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Starting a Graphic Novel Collection

Deciding to include comic books and graphic novels in your collection is the first step into a larger world. Now, you must decide what to do once you’re there.

There is no national standard when it comes to the appropriateness or selection of graphic novels. Therefore, the best titles to include can vary from library to library. It is vital — once you’ve decided on a particular book — to read through the book yourself. What might pass muster in some communities may not pass muster in yours. This website and the various resources listed throughout are your best starting points if you are approaching comics from a starter’s perspective.

Here are some basic steps on your path to using graphic novels in your collection:

1. Determine Needs

First, you need to ascertain what books you would like to incorporate into your collection. Perhaps you have one or two graphic novels already, or you may be deciding to carry these books for the first time. You’ll need to decide which books would be appropriate for your community of readers, which books they’re hankering for, and which books would delight and surprise them.

2. Find An Expert

You don’t have to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and graphic novels to successfully integrate them into your library’s offerings. There are people out there who can advise you on what books are valuable. For instance, you almost certainly already have readers in your library community with an understanding and love of graphic novels. You can also reach out to the independent comic book retailers in your area who are armed with detailed information about this area of reading they have a vested interest in supporting. (See “Your Local Comics Shop: A Great Resource" for information on how to find and work with your local comic book store.) And, of course, you can also feel free to contact  those of us at the Diamond Bookshelf!

3. Purchase The Books

Once you have consulted with your readers, experts in the field, and any others who can offer insight, you’ll be ready with a list of titles of graphic novels to acquire for your library.

4. Decide How To Catalog/Where To Shelve

Now you need to decide where to put them! Diamond provides information on cataloging to make integrating graphic novels into your collection easier. You can find these tools here. In terms of shelving you have a number of options. See “How to Catalogue Comics" for a comprehensive look at cataloging and shelving options and resources.

5. Promote The Comics

You could have the finest graphic novel collection in history, but if no one knows about, it won’t matter. The success of your collection relies on a certain level of promotion. If you don’t get the word out, no one will know the books are there. Start including the news about your graphic novels into your existing newsletters, pamphlets, and other promotional materials. Put up easy-to-read signs at the entrances to your library so that nobody who enters will fail to know about the new additions. Add the news to your e-mail correspondence. Contact your local media and encourage them to do a story about your library’s efforts to expand and enhance readership through this vital art form. Stage contests, offer giveaways, and plan fun events. Coordinate promotions with your local comic book retailer.

6. Evaluate Success/Circulation Data

After a certain period of time, you’re going to want to crunch the numbers. Measuring the graphic novel circulation at your library indicates the extent to which your readers are using this new library resource and will help you evaluate the success of the program. It will also point you in the right direction as to which titles and series to snap up in the future!

7. Poll Patrons

Never forget to meet the needs of your readership. Consulting the experts and embarking on your own research into which titles to carry is a necessary element of this program, but asking your patrons what they want is also crucial. Poll your patrons to find out what other titles they’d like to add to the collection. The flourishing graphic novel collection at a library will greatly depend on the actual requests of the readers being served.

8. Make Graphic Novels a Regular Part of Your Ordering Cycle

Once you’ve talked to your readers and assessed your circulation data to see how successful the addition of comic books and graphic novels has been, you’ll want to keep the ball rolling. An established graphic novel program in your library needs to be sustained, and making graphic novels a regular part of your ordering cycle will ensure the vibrancy of your collection. Including these titles in your regular decisions on what books to carry will help make them a significant and popular segment of your library.


REMEMBER: As with any collection development, there is a period of experimentation during which you will learn which titles will circulate and which will not. You cannot judge the effectiveness of a graphic novel collection with a handful of titles, any more than you would do so with a handful of DVDs or audiobooks. If there’s no room in your budget to make a large initial purchase, start small and evaluate regularly. Add titles as you can, polling your patrons, reading review sources, and keeping diversity in mind. As time goes on, you will find the right combination for your readership and community.

Soon, you’ll come to realize that comic books and graphic novels are an engaging and vibrant form of literature, and the promotional possibilities for your library are endless!