Questions about graphic novels.

Author:Galuschak, George

George Galuschak started his library's graphic novel collection six years ago. He works at the Montvale Public Library, deep in the wilds of New Jersey. He has been reading, writing reviews, and doing conferences about graphic novels for years.

Graphic novels are the source of much anxiety in Library Land. Every year scores of librarians attend graphic novel conferences; buy books about building core collections; and send out heartrending pleas for help on YA listservs. The graphic novel pandemic--the tidal wave of graphic novel-related books, journal articles, listservs, committees, videoconferences and presentations that has swept the library field--is built on the belief that collecting graphic novels is some arcane art, comparable to cracking the human genome or breeding Norwegian Ridgeback dragons.

I witnessed this phenomenon firsthand at one library conference. The organizers asked me to talk about graphic novels because I am an expert--I write graphic novel reviews for KLIATT and websites such as No Flying, No Tights; create annotated title lists for the members of my library consortium, BCCLS, which consists of over 70 libraries; and have over 20,000 comic books in my basement. The room was packed with eager-to-learn librarians clutching their handouts.

I bombed. My theme--graphic novels are easy to collect (I learned early on to leave the word "fun" out of it)--was greeted by looks of disbelief. When I pointed out that most graphic novels take a half hour to read and are easier to collect than, say, computer books, I got blank stares. I even tried a joke or two--what's harder: deciding which volume of PHP/SMTP to purchase or buying Ultimate Spider Man--which prompted a general exodus to the bathrooms and free food tables.

So when KLIATT requested an article about graphic novels, I decided to devote the space to answering a few of the common questions on this topic. I am not deterred by the fact that these questions have been answered before and will no doubt be answered again, ad infinitum. Graphic novels are not hard to collect. All that's needed is a plan, a can-do attitude and a willingness to experiment. With that in mind, let's get started.

Question 1: What is a graphic novel?

Opinions vary. Here are three definitions; take your pick.

  1. A set of collected comic books or a stand-alone story told in comic form that is usually square bound. Pros: you get to call everything a graphic novel and thus don't need to master any terminology. Cons: sounds suspiciously like you're saying that graphic novels are the same thing as comic books.

  2. A novel whose narrative is related through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form. Pros: you...

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