years between Maus and American Born Chinese but what has really had an even greater impact is the amount of attention the librarians have given the format. In turn, their support has encouraged more of the publishing houses to invest in the idea of putting out more great books. This has also encouraged more great story tellers to dust off those dreams. Where Maus, Persepolis and Fun Home have paved the way for memoirs like Stitches(David Small) and Smile(Raina Telgemeier) the next gold rush is with the kids and tweens category. I know, I know, this is causing many comics folk to cringe but it doesnt mean stop writing for older audiences.
    What it does in encourage kids to find a love of reading and that is precisely what a lot of comics people have forgotten.
    Added to this mix is the growing acceptance of the medium across the board from publishers to retailers and librarians to educators.

    And lets face it, it’s a helluva lot easier to sell comics/graphic novels to a younger audience than it is to an adult audience who is less likely to ‘try something new’.
    There are a lot of people to thank for this moment…guys like Steve Wiener and Steve Raiteri as well as those intrepid librarians who were on the GGNFT task force. With out them, we wouldnt be having this conversation.