Graphic Novel Selection and the Application of Intellectual Freedom in New Zealand Secondary School Libraries

By Moodie, Brett; Calvert, Philip | School Libraries Worldwide, January 2018 | Go to article overview

Graphic Novel Selection and the Application of Intellectual Freedom in New Zealand Secondary School Libraries


Moodie, Brett, Calvert, Philip, School Libraries Worldwide


Introduction

Graphic novels can form a vital part of a school library's literacy framework (Stivers, 2015) and are recognized as a popular component of young adult library services (Schneider, 2014). Some school library managers, however, still undervalue this medium within their collections (Gavigan, 2014). The reluctance to embrace graphic novels might be related to issues regarding the appropriateness of their content to a young adult audience. Researchers have also reported an inconsistent understanding of the concept of intellectual freedom and how it is applied to selection in school libraries (e.g., Best, 2010; Reichman, 1993). There is a knowledge gap on how library managers select graphic novels for secondary school libraries (Stivers, 2015). Given that the graphic novel genre continually developing, it is not surprising that many school librarians find it difficult to select graphic novels for their libraries. The graphic novel is increasingly popular with readers but "with the format's increased presence in libraries and renewed popularity across age groups have come challenges" (Cornog & Raiteri, 2014, p. 60). In fact, despite considerable "professional advice advocating for the inclusion of graphic novels" in school libraries (Stivers, 2015), the literature shows vast inconsistencies in collection development practices.

Purpose

In this project, we investigated the predominant graphic novel selection criteria employed by New Zealand secondary school library managers viewed through the lens of intellectual freedom principles. The presence and extent of self-censorship by school librarians within this process was also determined. If researchers and educators knew more about school librarians' opinions of graphic novels, including reasons why school librarians might avoid selecting this medium, then stakeholders could create better guidance through policy statements to assist school librarians in making more informed choices for adding graphic novels to their collections.

Research Questions

The main question and two sub-questions that this research aimed to address were:

RQ. What are the predominant selection criteria employed by school library managers when establishing and maintaining graphic novel collections in their libraries?

a. To what extent are school library managers consistent/inconsistent with their selection criteria?

b. To what extent is school librarians' graphic novel selection in-line with LIANZA's Statement on Intellectual Freedom?

Literature Review

The Graphic Novel Medium and Literacy

Although graphic novels emerged from, and are in some cases indistinguishable from, traditional comics, the genre exists in a semi-independent sphere distinguished by content, format, and the intent of the artists and authors. Graphic novels are differentiated from comics not only by format, they also encompass an increasingly diverse range of content. Graphic novels are superhero stories, "works of satire, non-fiction, memoirs, historical fiction" (English, Matthews, & Blakesley Lindsay, 2006) and more

Graphic novels possess educational value as a literacy tool. New media theorists ascribe the term "multimodality" to the way "individuals make sense of text through different modes" (Moeller, 2016). Twenty first century learners must be able to obtain meaning from a combination of modes, or "multimodal ensembles" made up of "writing, signs, symbols, and music" (Moeller, 2016, p. 702); by combining image and text to form a narrative, graphic novels are effective multimodal texts for contemporary literacy instruction.

Pantaleo (2013) investigated how Grade 6 students derived meaning from visual elements in graphic novels and picture books. Pantaleo (2013) concluded that students "need to be visually literate" in order to negotiate "the omnipresent visual communications in our contemporary society" (p. 372). Moeller (2016) found that although "school teachers expressed an interest in and attributed value to the use of graphic novels in the classroom" (p. …

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