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.