Infrequent Ordering: Adult Graphic Novels

I covered some of this ground in Getting Started with Graphic Novels, but I wanted to revisit the topic for a more in-depth look at how I choose what adult graphic novels to purchase. As I mentioned, I use a variety of review sources and websites, including:

  • Library Journal, Booklist, Publishers Weekly
  • The A.V. Club, Graphic Novel Reporter, Paste, NPR, i09, Diamond
  • Eisner nominees and other lists curated by organizations like YALSA
  • New York Times bestseller lists (and occasionally reviews from NYT or LA Times)
Since I only order graphic novels one or two times a year, I needed a method to keep track of the items that are reviewed or listed over the course of the year. To do this--surprising to no one, I'm sure--I use a spreadsheet. When I encounter a potential purchase, I record the publication year, author, and title, as well as the review source. 

The Spreadsheet Approach in Action
On the far left, I assign stars based on how much weight I'm giving a certain title. Something like Rasl might have only been reviewed in Publishers Weekly at the time I updated this spreadsheet, but other volumes of the series have circulated well. A title gets a star if it has a starred review. If it's reviewed favorably in two sources, it gets a star. If I know it's something I MUST order, it gets a zillion stars. In the same spreadsheet, I also have a list of ongoing series to order/check for needed replacements. 

When it's time to place the order, I sort the spreadsheet by the star column in descending order. I spend a certain amount of money on series continuations and replacements. Then I begin evaluating the items with the most stars:
  • Did I already order that? This happens more often than I would like, despite the fact that I try to take titles off spreadsheet when I purchase them.
  • Did one of my colleagues already order that for the YA or juvenile collections? Or for a branch library?
  • Do other system libraries outside Springfield own that item? Do they currently have holds? What has the circulation been like?
  • Do we already have something by that author? What has the circulation been like? Is it missing?
I try to balance several things when ordering adult graphic novels. As the largest public library in this part of the state, I believe we have a responsibility to order some things that other libraries can't afford to get. On the other hand, I'm not going to buy items that my browsing patrons--and the adult graphic section gets a lot of in-house use--wouldn't be interested in. I also have to balance "highbrow" graphic novels that are critical hits (some of which have been real duds on the shelves) with long-running and sometimes enormous series and popular comic-book titles. At one of the branches, I'm slowly growing the collection of Walking Dead titles held, three or four items at a time. 

Every year, I order only a fraction of the items that I've recorded on my spreadsheet. I had almost $1,000 to spend for the Central Library this year, and barely scratched the surface with an order consisting of 85 items. My spreadsheet of potential purchases still has 1100 items on it that I haven't bought for the library. 

This year, as usual, I made careful selections, trying to balance everything as well as I could. And then I asked for more money so I could make sure I got all the possible titles off this list (shared by my friend Kristin). As you can see on that snippet of spreadsheet above, the ratio of male to female authors on the list of reviewed items is usually pretty skewed toward the male end. I do my best to keep this in mind when I'm ordering graphic novels. 

What's your approach to ordering something when it's not on a monthly basis?

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