Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hey Librarians, Comics!


Are libraries the best place to get comics in front of kids faces? Comics without Iron Man on the cover, that is?

All anecdotal evidence says YES!

From ICv2.com:

Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library writes in to offer some advice to his fellow librarians regarding building graphic novel areas in their libraries: For those of you who need ammunition in getting your administration to let you create separate graphic novel areas, I have recently received some startling circulation statistics.After a long struggle, our library got separate graphic novel labels and shelving areas for adult, YA, JRHI and Juvenile graphic novels. I have started gathering circulation statistics covering what happens, now that these areas are separate and visible.

Among other things, the increase in the circulation of the Juvenile graphic novels is astounding. From July 1 of 2008 through March 31 of 2009, the average copy of our juvenile graphic novels circulated 16 times! By comparison, the average juvenile novel circulated 3 times. That's more than a fivefold increase, which is a LOT more than I expected. For the Junior High collection, the average graphic novel circulated 6 times, compared to 3 for the comparable text novels. For the YA collection, the circulation of graphic novels is also about double that of the comparable novels. What made this interesting is that until recently, our YA novels included a lot of graphic novels that hadn't been re-cataloged. THOSE started flying off the shelves once they were moved to the Graphic Novel shelves.

It takes longer to read a novel than it does to read a comic. This may contribute to the large turnover rate* on graphic novels. But that's a plus since it means the comic is getting that many more readers. Small press outfits like First Second and Toon Books recognize the public library as a valuable resource. Where else is your average kid- one without a nerd for a parent- going to see STINKY or TINY TYRANT? Titles like that might sit on a comic store shelf for a week tops. If that shop wants to survive in today's industry it needs to give all the prime real estate to the latest CIVIL SKRULL CRISIS RAPE-APOCALYPSE crossover from the Big Two.

Let's also consider the way the industry is heading. Which, by most accounts, is straight down the crapper. But that's the traditional business model circling the bowl, the one built on weekly periodical sales. The future is in the trades and stand-alone graphic novels. Getting more of those into libraries is integral to building that new industry model.

I'm gonna be talking with a few librarians and other expert types to see if the actual data backs up my thesis. Stay tuned.


*"Turnover rate", can I say that? I just used that phrase to refer to the number of times a book is borrowed from the library. Any real librarians out there, please set me straight on this.

2 comments: