Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Getting Started with Graphic Novels

I'm in charge of ordering the adult graphic novels for my location and some of our eight branches. I took on this part of the collection several years ago, as well as responsibility for ordering nonfiction that falls in the 741.5 call number, which is where our catalogers put all the books on how to draw manga, comics, and graphic novels, as well as things like Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. I "only" have $750 to spend a year at this location (and $100 per branch), so I only place orders twice a year. Your mileage may vary--I realize this is a bigger budget than many libraries probably have.

Because we also have a young adult graphic novel collection and a separate collection down in the children's department, I can focus on titles that will be of primary interest to adults. The YA librarian orders many of the most popular superhero titles--Batman, the infinite varieties of X-Men, and so on--leaving me blissfully free of that budget drain.

What if I'm Starting from Scratch?

First, review Robin's tips for staying sane while approaching collection development. If you're starting a new graphic novel collection, it's probably in response to patron demand. See if you can talk to some of those people who wanted graphic novels and see what they're looking for. Perhaps you can work with circulation or your ILS to figure out what people have been requesting from other libraries. Speaking of which, what do other libraries have? Review the collections of a few other libraries in your area, or libraries around the country who serve similar populations.

Diamond Book Distributors has core title suggestions for kids, young adults, older teens, and adults. Graphic Novel Reporter also offers similar core lists for all age ranges. Diamond also has an updated Graphic Novel Common Core list arranged by grade level. YALSA has a yearly list of great graphic novels for teens. Reviewing these lists will give you way more backlist titles than you can probably ever afford to purchase.

Your collection should have a combination of series and stand-alone titles. If you order all series books, you will spend your entire budget each year replacing titles that have gone missing and occasionally adding new volumes. Readily available graphic novels tend to skew toward white male writers and artists--try to keep this in mind as you work to create a balanced collection. I also try to balance super popular (and magically disappearing) titles with those that are well-reviewed but usually don't circulate as much.

There's Already a Collection Here

Great! All the stuff I wrote about starting from scratch may also apply. First, check everything in and clear up any not-really-missing statuses. There will likely still be several missing items. Your job is to decide whether or not it's worth replacing them or not. If they're part of a series, check the circulation on the other titles. Are there duplicate copies at nearby locations? If you've got a collection with those graphic adaptations of classic works, does anyone ever check them out (no really, I want to know)? What graphic novel or manga series has the library been buying? Are you going to continue purchasing them or let them fall by the wayside? Circulation stats should be able to help you figure out popularity, but also be aware that graphic novels are very often used in-house and circulation numbers may not reflect their actual use.

Once you've figured out how much of your budget you're going to tie up with replacements and series continuations, you probably won't have that much money left. It's time to turn to book reviews to find out the best titles coming out soon.

Where Can I Find Reviews?

No Flying, No Tights is an independent review site for graphic content for kids, teens, and adults. Diamond Comics Bookshelf and Graphic Novel Reporter offer reviews of graphic novels, as well as curated lists, creator interviews, and other resources.

I use reviews from the sites I mentioned above, as well as:

Because I am me, I have a giant spreadsheet where I list individual titles and which review sources they have appeared in. If something's reviewed (favorably) in at least three separate sources, it's usually guaranteed a spot in my cart.

The New York Times publishes a weekly bestseller list for hardback and paperback graphic books, as well as one for manga. Netgalley is a good place for librarians to preview forthcoming graphic novels and comics before they become available. I also keep up with a variety of webcomics, some of which have been turned into books.

You are never going to be able to buy everything you want to buy, but being able to point to reputable review sources can help you with this next part.

What if Someone Complains?

Challenges happen, and graphic novels--especially those for adults--sometimes have material that people find objectionable. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a collection of suggestions for librarians, including tips on how to handle challenges. See also the ALA's Dealing with Challenges to Graphic Novels.

Any other tips and review sources to add? Leave a comment.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Collection development in 4 easy steps! (with music for my amusement)

Step 1: Know your audience. This is the first step because it's the most important, and the one that you'll do constantly. This is an evolving step, and you never finish it. From the day you start until your final day in the job, you will be trying to know your audience. I have seen lots of people in this job get tripped up by this step. They think, because it's so basic, that it can slip down to a lower spot on the list. It cannot. If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this: you can never stop getting to know your audience. It isn't static. Even if they are homogeneous in age, race, gender (which they aren't), that doesn't mean they are uniform in thought or taste. Humans have a natural curiosity about things, many things. They may approve or disapprove of those things, once they've experienced it, but that doesn't mean they don't want to know.

Step 2: Know your surroundings. There might be a library out there that can afford to buy everything they want in the quantities that they need. I would love to work at that library. Unlimited budgets! Unlimited space! Yeah...not so much. Every library has to make choices, so help yourself out a little bit. Know what things are available in your community. If you have reciprocal borrowing with area libraries, that can be a great thing.

Step 3: Know your limits. Whenever people ask the wonderful question "How do you keep up with all the new things coming out?" I always give the same answer: "You're never caught up." This is the truth, and the earlier you embrace it, the better off you will be. This is a job where there is always something to do. Always. There are always new titles out tomorrow, next week, next month, next three months, next six months... There will always be a title that was out yesterday that flew under your radar. There is the unexpectedly announced title. Even if you manage to get caught up on all the upcoming titles, there is always the backlist. Oh, and make sure you got those things in every format suitable for your library. Did you get the large type? The CD? The Ebook? The downloadable audio?

This isn't meant to be discouraging or overwhelming. When it was told to me, it actually had the opposite effect. Relax. You'll do what you can do. I've seen people taking catalogs and things home to try and "catch up" but the next day, something else lands on their desk. Eventually, every collection development librarian I've ever known creates their own system for handling the amount of things they have to work through. You take big things, and you turn them into smaller, more manageable things. Maybe that means another person comes on board, maybe that means processes have to change...whatever. Knowing your limits saves your sanity, and it always saves you from making costly mistakes due to being stressed and frazzled. Relax. You got this.

Step 4:
Learn what else you don't know. There are lots of libraries and librarians doing collection development, and most of them do it differently. Talk to all of them. Go to presentations, in person and online. Webinars make learning much more affordable (and timely) than attending a big conference once or twice a year. Follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, read their library blogs--hell, even listservs are still around. Join those too. See what others are doing, and learn how you can adapt what they're doing to your own situation. Do the same for authors, publishers, agents, anyone who works in the ecosystem of books/movies/music and games (or whatever your library is buying). Libraries are part of the larger ecosystem, and the more you know about the overall business, the better off you'll be.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Video Game Collection Questions

Two years ago, I wrote a post on taking over collection development for the Young Adult video game collection at my library. A few things have changed since then, and some questions emerged which I thought it might be helpful to answer here.

In the last year, I've been able to grow the video game collection at this location (kept behind the desk for security reasons) to a modest number of games. This means that when people come in looking for games I at least have something to show them to confirm that we do order games. Sometimes managing a collection that's almost always circulating--and therefore intangible--is hard to market to patrons. I periodically remind my co-workers that we do have video games in the collection, and I keep my ears open when patrons are at the circulation desk. There's been more than one occasion that I've sprinted over there to let patrons know what we have and guide them through the process of putting games at other locations on hold. The major roadblock I run in to is that I'm not allowed to buy the games that seemingly are most in demand, because they are rated M for Mature and it's a Young Adult collection. On the flip side, these are also the games that are most likely to be stolen, so . . . 

YA Video Game Programming

One of our branches has a Wii and is interested in doing YA programming that involves gaming sessions. I asked Twitter to recommend the best Wii games for teen programs, and these were the results:

Super Smash Brothers Brawl
Mario Kart
Just Dance
Wii Sports

People noted that the teens liked games that were fast-paced and multi-player. Getting copies of some of the older games might be tricky, unless you have petty cash and can visit a nearby game store. Most of the list above weren't available in Ingram or at the AV Café, which we use to order games. Our branch is getting a standard Wii, but the Wii U console has now been available for over a year. In light of that, here's a list of multi-player games for the Wii U:

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
Super Mario 3D World
New Super Mario Bros U
Rayman Legends

Platform Changes

The reality of platform changes leads us neatly to our other question, which came from Heather on Twitter:
Both Michelle and I answered this question, which has recently become an issue with the release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles. Our general consensus was that anyone beginning or continuing development for a new video game collection at their library should not disregard the earlier versions of gaming platforms. 
Unfortunately, the new Xbox and Playstation consoles are not currently backward compatible (though PS4 will be, for a price) and therefore can not play games from earlier versions. The Wii U is backward compatible and can play Wii games. Thank you, Nintendo! It would be ideal if the next-gen models were backward compatible, so that patrons with the new consoles could play the older games we buy, but that's not how these companies make their money. Your patrons will be interested in borrowing games for the new consoles, but unless your library is in an extremely wealthy locale, it will be some time before the majority of your patrons are exclusively playing next-generation consoles.

Late last year, I started adding Xbox One and Playstation 4 games to the library's collection by ordering duplicates of the most (projected to be) popular games for Xbox 360 and PS3 formats. If you're ordering new games for you library, continue buying last-generation games for the next several years, at least past the point where they are no longer manufacturing the most popular games in both formats. It was only recently that it was no longer possible for me to purchase Playstation 2 games new (a format some of my patrons still request and check out).

After a year, check the circulation of the PS3 vs. the PS4 version of the same game--assuming both stay in circulation--that may tell you something about what your patrons prefer. And whenever I have someone at the desk to place video game holds, I always ask them what they'd like to see in the collection.

Do you have any burning video game collection questions?

Monday, January 27, 2014

I got this email from a staff member today. It may have made my Monday. It isn't about being a digital-only evangelist, it's about helping people (patrons AND staff) see things differently than before. It's about print, about digital. About audio. About Fiction. About Non-fiction. About librarians. About. Everything.

That's why I come to work.

"Cool! Thanks for sharing.

And, btw, I think we’ve had a discussion or two about how much I hate e-books, got to have my hardcover books. Well…

My husband got me a Kindle for Christmas and I thought, oh shoot, this is going to be wasted money. But I’ve got to at least give it a good-faith effort. So I picked a book—The Game by Tom (Hinshel) Wood, who is one of my favorite authors—and gave it a go. Tough sledding at first, but about halfway through I was sold. So much easier reading in bed at night; also easier reading when I go out to eat, takes up so much less space.

There are only a couple of drawbacks I’ve found so far. I have this spatial positioning thing going on in my head, so that if I’m reading along and come to a character I can’t remember, I would have a memory in my mind of where it was on the page, so I could flip back through the pages fairly easily to find where that character was introduced and refresh my memory. That’s going to be a lot tougher with the Kindle, but once I get the hang of the Search button, it’ll probably be fine. The other thing is that I’m having trouble finding e-books to check out.  Part of it is that I can’t seem to get the hang of how to do the searches, but probably also that not everything is available as an e-book.

Even stranger than my reluctant conversion to e-books is that I was cleaning up some bookshelves and came across some of my stuff from when I was going through the MLS program. And one of the papers I’d done for a library automation class had this gem in it: “I view the advent of ebooks as the most important trend in library automation, believing that they have the potential to totally revise the face of libraries as we know them.” Now, mind you, this is a paper I wrote back in 2002, so it’s only taken me 12 years to come around.

Like I said, I think you and I have had a discussion or two wherein I dug in my heels and gave one of those “pry my hardcovers out of my cold, dead hands” speeches and although you must have been laughing on the inside, knowing that I’d come around eventually, you listened very sympathetically.

And now here we are. You were right all along, of course. And apparently our e-book collection is attracting attention from distant lands—like California. I got an email query sent to the circmanager last week from a woman in California wanting to know if she could get a non-resident card and, if so, would she then be able to check out e-books.

Just wanted to let you know that I’m starting to come around, dipping at least a toe into the 21st century. But it’s people like you who aren’t afraid to forge ahead who really make all of this possible.

Not to mention the entertaining emails you send out!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Reflections

Good Morning!

Still thinking about what it means to be inclusive as a public librarian. I can't tell you how irritated I get when I see librarians talking down to the public they're supposed to be welcoming. That goes both ways, too. There is no reason to make people feel bad for liking esoteric or obscure things either. There is no reason to make people feel bad about anything they like, really. But, honestly, enjoying highbrow items doesn't carry the same stigma as liking "popular" materials. Some day soon, I hope we all just get tired of trying to prop up our own tastes by putting down everyone else.

Huh. I'm too cold to reflect on anything else just now.