for White Oak Library District
For the collection assessment, I visited my local White Oak Library. This is part of a district which shares three branches: Romeoville, Lockport, and Crest Hill. It is also part of the Pinnacle Library Cooperative, which networks with the public libraries in Joliet, Lemont, Plainfield, Shorewood-Troy, and Fountaindale. My branch is in Lockport, and I took a look at their adult and YA graphic novels (excluding manga and manwha).
The graphic novel collection for adults and young adults is all combined together. The librarian I spoke to said they refer to it as their adult graphic novels, but many of its titles are geared toward teens. Above is an image of the 26 shelves that feature the graphic novels/comics currently available. This does not include the manga/manwha which is located on the other side of these shelves and takes up even more space.
The location for the graphic novels is not in a prominent place in the library. It's on the floor for adult and YA literature, but it is all the way in the back righthand corner. The one benefit of its placement is that it's directly next to the Teen Room, a separate room that only has YA titles. In fact, the person who does most of the organizing of the graphics is the Teen Librarian.
In taking a closer examination of the 26 shelves, there are approximately 1,250 titles. A breakdown of those titles is in the above chart.
Fiction graphics are labeled under FIC and are then categorized by either the author's last name or series name. If the series is expansive and/or has multiple different authors, it is found under the series name. If the author has a small number of titles that act as individual stories, those will be found under author names.
Nonfiction graphics are arranged by call number, and the call numbers all vary and are not simply 741.5. Biographies are labeled under B. While the nonfiction and biography section is quite small compared to the large body of fiction, there were some discrepancies.
A view of the two shelves of nonfiction. All included different call numbers specific to their topic.
A view of the biography graphic novels. It seemed very small to me considering how many great titles we read for class.
I noted several of these discrepancies when analyzing the fiction, nonfiction, and biographies. Hey, Kiddo is listed under fiction. Spinning by Tillie Walden is also listed as fiction. When I asked a librarian why these were not underneath the biographies, she replied that many graphic memoirs take creative liberties and do not always stick to the truth. Very interesting in light of our conversation in class!
As I searched for more of the titles that I read for class, I saw that other titles I expected to see under biographies were not shelved there. Dancing at the Pity Party, for example, is in the nonfiction section. Allie Brosh (a favorite of mine) has her two books in completely different sections. Hyperbole and a Half is under nonfiction and Solutions and Other Problems is under fiction.
With graphics becoming so popular, it must be difficult for librarians to keep them all organized, but it can be confusing to a patron all the same.
The library has two shelves for new arrivals. In the picture above, it is easy to see that most of these new arrivals are manga/manwha. However, it also includes superhero titles like Teen Titans Academy and independent titles like Tin Man by Justin Madson (April 2022). Each new title is labeled with its appropriate shelving category and has a colorful dot on its spine to signify that it is new.
The collection also includes beloved titles from the past such as Watchmen, Sandman, Maus, and many superhero titles.
Diversity in Representation
The library shows its diversity of representation through some of the signage on the shelves around the graphic novels. They show American minority representation and voices with titles like Hot Comb, American Born Chinese, and I Was Their American Dream. They include immigration stories (The Best We Could Do), indigenous voices (This Place), historical acts based on xenophobia (They Called Us Enemy), and stories from queer authors (Fun Home).
Indicators of Use
A couple of things helped show which titles in the collection were most popular and sought out. The first were these markers/flags (pictured above) that stuck out of the book shelves which gives a patron a quick way to spot the titles that are more commonly checked out. When looking at the tops of the books, I saw that these titles had pages that looked more frayed and discolored than others.
When looking at the online catalog, there is a section entitled, "Most Circ'd Titles". While looking at the list, I noted that out of all the book titles listed, 71% of the titles were graphic novels/comics. Most popular were titles of many manga and manwha stories. Other popular titles included The Walking Dead, Dog Man, The Babysitters Club, Heartstopper, Babymouse, and Phoebe and Her Unicorn. This seems to suggest that many (maybe a majority of, even?) people are coming to the library to get their hands on these books.
Diversity of Popular Series
In the library itself, 28 markers/flags were used to identify popular series. Again, this does not include manga/manwha; however, it is important to note that they did use these markers/flags on that side as well.
The flagged series are broken down in the chart above. It seems that the most popular series are superheroes, along with fantastical/sci-fi series and a little bit of horror.
Again, these series are the ones flagged because they have a collection and are popular. While patrons who love these titles will be glad to see them so readily available, I wish there was a better way to highlight some of the other awesome graphics in the collection. It would be nice to more easily find things like graphic memoirs or literary adaptations for readers whose first inclination isn't for superhero or fantastical stories but stories that are more realistic, historical, or informational.
There aren't any great displays for just graphic novels/comics in the library. The image below shows several graphic novels that have been placed with the cover out on the top shelves of the section. There's no extra explanation about what these titles are or why they have been pulled from the many others whose spines face out. Because the location of the collection is a the back corner of the library, there aren't many places for displays, but I hope the staff continues to find more creative ways to put these titles on a display that is inviting and enticing. As you walk onto the second floor, you are greeted with two shelves of new titles: one fiction and the other nonfiction, but graphic novels don't find a place on those shelves.
The best display I saw that incorporated graphic novels was one near the circulation desk. It is one that is updated throughout the months, and this one has been designed with the theme of Pride Month. It was lovely to see many familiar graphic novel titles in the collection: The Prince and the Dressmaker, Squad, The Girl from the Sea, and Be Gay, Do Comics. A librarian told me that they do try to incorporate graphic titles into these changing displays as often as they can. The library also has an annual event in the summer called Comicopolis, which is a comic and fandom con that partners with the local comic bookstore Amazing Fantasy Books and Comics and the City of Lockport's Summer Art Series that they are working hard on promoting.
The White Oak Library in Lockport has a great system in place for getting graphic novels and comics into the hands of the patrons who request them. If the title cannot be found on the shelf, they can easily be ordered through the catalog of the many libraries that White Oak networks with, and it only takes 1-2 days for the book to be delivered to the branch. While most options are fiction, the library is slowly trying to improve this by building up a nonfiction and biography section. It has many classic, older titles but also showcases new material in a place that is easy to find. The collection includes authors and voices that are representational for many, and popular series are clearly marked so that they are easy to find. However, there are areas that this section can still grow and improve upon. Aside from popular series, other genres could also be highlighted to help show the true diversity of topics covered in graphics novels and comics. There is also much more that could be done to showcase these titles so that they become available to a wider audience and not just the people who already know where to find them or a teen on their way to the teen room. White Oak Library clearly recognizes the importance of this medium and should continue to work so that these popular titles are being brought to the forefront where a person in search of a good book can easily browse them.