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Academic Libraries discover graphic novels


Karen Green, Columbia University’s Ancient/Medieval Studies Librarian and Graphic Novel selector starts a blog at Comixology explains how an Ivy league university starts collecting graphic novels:

University libraries tend to get their books from large vendors according to a subject outline known as an approval plan, and let’s just say that Columbia’s approval plans didn’t include material from DC Comics, Fantagraphics, or First Second—these publishers simply weren’t on our radar. If a professor requested a graphic novel for a course, it would be bought—otherwise? Not a chance.

  1. Interesting, but this is not true for all of the Ivy Libraries. Cornell had a much more advanced library system (and I’m not just talking about comics). I read UNDERSTANDING COMICS back in like 1997 and I checked it out off the shelves in one of the many campus libraries. They had lots of other comicbooks, too. When I leave this Earth, my comic and graphic novel collection will be bequeathed to that library. I don’t know who’s going to pay for the UHAUL, but I should be able to figure it out by then. I know they will want it.

  2. Hi, BradyDale! I’m glad Cornell has met your needs, although I’m not sure how much more advanced I’d say Cornell is than Columbia. We certainly had McCloud’s book on our shelves well before I began the collection–but it was in the undergraduate collection, not the main reearch collection. What we didn’t have was a dedicated budget or a coherent collection development strategy–that’s what I was able to implement. I’m glad to hear that Cornell has been able to instill such loyalty in you–that’s terrific!

  3. I would also encourage creators or publishers to donate their books to the local university library (assuming of course they’re intersted).

    I know that’s what I did with Bowling Green’s Popular Culture library when I wrote my book a few years ago. (Of course, I was also giving back to my old department at the same time.)

  4. Michigan State University’s Special Collections Library has a large collection of comic books, both foreign and domestic.

    The librarian who manages it never seems to run out of items to catalog because people keep donating their comic books to the library.

  5. Shaun–yes, MSU’s collection is legendary, as is Ohio State’s. The difference is that this is “special collections”: restricted access, scholarly use only. Columbia doesn’t have many comics in its special collections, but my goal was to build up the presence of comics and GNs in the general, circulating collection.

    Mark Coale–I would encourage donations, too!! My budget is still pretty small…

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