Author: Francisca Goldsmith
Publication Information: Chicago: ALA, 2005
113 pgs., including appendices and index
Subgenre: Librarianship, collection development, readers' advisory
This short volume provides a brief and concise guide for building and maintaining a successful graphic novels collection. The appendices provide a good list of resources and a good list of graphic novels to get librarians started. The book goes from basic definitions to rationales to marketing and promotion. It is important to remember, and the author points this out as well, that graphic novels appeal to all ages, and not all works are for all readers. The author shows that a graphic novel collection is just like any other library collection. While there may be different decisions about how to shelve it, it should be treated like any other collection. This applies to marketing as well as readers' advisory. The book also considers issues of cataloguing and control.
I personally found the author's thoughts on readers' advisory interesting. This was not addressed in any RA class I took, and I don't think my local public library branch does as much with them as they could. When not displayed with the YA display at the entrance, my local branch puts them in the 741 call number with other cartoon and art books. You pretty much have to be looking for them. Maybe I should drop them a suggestion or two. Goldsmith goes on to provide three key questions for an RA interview involving graphic novels:
"'Do you find yourself moving through most graphic novels that you have enjoyed by reading the text or following the images?' Most graphic novels readers can answer this question readily, and their individual responses help clarify whether they are more visually inclined or more text oriented.
'Are you more interested in a particular graphic novel style?' This question would follow up on a more general question about preferences for a particular genre or subject matter regardless of format. Responses help focus the advisor on whether to include titles from the manga collection, for instance, in the list of suggestions.
'What have you already found in our collection of graphic novels that you like a lot?' . . . responses to this question can help the library evaluate how well the current graphic novel collection serves the local audience" (67-68).
Personally, I never thought much of the first question until I read it, but I would have to say I am the text based person. While I love the art and enjoy looking at it, to follow the story, I usually concentrate on the text more. As for styles, I am a stage where I would like to sample as many styles as possible, so I am not sure how this would help an RA advisor other than to recommend a sampling. Manga would be fine, through it seems a lot of what comes to the U.S. tends to be juvenile (not that this is a bad thing, just means I have to do a bit more digging on my part to find a story I would like). Moving along, Goldsmith also suggests that reader advisors remember to include graphic novel titles with other format suggestions if possible.
Overall, I strongly recommend the book for any librarian working on starting a graphic novels collection. For practitioners who already have such a collection but want new ideas, this book will be useful as well as to help them market the collection and even meet any challenges should they surface.