Report: “Comics Librarians Are Up for the Fight”
From Publishers Weekly:
Sales of graphic novels—especially manga—have boomed during the pandemic, as have their readership in libraries. Despite lockdowns and supply chain issues, comics remains one of the most popular categories in library lending over the past decade.
But now comics have become the focal point of increasingly strident battles over what material should be carried in school and even public libraries. Challenges and attempted and actual book removals at libraries across the United States have surged: in 2021, the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom tracked more than 1,500 individual book challenges or removals, the most in the 30 years it has been reporting.
It’s a frightening and exhausting atmosphere for librarians across the country, says Matthew Noe, lead collection and knowledge management librarian of Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, who is wrapping up his second term as president of the GNCRT [ALA’s Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table]. “A lot of this stuff is sheer intimidation, and it’s mind boggling,” he adds. Noe feels that while the challenges were mounting all through last year, the phenomenon didn’t strike a chord in the mainstream news until Maus was removed from a school curriculum in Tennessee. “That seemed to be a wake-up call for a lot of people.”
Graphic novels are easy targets for challenges, because “there are panels that are easy to pull out and throw around on social media and take out of context,” Noe says.
“It’s much easier to flip a comic open and see something that you might object to than it is in a prose novel, where you have to sit down and actually read it,” says Robin Brenner, teen librarian at the Public Library of Brookline (Mass.) and president-elect of the GNCRT.
Despite the turmoil, the GNCRT, now in its third year, continues to move forward developing reading lists and additional resources for librarians who are looking to grow their graphic novels collections, and there are hopeful signs of public support. An ALA poll revealed that seven in 10 voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries. Teen readers in many communities are forming banned book reading clubs and mounting their own protests to keep books on shelves. And while the challenges have been making headlines, challenged books often remain in collections after going through established procedures—for instance, a panel designated by the board of education governing an Ohio school library voted to keep Gender Queer on shelves.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.