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RectangleFree Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores. An annual tradition, Free Comic Book Day is also a perfect opportunity for libraries and comic shops to team up!

By sharing participation in Free Comic Book Day, shops and libraries can promote each others' efforts and reach a wider pool of readers. Jack Baur, Teen Services Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library, rediscovered comics through a Free Comic Book Day event held at a library. Now a regular at local comic shops including Fantastic Comics in Berkeley and Dr Comics and Mr Games in Oakland, he has found them to be a useful resource for recommending and ordering graphic novels for his library. He also cites cross-promotional benefits: "I learn about events that they are doing that I can promote at the library and I drop off flyers about our events for them to distribute to their customers. The promotional give-and-take is a good benefit to both of us, and strengthens the comics culture in the area generally.”

This year's Free Comic Book Day takes place on Saturday, May 5th. The comics given away are created especially for Free Comic Book Day and represent a wide range of publishers and genres. Offerings for 2012 included many great comics for kids, such as Top Shelf's Kids Club and Oni Press' Yo Gabba Gabba!; modern Superhero comics including DC Comics' New 52 Special Edition and Marvel Comics' The Avengers #12.1; Manga such as Yen Press' Infernal Device: Clockwork Angel; classics such as Fantagraphics Books' Walt Disney's Donald Duck Family Comics and more.

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The Haverford Township Library in Pennsylvania is planning their second Free Comic Book Day event this year, and Youth Services Librarian Sheli Hay has ordered every title through local shop Showcase Comics and Games. "We'll have the full roster of titles, so hopefully I'll be able to entice a breadth of age ranges to the free comics." She described her library's partnership with Showcase as "ridiculously relaxed," and when it came to putting together her FCBD order, was "taken aback by how easy the process was." 

The Omaha Public Library employee Russ Harper also speaks highly of his library's partnership with local shop Krypton Comics. Aside from assisting with Free Comic Book Day orders, Krypton has also "been huge library supporters with cool prizes donated for summer reading programs, and giving us a half-price deals on manga-making supplies when we had that program."

While the concept of "free books" is nothing new to library-goers, the free comics are a great way to showcase existing graphic novel collections and gauge interest in new or upcoming series. Hay plans to take full advantage of the variety of FCBD comics by offering them throughout the library. "The books will go up on display in their own 'Adult', 'Teen', and 'Children' sections right next to the exit. That way patrons can pick up any titles they want as they're coming or going. We keep the FCBD items out throughout the week, or until we're out of stock. Last year all of our titles but one were gone by the end of the weekend."

Oni Yen Donald

Libraries interested in participating in Free Comic Book Day are encouraged to check out freecomicbookday.com for more information. Those in search of comic shop partners should try the Comic Shop Locator Service, which includes information about shops' availability to work with schools and libraries. Libraries who are unable to work with a local shop can contact educators@freecomicbookday.com about alternative ways to participate.