Comics, the Library, and You

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

Did you know you there is a place you can get comics, manga, and graphic novels for FREE? Tons and tons of them? And you don’t even have to break any laws! I am talking, of course, about the library.

It is National Library Week so now is a great time to start using your local library if you aren’t already. Going to the library for comics isn’t quite the same as visiting your local comic book shop, though. (For one thing, you have to give the books BACK when you’re done.) So, as Panels’ Librarian in Residence (a completely unofficial title I just gave myself), I’m going to give you a few tips.

batman and robin libraryWHAT TO EXPECT: The first thing to know is that the majority of libraries don’t carry single issues. Between wear and tear, subscription management, and budget organization it is just too much of a logistical nightmare. If a library DOES have single issues they will usually be managed like the library’s magazines, and the selection will be small (and likely geared toward kids and and titles that don’t have to be read in sequence). Aside from that, though, you’ll probably find a lot of graphic novels and some popular trades. Unless you are fortunate enough to have access to a big library with deep pockets and lots of shelf space, this isn’t the place where you’ll find that obscure run of the Human Fly or every Batgirl volume ever collected (okay you might find that at MY library). Instead you’ll probably find a smattering of award winners, well-known characters, and popular requests.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: Depending on the size of the collection, the demands of the community, and the space available on the shelves, a library may have taken one of several approaches to housing their comics. Some libraries have the delightful distinction of a graphic novel section. That means that just like novels or DVDs, the comics, trades, graphic novels, etc. have their own space separate from other materials. In this case any library worker should be able to direct you there without trouble. (Advanced tip: check near the young adult section) The second scenario is also very common, if a little less intuitive. In this situation they’ll be with the non-fiction. Yep, even Superman and Saga. It may seem silly, but basically they’re organized as art books within the Dewey Decimal system. This is actually a nice option if your library has a very small collection since it keeps the format together without requiring a separate area. So if there isn’t a graphic novel section, head over to non-fiction and find 741.5. Voila!

Americus libraryHOW TO MAKE THE MOST: Librarians don’t know everything. I know, blasphemy! But we aren’t mind readers and despite what we WISH, we can’t keep up with every format and genre and trend all the time. A lot of libraries are doing the best they can with very little familiarity, money, or support. So help them out! If there is something your library doesn’t have that you’d like to see, ask for it! Even if they have NO graphic novels, make a request! A good library will do its best to get patrons what they want – whether they buy it for the collection or are able to have it sent in from another library. And tell your friends! Most libraries use circulation statistics to help with purchasing decisions. If Sex Criminals Vol 1 goes out fifty times, they know there’s a demand and the will absolutely be buying Volume 2.

What are you waiting for? To the library!

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