The Good, The Bad, and This Kid - Comics and The Public Library
By Josh Stone
Hello and welcome to the second installment of GBK. Iím glad youíve decided to give me another chance, or a first chance as the case may be. Either way, todayís topic is ďComics and The Public Library,Ē in case you didnít read the title. So, letís go ahead and jump right in, donít be shy weíre all friends here.
Since the dawn of the library people have perceived it as a stuffy, unhip place to go. When you mention the library to someone the first thing that pops into their head is dusty books and annoying librarians telling you to be quiet. And sadly, they are mostly right. However, lately most public libraries are looking for an image change. They want to ditch the old lady dress, slip into a miniskirt and hit the town (really bad images, must burn eyes). Many libraries have begun to incorporate comic books, mainly graphic novels, into the circulation. When the library does add comics they get shelved in the Childrenís departments with the rest of the books with pictures. Hereís where it gets tricky. Most childrenís librarians know little to nothing about comics (except what they see in movies, but that was the last column). So, to compensate for their lack of knowledge they do what every good librarian does, consult a catalogue. Yes, there are catalogueís that specify in graphic novels and are aimed at library professionals. Unfortunately, these publications know that the comics will be going into the childrenís department, so they cater to that. All this leads to poor decision making, making only very childish comics available for the public. If the library is going to incorporate comics into the system, then why only put them in the childrenís department? Why not add some to the science fiction section as well? Itís really not that difficult to do, assign another librarian, one who is not a childrenís librarian, and who understands the world of comics the task of selecting which comics go into the adult section. That way, the library could have say, Spider-Man graphic novels or Justice League Adventures graphic novels, while at the same time carrying Sandman or Hellboy, or things of that nature. If anyone at my library is reading this, Iíd be more then happy to be the person in charge of this task.
Now, with the solution taken care of, let me address the real problem, for me anyway. Comic books should not be at the library. Not for the same reason most parents and crazy librarians think; that they are not real books, that they are not actual literature. Interesting anecdote; one day while I was shelving some books in the childrenís department a lady and her little boy come up to me looking for a book for his age group. When I ask what heís interested in the mother gets a really annoyed look and explains that she is trying to get him to read real books, because all he reads is comics. She then expresses her concerns that her little boy isnít going to ďreallyĒ know how to read. I take it upon myself to explain to her that todayís comic books are filled with words, that he is actually reading semi-intelligent stuff. She then looks shocked that an employee of the public library would read comics and walked away. I feel the way I do about comics in the library because itís just plain weird. I mean all my life Iíve had to pay damn good money to get a graphic novel I want to read, now the younger generation can just mosey on down to the library and check it out for free. Furthermore, the library, or at least the one I work for, is going to treat these comics as they do other paperback books, with the honor system. Meaning, you donít actually check it out, you just take it and they hope you bring it back. How messed up is that? Talk about a waste of tax money (oh my god, I could probably get in some serious shit for saying this). Plus, on top of all this, just think how messed up the books will get. All the pages are bent and torn, the cover has some kind of weird glistening smug on it, some kid decided that Batman should be dressed in blue now. Itíll be horrible, Iíd cry every time I went to work or worse, I might attack the little children who appear to be ruining wonderful comics. Am I the only one who feels this is wrong? Iíve got to have some kind of support out there. Iíve talked to librarians and comic fans who work at the library and they all feel this is a good idea. So, Iím left to believe that either Iím being far too strange and narrow-minded about this, or they have all gone off the deep end. Surely comic shop owners must agree with me, whoís going to want to buy a graphic novel when they can just steal it from the library? We must start an uprising. Actually, Iím really lazy, so maybe one of the readers can start this uprising and Iíll give my support from the comfort of my home. Thanks guys, I knew youíd understand.
So, basically what Iím trying to get at is, if all libraries are going to start having comics, they need to be smart about it. Have people who enjoy and understand comics select which ones get in. You donít have a health librarian pick out the harlequin romance books, so why assume the Childrenís librarians are the best for comics? Donít just confine the comics to the kidís section, branch out a bit, put the more mature comics in the science fiction area, that way they are more readily available to the people. Also, be stern with the books, donít treat them like the rest of the paperbacks, if you do that, there is a very large chance youíll never see the comic again. If the graphic novels arenít checked out, then people wonít return them, and at the rate that comicsí popularity and prices are rising, there wonít be any comics left in the library. Itíd be a large waste of money if you donít circulate them like normal books. Or, you could make me and my minions happy, and just leave the comics alone. Theyíve never done anything to hurt anyone, just leave them alone and theyíll leave you alone. That way, everyone wins, comics get to stay in comic shops allowing comic retailers to stay in business, libraries donít lose money in lost books which means tax payers lose money, and I get my way, which is really the whole point of all this.
Feel free to drop me a line by e-mail or leave a post on the SBC message boards under the Soapbox forum. See you all in 14, donít forget to check out Daily Dilly (my web-comic I do with Johnny Rodriguez), new strips will be coming soon, right now weíre just catching everyone up. Until next timeÖ
Also, if you like computer games then you need to check out this guyís reviews. Terry is a friend of mine and he does some stellar computer game reviews so take a gander: Terry Bosky
Got a comment or question about this Soapbox?
Leave at message at the Silver Soapboxes Message Board.