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Developing comic book and graphic novel collections in libraries

Author: 
Sara Dianne Ray
Major Professor: 
Ed Cortez
Committee Members: 
Kimberly L. Black-Parker,
Cindy C. Welch
Date: 
December 2010

Abstract: This research study has several objectives. The first is to research graphic novels and comic books, their history and the issues this visual and literary medium has had with censorship, with preconceived notions that the medium is only meant for a juvenile audience, and with the development of rating standards. The second objective is to study current literature that has been written by scholars and librarians on this medium. This exploration of graphic novels and comic books and the scholarship and collection development efforts related to them provides a foundation for considering the issues and challenges which current and future librarians may have to face, in maintaining this literary form in library collections. The third objective is to conduct a focus group and to survey librarians in Tennessee from a range of backgrounds in order to consider a number of questions, including: if these librarians have encountered patrons who challenged having these books included in their institutions’ collections, what age range the surveyed librarians believe this medium is meant to appeal to, and how the librarians would rate content in comic books and graphic novels; such as, violence, language, sexual activity, etc.; including terms used by publishers in their rating standards to describe different levels of content. The results from this study showed there was quite a difference between what librarians feel is appropriate for the levels they were given and the types of content; with there being usually at least a 2 - 3 year age difference between the top two to three options chosen or there being a difference between the participants selecting an age range and selecting either “All Ages” or “None” as appropriate. The literature research and the data obtained from the survey along with the responses received from the focus group indicate that, since the majority of participants stated they “sometimes” experienced selection difficulties and problems with cataloging and shelving these books, picking an appropriate age range for a comic book or graphic novel is very subjective and librarians and publishers are still a long way away from agreeing on the appropriateness of the content.