Graphic Novels in Libraries Supporting Teacher Education and Librarianship Programs

Article excerpt

Academic libraries supporting education and library science programs collect juvenile literature to support courses that teach students to evaluate and use books with children and teenagers. Graphic novels have not only become popular with teens but also are being frequently discussed in both the education and library literature. This paper discusses the literature on graphic novels for teens, explores the extent to which academic libraries supporting education and library science programs collect graphic novels for teens, and concludes that academic librarians responsible for juvenile collections should evaluate their graphic novel holdings and begin actively collecting graphic novels for teens.


Two decades ago, graphic novels were virtually unknown to librarians and educators, but during the last decade graphic novels exploded in popularity and began to appear regularly on recommended book lists. By 1994, the Library of Congress Authority File included graphic novels as an authorized subject heading. (1) As librarians noticed that teenagers, traditionally a hard audience to reach, read graphic novels, the library literature began to feature lists of good graphic novels, tips on developing graphic novel collections, and anecdotes about teenagers' insatiable demand for graphic novels. By 2005, several library journals had regular columns on graphic novels for young adult collections, and articles on using graphic novels in the classroom were appearing in education journals.

The current study began when one of the authors, a former high school librarian, noticed the excitement about graphic novels and reluctantly decided to read a few highly recommended tides to update her knowledge of young adult literature. None of the titles she wished to read were available in the university library's juvenile collection even though the university library supported a large teacher education program with courses in both children's and young adult literature. Juvenile literature courses are a staple of teacher education because future teachers must learn to select and use books with the students they will be teaching just as future librarians learn about selecting and marketing books to library users. The former high school librarian mentioned her inability to find the desired titles to a colleague who read graphic novels for pleasure; he was unsurprised because his personal experience was that graphic novels were more often found in stores than libraries.

If both the education and library literature discuss graphic novels for teens, academic libraries supporting education and library science programs should provide graphic novels for students in those programs to examine and evaluate. The authors decided to investigate whether academic libraries that support teacher education and library science programs have been collecting graphic novels for teens.

Literature Review

According to Rothschild, Will Eisner coined the term graphic novel in 1978 as a description of his book Contract with God, but people still disagree about just what a graphic novel is. (2) Eisner, who had worked with comics for more than forty years, used graphic novel as a marketing term; he later explained that he wanted to distinguish his series of illustrated stories about a Jewish family in the Great Depression from comic books to improve his chances of finding a publisher. (3) Eisner referred to graphic novels as "sequential art," but Weiner called them "book-length comic books that are meant to be read as one story." (4) Goldsmith, who defines graphic novels as "storytelling through ... sequential art," distinguishes them from comic books by saying that graphic novels present a story with a distinct beginning and end, even when that story is told in multiple volumes, while comic books are serials with a limitless number of episodes. (5) People sometimes confuse manga with graphic novels. The term manga refers to Japanese comic books, which may be fiction or nonfiction; translated manga and graphic novels are often displayed together in stores and libraries. …


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