Friday, July 07, 2006

Article Note: On Graphic Novels and Academic Libraries

Citation for the article:

O'English, Lorena, "Graphic Novels in Academic Libraries: From Maus to Manga and Beyond." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.2 (March 2006): 173-182.

Read via ScienceDirect.

This article provides an overview of the graphic novels genre, and it provides advice on collecting these materials in academic libraries. Significantly, it promotes graphic novels in academic libraries for recreational reading. This is significant because usually it is suggested that these materials be collected, if at all, for academic interest, say popular culture studies. While the academic angle is good, I also think recreation is important. This article helps to validate that idea.

The article opens with a brief introduction to the genre, mostly for those not too familiar with graphic novels. The article then looks at the genre in terms of literature and scholarly study, whether in classes or in journals. The article then moves to a discussion of the graphic novel's place in an academic library, provides advice on cataloging them, and suggests ways to promote them in academia. Overall, this is a very practical article. There may be some ideas here to consider in my setting, where I think we could certainly increase our holdings in that area. Some notes then from the article:
  • "Beyond the value of graphic novels as scholarly and cultural resources, an academic library that collects graphic novels is also continuing in a tradition of providing resources for students and others in the academic community who are looking for reading material not only to enhance their scholarship or teaching, but also to enjoy for personal pleasure and recreation" (175).
Now, if a few more people would read that passage, and maybe at least consider it, we could actually make some progress. For openers, certain faculty who claim to be interested in popular culture but would be snobs when it comes to graphic novels come to mind, as do some "traditionalists" who probably need to expand their horizons. Just a thought.
  • "Graphic novels have a place in academic library collections, but a library intending to start such a collection would do well to consider how to promote their use and availability, both within and outside the library" (178).
See the article for various ways to expand such collections and make the community more aware. One of the suggestions on better displays makes sense in my setting. We recently managed to get some display casing for our small DVD collection, and circulation has increased substantially. I am sure if we did something similar with graphic novels, it might work as well. Again, just a thought. As for those resistant faculty,
  • "Librarians may want to consider an educational campaign to increase faculty awareness of graphic novels as literary, artistic, and discipline-based resources for scholarship and teaching" (178).
The only rub to that statement is that, apparently, the value of pleasure reading is lost on faculty. You have to appeal to their academic side, the "how might this help my research and get published?" angle. It's a start, and it is still a good idea to look at it in terms of ways to bring graphic novels into classrooms. Additionally, the article provides good suggestions for student outreach. From the conclusion, closing thoughts,
  • "Graphic novels can support the literature curriculum and will certainly support the mission of the academic library to provide recreational reading. Myriad opportunities for promotion and marketing exist. Graphic novels can perhaps be a mechanism for the return to the humanistic ideal that reading should both educate and delight" (180).


CW said...

Thanks for this, Angel. Where I work we ran into problems trying to introduce a collection of paperbacks "just for reading" because there were fears that faculty would perceive it as funds misspent (better on spent on "proper" academic resources). It's tough when the budget is tight, to justify - but I agree wholehertedly that we mustn't forget the inherent value of reading.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

CW: You are very welcome. Actually, I run into a bit of a similar attitude here at my setting. I buy Spanish language materials, and I do buy some things for recreation. A couple of the professors fall on the "you should not be buying that non-academic stuff." I just smile and buy it anyways along with the academic stuff. I have at least one patron (member of the campus staff, non-faculty) who comes looking for those recreational things, so I know someone does read them. Since I also do arts, I buy some graphic novels too. Indeed, we should not forget the value of reading. Best, and keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

Lo and behold! Comics are fun to read? Maybe, maybe. All those teens who made yr circ stats spike b/c they took out stacks of manga 3 and 4 years ago? They're in college now. I like comics. I wrote my master's thesis on Transmetropolitan, so I'm all for it. All in.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

And many more who read them now will be in college someday, Anon. I know those comics and graphic novels can be fun. And so much more is being done with them these days.