Well, it worked in Hicksville
May 26, 2004 10:27 AM   Subscribe

A guide for librarians wishing to integrate comic books into their regular holdings for young adults, and the case for it. Via Linkfilter.
posted by Hildago (13 comments total)
Are Comic Books Literature?
Not really!
Who cares?

Other Discussions
Kubert's World Forum - "Can comic books be regarded as literature? Probably not."
Metafilter - "Can Dumbing Down Save Our Libraries?"

Additional Resources
What Teens Want
Important existing library collections (mostly cartoons, not comics)
A classroom exercise for examining the question.
Related links
posted by Hildago at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2004

Good essays by John Updike and Ira Glass, among others, make a similar case in the latest pretty issue of McSweeney's, dedicated entirely to comics.
posted by ssukotto at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2004

Well if McSweeney's is prepared to stamp its cultural imprimatur on comics, then comics must be okay. I mean, after all, this is the validation we've all be waiting for, right?
posted by Faze at 11:17 AM on May 26, 2004

Great post, Hildago. It's encouraging to see that the case for popular materials is building throughout the library community, because it's content snobbery and the resultant perceived obsolescence that got us into this mess.
posted by ulotrichous at 11:30 AM on May 26, 2004

What mess would that be, ulotrichous?

I'm a big fan of comic books in libraries (I loved my high school's set of ElfQuest comics!), but don't know that there's any horrific mess that's brewing...
posted by silusGROK at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2004

They list Sandman and Watchmen, so they get my vote.

silusGROK: your high school library had ElfQuest? Damn you to heck!
posted by bingo at 12:27 PM on May 26, 2004

Gee, all of the public libraries I've frequented always had graphic novels, both adult and young adult, in their collections.

On the other hand, do we really need every issue of "Archie and Veronica Digest" catalogued by the Library of Congress?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:42 PM on May 26, 2004

I don't see how libraries can justify not stocking comics/graphic novels on the grounds that they're not literary whilst at the same time having stacks of music CDs and film DVDs available for borrowing.
posted by biffa at 1:33 PM on May 26, 2004

Lots of libraries shelve a few comic books (graphic novels, whatever), but in my experience they seem to be doing it half-heartedly.

This post arose because of the synchronicity of seeing the Linkfilter post on the same day that I persuaded one of my professors to go down to the library with me and look up a section of From Hell that I had interested him in. On a campus with two million books, they not only didn't have From Hell they didn't have anything by Alan Moore. They did have some comics, however, just none (well, very few) of the ones I consider to be the pillars of the medium so far.

This said to me that they weren't taking the subject seriously -- I realize that it's a fairly young, still quite marginalized medium, but saying you shelve graphic novels without having Alan Moore in them is sort of like saying you shelve drama without having Shakespeare in your collection. Meaning, the conspicuous absence of a pretty much acknowledge master of the genre indicates a serious hole in the collection. So, I thought I might try to start a discussion on the subject.
posted by Hildago at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2004

Hildago- I feel your pain, however, I think the creators of Tintin and Asterix are the masters, and Alan Moore is relatively new in the lifespan of current sequential art publications (the term "sequential art" is almost as abhorrent as "outsider art" ... ewwww, sorry). His recogniton of contribution to the art will come in due course.

Sidhedevil- from this article i found trying to google how your Library of Congress works so I could discuss your point:
What library, for instance, would make a point of keeping every Harlequin romance? And yet over the years they rather accurately trace the changes in sexual mores, women's views of romance, and ideas about the roles of men and women.

- - snip - -

How many libraries keep old Penney's and Sears' catalogs? Yet they are invaluable guides to how people lived, what they coveted, and what they could reasonably afford at any given time. They're a gold mine of information for theatrical costumers and set designers.
Can not this historian's perspective apply to comics as well? There is more fiction and less art in catalogued newspapers than there is in comic books, I warrant :)
posted by elphTeq at 8:42 PM on May 26, 2004

The mess is that the public library, by turning up its nose at what the public wants and subsitituting what it wants them to want, has alienated its user base and raised generations who can't imagine what the library could possibly offer them, especially if they prefer to buy content. The information revolution is a bad time for libraries to have funding problems.

I work at a public library, so this issue is obviously dear to my heart, and things are definitely looking up across the industry as young, enthusiastic people come on board with modern ideas about what a library should be, but some libraries are dying slow deaths under the weight of the bun and half-glasses.

I just get pissed when the bun gets deference. You can argue all day about whether or not comics and graphic novels are literature, but only the bun cares. Comics are definitely content, and the public (especially hard-to-reach teens) definitely wants them. If that doesn't meet your collection development guidelines, you need to retire.

posted by ulotrichous at 10:04 AM on May 27, 2004

/anecdotal conjecture and idle bitching
posted by ulotrichous at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2004

I am not sure it is safe to say that librarians should defer to what the public wants. I think it's damned nice that libraries tend to take in materials that are unpopular or controversial. Libraries safeguard the first amendment precisely because they often ignore the fashion of the times, and the whining of the squeaky wheels. What I think the problem is is that those in charge of Acquisitions need to get with the program and realize that comics are worth shelving in a considered, deliberate, thorough fashion. I guess I mean that while comics may be popular, I'm not thinking of the most popular comics when I imagine what a good library collection should include; I'm thinking of the best examples of the medium, judged in a (yes, old-fashioned) literary manner.
posted by Hildago at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2004

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