How Buying Comic Books Can Benefit the Library

Previously, I wrote about how my library buys very few DC or Marvel comic books.  While they do purchase books like Hey, Kiddo or The Faithful Spy, superhero comics tend to be very few and very random–you will hardly ever find an entire series together.  But I believe that there is an audience for comic books at the library–and that adding more comic books to the library collection could benefit the library in the following ways.

Increase circulation.

This point may be obvious, but adding a new type of material to a library collection can increase circulation as people realize the library houses something they would like to read.  Furthermore, comics are fairly quick to read and they typically come in long series.  This means a patron coming in for a title like Ms. Marvel or Squirrel Girl could leave with five or more volumes if they wanted, just of that one title.  That’s really great for generating circulation numbers to show to the library board or government officials as library workers ask for more funding.

Bring New people in the door.

Once word gets out that the library has a fine collection of comic books, people who have never before been in the library might come to check them out.  After all, comic book series tend to very lengthy and thus very expensive.  Not every person can afford to buy every comic they want.  Once people are in the door, they may learn about other services they had no idea they have access to!

Introduce people to new parts of the library.

Comic books have wonderful crossover appeal among different age ranges, so housing them is a great way to get people into different parts of the library.  Adults going into the teen department or the children’s area for a comic book may realize there are resources and materials available for their families, their classrooms, their volunteer group, or their friends with families.  Teens going into the adult department for a comic book may find other titles they enjoy.  In other words, housing comic books could be a great way to make people realize that there are services they never knew about.

Create new comic book readers.

Curating a collection can be a way to help new readers approach comic books.  After all, comic books can be very intimidating.  Which ones are good? Which ones are teen friendly?  Where should a new reader start? Having a well-organized collection focused on titles the community will find interesting can be a safe way for people to start their comic book adventures.

It can also simply a way for people to realize, hey, comic books exist!  After all, where else do you see comics regularly besides a comic book store?  (Though I have heard that Barnes and Noble has expanded their comic book section.)  Simply providing access to readers may help them realize they love comic books!  And isn’t finding readers something they love part of every library’s mission?

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Why Do We Read?

“Why do we read?” is one of those perennial questions asked of students by English teachers.  After all, time is finite and choosing to spend time with books means choosing not to spend time doing other things.  So the question “Why do we read?” might more specifically be asked, “Can we justify spending our time reading instead of doing something else–something else more useful, more uplifting, more selfless, more something?”

Readers have proposed various answers to this question over the years.  On occasion, I hear a student excitedly advance one or more of these answers, pleased at last that they have realized why they were enrolled in that annoying English class in the first place.  And yet, I admit that sometimes the traditional answers do not quite satisfy me.  Over and over again I find myself asking myself, “Why do we read?” and never concluding that reading is necessarily a better pursuit than a number of others I could take up.  Below, I examine some of the traditional answers to the question “Why do we read?” and explain why that answer never feels like the final answer.

For Information

One of the most basic and obvious reasons people read is to learn information or education themselves.  For example, people might choose to read a book on the American Civil War to learn more about history, on personal finance to make more successful investment choices, or on design in order to decorate a room.  However, people can also learn information by watching videos or documentaries, by listening to a podcast or a lecture, by speaking with a friend or family member, or by experimenting themselves.  Reading is a great way to get information–but it does not follow that we  must read in order to be educated or knowledgeable.

For Culture

Some people read because they want to be seen among the cultured.  They want to be able to speak about the latest literary fiction at a cocktail party, to be able quote Shakespeare to impress others, or to recite poetry to a lover.  Or maybe they just want to know what Harry Potter is because everyone else seems to know.  However, it seems to me that culture can be acquired in myriad ways.  Maybe going to wine tastings or art museums or just watching Shakespeare plays would also make a person cultured.

To Become Better People

Readers like to talk about how reading places a person in another’s shoes and allows them to see the world from another perspective.  Studies have even suggested that reading literary fiction (but not genre fiction or non-fiction) improves the ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling, leading to increased empathy.  And yet, it is fairy obvious that there are some readers who are not necessarily very empathetic or kind while there are many non-readers who are.

To Gain Critical Thinking Skills

Many activities involve and teach critical thinking.  Finding your way home when your car is broken and you have no cash requires critical thinking.  Playing a board game requires thinking.  Making a costume for the school play requires critical thinking.  Planning your garden requires critical thinking.  Yes, reading teaches critical thinking, but it holds no monopoly.

To Gain Communication Skills

Reading can teach communication skills.  But non-readers often are very effective communicators, too.  They seem to learn from interacting with people.  And many are highly effective at code switching, changing their communication style based on the group they find themselves in.  Again, reading is useful to teach communication skills, but it does not follow that non-readers are doomed to inarticulate ramblings.

For Entertainment or enjoyment

This final reason for reading is actually the most compelling to me, though it is the one answer to “Why we read?” that I would expect to hear least advanced in the halls of academia.  It does not exactly justify funding the English department, after all.  However, I find it the most compelling because presumably people choose to get information by reading or to become cultured by reading or to try to understand people through reading–and not through other means or activities–because they enjoy it.  They could go to wine tastings or the art museum or to that party, but they would rather stay home and read today.

Conclusion

I suspect that most people read for a combination of the reasons above.  Still, I always feel uncomfortable when one or more of these reasons is advanced in a way that suggests that readers are superior to non-readers.  I know many non-readers who are highly intelligent, curious, empathetic, and personable.  They seem to be getting on fine!  So, in the end, I think answering the question, “Why do we read?” is very personal.  I may need to know for myself that reading is a valuable use of my time, but it does not follow that those who do not read are not making valuable uses of their time–or indeed, that they would not like to read, if only they had the time.  “Why do we read?”  Each person must answer for themselves.

Where Are the Comic Books at the Library?

Obviously, I cannot speak for every library.  Probably plenty of libraries exist where comic books can be found in abundance.  However, while my library has expanded its graphic novel collections in the children’s and teen sections, these collections still typically comprise mostly standalone titles like Roller Girl or El Deafo, or popular series like Dog-Man and Big Nate.  Comic books featuring superheroes remain few and random, even though I periodically  hear children ask for books on specific heroes.

This lack of comic books struck me suddenly the other day as really quite odd.  The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and films like Wonder Woman have made superheroes incredibly popular in recent years.  So why would not a library, dedicated to providing access to materials to the community, provide access to comic books?  Surely the public would read them!  Several possibilities come to mind.

Librarians are not sure which comics to buy.

Librarians are, of course, professionals and valuable resources for finding specific materials.  However, it has to be said that not every person is familiar with every type of material.  At my library, the workers typically have “specialties” based on what they personally like to read, so it’s not uncommon to hear a patron ask a librarian who reads MG for a YA recommendation, only to have that librarian refer them to a librarian who reads contemporary YA, who then may then pass the question on to a librarian who reads YA fantasy and sci-fi.  They know they are not always the best person to find a material, but they do know how to find another resource to get said material.

Librarians in charge of buying the MG and YA books, then, may not know what to do when buying comic books, if they don’t read comic books themselves.  After all, comic books are confusing.  It’s hard to know where to start sometimes and the ways individual comics are bundled into volumes can make the situation even more perplexing.  Faced with this, librarians may simply choose not to buy them.

Librarians rely on professional journals for purchases.

This point ties into my first.  Because librarians cannot physically read every book published each year (who can?), they often rely on reviews in publications like School Library Journal or VOYA to make their purchases.  But while such publications do include graphic novel reviews, it’s pretty rare to see reviews of the latest Marvel and DC releases .  Without these recommendations, librarians do not only lack any guidance in buying comic books but also have no reminder that maybe they should buy some.

Librarians are not sure who their comic book audience is.

My library almost exclusively shelves graphic novels in their children’s and teen’s collections.  But adults read comic books, too.  So who should be buying the latest Wonder Woman comic?  The teen department?  The adult department?  Or should the adult department buy some and the teen department some?  But how does the teen department know which comic books are considered of teen interest if professional publications aren’t reviewing them?

Since my library’s adult department has chosen not to purchase comics, what problems might arise?  Will adults choose not to borrow any comics if they feel weird walking into the young adult area?  But maybe the teen department does not want to spend limited funds on comics if they believe more adults will read them than teens.  Perhaps my library departments need to sit down and discuss a comic book buying strategy!

Librarians are hesitant to welcome certain ages into Certain spaces.

I’m going to be very honest here.  Sometimes the adult area in my library does not feel like a welcoming space for children and teens.  Is it possible that the adult department does not buy comic books because they fear teen crossover appeal?  Maybe the adult department wants every comic book in the teen section so the teens do not come wandering over.

Librarians have not really considered any need for comic books in the First place.

Geek culture is becoming more acceptable, but I think the fact that publications like School Library Journal don’t talk much about the latest DC or Marvel releases says a lot.  And so does my library’s adult programming line-up, which typically includes a large number of university-style lectures and incredibly niche (I mean, um, cultured) film showings.  Anything that would suggest an interest in popular culture is mysteriously absent.  As a result, I cannot help but wonder if the adult department does not buy comic books because the workers there are maybe a tad elitist in their purchases.  And maybe the other departments also subconsciously still think of comics as things that are bought in comic book stores–not purchased by the library.

Libraries need more funding.

I can’t know how every library divides their funding, but comic book collections are not necessarily cheap and it is possible that librarians fear to buy too many in case that means less money for other purchases.  They may be doubly hesitant about this because comic book runs can go on for some time, so buying the first volume means they could be committed to buying ten more volumes down the road.  This, then, of course, raises the related problem of space: should the graphic novel section be full of a few really long series, or should it have a lot of standalone titles for more variety?

Conclusion

Even though my library has an incredibly limited number of comic books, I believe that there is public demand for more.  And, since libraries are meant to serve the community, I would love to see my library provide access to comic books for those members of the community who want them.  Of course, purchase requests can be made.  But a long-term solution, where librarians buy comics as a matter of course, is much preferable.

Look for my upcoming post on why I think adding more comic books would be beneficial to the library!

10 Ways to Promote Literacy in the New Year

  1. Use your local library by checking out materials and attending programs.  Increased stats means they can ask for more funding.  More funding means more materials and programs.
  2. Donate books to the library, a women’s shelter, a local prison, a school, or a local literacy group.
  3. Start a Little Free Library or a book swap at work or school.  Or simply donate to one.
  4. Write to your representatives asking for increased funding for libraries.
  5. Have a special skill?  Offer to lead a program such as Spanish story time or a signing story time at your local library or another organization that promotes early childhood literacy.
  6. See what types of volunteers local organizations are looking for.  You might be able to shelf read at the library, sort through books for book sales, or help bring books to hospital patients.
  7. Ask if your library would be interested in starting a “pay it forward” campaign to help patrons pay off library fines and regain access to materials and services.
  8. If you have the money, buy books from authors you love.  When publishers have more money, they can take more risks on publishing different types of books.
  9. Spread positive feelings about literacy by being encouraging about someone’s reading or writing skills, even if you don’t personally like what they’re reading or think their writing could improve.
  10. Share your love of reading with others.  Be enthusiastic about your latest finds!  You may just inspire someone to try something new.

What are some others ways can we promote literacy?

4 Reasons to Focus on Your Blog Images in 2019

1. Bloggers frequently say they consider graphics when deciding which blogs to follow.

If you dig deeper, most people will admit they don’t follow a blog only because of the design or the images and that the written content does matter to some extent.  However, nearly every time I see someone write a “things that make you want to follow your blog” post (read mine here!), they mention blog design.  A beautiful theme or unique photos that you take yourself can be the first step to getting someone to stay on your blog long enough to read your posts and become a follower.

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2. It helps with branding.

There are a lot of blogs on the Internet.  Having a recognizable theme or imagine style can help you build your brand, as you’ll stick in people’s minds, and they’ll be able to recognize your brand if they come across an image of yours on social media.

(This doesn’t necessarily mean that all your images need to look the same, but having a unique photo style or using similar colors and fonts on images can help you build a brand.)

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3.  Images Catch People’s Eyes in the WordPress Reader

If you use the WordPress Reader, you know that it tries to pull at least one image from every post to display next to the review. If a blogger has unique images (such as an image customized with the title of the post), this is much more attention-grabbing than a generic image (imagine the reader pulling my star/moon divider as the “featured” image ).

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4. Unique Images Are Easier to Share on Social Media

I’m trying to up my Pinterest game because people keep telling me of the wonders of getting blog traffic from Pinterest, and part of that is pinning other people’s images (because you don’t want to be a spammy person who only pins your own stuff and only promotes your own posts).   To this end, I’ve been trying to pin images from book blog posts I find interesting, and I have learned quickly that…not a lot of the book bloggers I follow have pinnable images. (Which would mean something like an image I have at the top of this post, one that has the title of the post in it.)  A lot of book bloggers barely have images at all.  These people are missing out on my attempts to give them free promotion because they don’t have images I can share.

(If you are a book blogger and want to join my new group Pinterest board to help promote some of your own stuff, as well, you can here.)

Similarly, posts that have unique images are more attention-grabbing on other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, since they (like the WordPress reader) try to grab an image to display with any shared links.

How do you use images on your blog? What do you notice about others’ images?

Briana

Book Blogging Resources for Reaching Your Goals in the New Year (2019)

Blogging Goals

Happy 2019! I know a lot of bloggers have goals and resolutions they set for themselves each year, so today I’m rounding up some of our best advice here at Pages Unbound to help everyone get off to a fabulous start!


If You Don’t Yet Have a Book Blog, Here’s Why You Should Start One

Two years ago, I wrote a whole post with 8 reasons you should start a book blog in the new year.  Krysta and I started in 2011, and it’s been such a fun and enriching experience (mentally enriching…we all know book bloggers don’t actually make money…) that I can’t really imagine stopping.

And here’s my guide on how to start a book blog.

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9 Book Blogging Resources You Might Not Know About

In 2017, I rounded up 9 book blogging resources that are very in-depth and very helpful that you might not know about, even if you’ve been blogging for awhile.

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Discussion Prompts for Your Book Blog

I’ve written two posts with discussion prompts for your blog, if you’re hoping to focus more on discussions this year.  Find 30 Discussion Post Prompts here and 52 More Discussion Post Prompts here.  You can also check out our list of prompts for our previously run feature on classic literature: Classic Remarks.

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Spread the Love to Other Bloggers

Last January, I shared 4 ways to spread love to book bloggers in the new year, and I think the same tips apply now!

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Rock Bookstagram in 2019

If you’re thinking about joining Bookstagram this year, here are my tips for doing Bookstagram on a Budget and my thoughts on Using Library Books on Bookstagram.

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Check on Your Stats

I did two informal surveys on stats for book blogs, one in 2016 and one in 2018, so if you’re a stat-watcher yourself, you might want to see how you stack up against the people who responded to the survey.

What are your goals for 2019?

Briana

Five Books I Was Disappointed by in 2018

Disappointing Books

This is a bit of a difficult year for me to do this list because, looking at my 1 and 2 star (ok, there was only one 1 star) rated books on Goodreads, I realized a couple of them were nonfiction, and I rated them low not because they were “bad” necessary but simply because I think so much nonfiction published is overly drawn out and really would work better as an article or series of articles.  Then there were a couple of picture books that I just found “meh” and a few other books I was more or less indifferent to.  So, picking five I was truly disappointed is difficult and indicates that I had a great reading year.  However, this end of the year list is generally popular, so here are my five picks.

You can read my list of five books I was disappointed by in 2017 here.


1. House of Ash by Hope Cook

House of Ash by Hope Cook

This is the only book I’ve given 1 star this year (at least at the point of scheduling this post, on Dec. 18.) I didn’t think it was Gothic or scary, and I didn’t think the two POVs really merged together.  The romance was lackluster and unconvincing.  I wanted to DNF it the whole time I was reading it. (Click for full review.)

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2. Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh.

Reign of the Fallen

Nothing about the magic or political system makes sense.  It was one of those books where someone thought it sounded cool and unique, but nothing was actually thought out.  I also didn’t care for the characters, and the author was unsuccessful in trying to make me care about the death of a character at the beginning of the book–when readers know absolutely nothing about him. (Click here for full review.)

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3. Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Dactyl Hill Squad

Another “cool” idea I don’t think was actually well-executed: dinosaurs during the American Civil War period.  Weirdly, people use dinosaurs for everything, like no one actually invents anything because apparently the most efficient means of doing anything–transportation, communication, firefighting, etc.–is to use a dangerous and unpredictable animal.  Also the construction of the book feels choppy, and I couldn’t get invested in the characters. (Click for full review.)

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4. The Painting by Charis Cotter

The Painting

This was generally a weird book.  I was initially put off by the prose, but the story itself was choppy and there was a lot of back-and-forth between the two POVs.  I also don’t think the magic seemed well-integrated, even for magic realism where nothing is “supposed” to be explained.

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5. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover

This is a sci-fi classic, so I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t actually enjoy it.  The plot was probably more original at the time of publication, but since so many stories have taken on the question of androids and their humanity since then, it didn’t feel remarkable to me.  The book also felt dated, and I wasn’t impressed by Dick’s imagining of a future where women were still either celebrities (actresses, singers, etc.) or secretaries.  It was published in 1968; other male authors of the time did perfectly well writing books where women came across as humans. (Click for full review.)

Briana