Published on January 5th, 2015 | by Gloria Romano

How to Tackle Graphic Novel Collection Development for the Adult Department

Graphic novels have become an essential part of a library’s collection. Their popularity has grown due to literary and art awards, librarian and education societies, and librarian research. But including these publications in a library’s collection can be difficult for some, especially those who work in the adult department.

Most librarians may be confused when it comes to graphic novel collection development or apprehensive towards the subject. Some may believe that their library does not need graphic novels due to a common stereotype that they are not considered real books or works of literature. That is certainly not the case. Gone are the days and the remarks that these books are just for children and teenagers. Even adults can read these publications and enjoy them as much as a regular book.

An extensive knowledge of graphic novels and comics is not needed to create a graphic novel collection. Any librarian can create one. All you really need is proper resources and your patrons’ input. But first, it’s best to answer the one question that any librarian will ask. What is the difference between a comic and a graphic novel?


Comics vs. Graphic Novels

It is common to mistake comics and graphic novels. Both publications use pictures and images (words may be optional) to tell a story. However, graphic novels are books that are a length of a typical novel while comics are a short work that comes out in serialized collections. Usually, a comic serial may be printed and gathered together into a collection. Older patrons may be more familiar with these publications. Superhero comics by Marvel and DC have printed serials for years, gathering generation after generation of devoted readers. These publishers, along with others, still print serials but have also printed graphic novel collections of their most famous characters.

Depending on how many issues there are, there may be more than one volume of a work. In most cases, these volumes may be labeled graphic novels due to their length. These publications may be easy to pinpoint in any book collection. A majority of them will advertise their publisher on the cover, especially those that are created by Marvel Comics and DC Comics, or clearly state their artistic style in the book’s title or description. Any librarian can discover these books among any literary collection, but where can these publications be purchased? Not only that, how can a librarian know what to buy?


Graphic Novel Reviews

Many librarians have their own means of purchasing items for their collection. Whether it is through Publisher’s Weekly, Baker and Taylor, or Library Journal, librarians can purchase graphic novels and comics using any literary catalog or gain insight into what the library should include in its graphic novel collection. Due to their popularity, librarian and book review websites have included a small section dedicated to graphic novels and comics, such as The Beat on Publisher’s Weekly’s website and the Spotlight on Graphic Novel feature found on Booklist Online. These are very helpful but there are also websites dedicated to graphic novel and comic reviews and news articles written by librarians and other literary professionals, which include No Flying, No Tights and The Graphic Novel Reporter. It is also best to consider comic publishers themselves, such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW Comics, because they will advertise up and coming releases and past publications on their website. Local comic book stores may be of help as well. With just a phone call or an email, the librarian may discover what is popular among readers and gain suggestions on how to advertise their new collection.

There are many different ways to obtain comics and graphic novels for a new collection. Librarians are not just limited to printed material, but also to digital resources updated by those who are active readers and have experience in their profession. With many sources to choose from, a librarian may gather just enough information to create an updated, patron friendly collection.


Patron Feedback

But what could be beneficial to your collection development is the input of your patrons. Any library is created and structured towards the patrons’ needs, whether it is including a specific number of exam books, creating a special collection on parenting, or rearranging tables and chairs to accommodate your community’s large population. The same can be said for creating your graphic novel collection.

Some ways to gain input would be to strike a conversation. If a patron is looking for the newest Batman movie, ask them if they would like to read the DC comics. The same may go for patrons looking for books. A lot of graphic novels are genre base, especially horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. Maybe the patron who enjoys ghost stories or space epics may be interested in reading a graphic novel in the same genre.

Continuing with books, a majority of fiction writers have delved into contributing their written talent in graphic novels. Authors such as Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman have collaborated with artists to create graphic novels that even the least experienced comic reader may gladly enjoy. It is also best to point out that a majority of classic and contemporary novels have been given the graphic novel treatment. Comic versions of Jane Austen, H.P. Lovecraft, and Sherlock Holmes are just a few examples that can found on any shelf.
Comparing the text version with the artistic version can intrigue readers and show them another version of their favorite story. With any patron, communication is the key to gain insight on what to purchase for any collection, especially graphic novels. Without this, you may not know if your community is populated with comic readers or patrons who are looking for something new to try.


Shelving Graphic Novels

Depending upon the amount of graphic novels your library has, you may either want to create a separate section or interfile them among the fiction titles. However, it is best to give graphic novels their own section. Many libraries have separated their collection by genre (Mysteries, Science Fiction, etc.) or by format (Audio Books) to better serve their patrons in their search for materials. With graphic novels, a separate collection will invite new and old readers to take out a title or two and to try something new. The section can be placed wherever you believe it will be best presented and advertised, whether it is next to your video game or movie collection or by the front doors below your newly created graphic novel advertisement. The placement and advertising is up to you.

In Conclusion…

Creating a graphic novel collection does not have to frightening or time consuming. In fact, it can be fun and educational. Any librarian may discover new ideas and concepts to better serve their patrons, which includes any type of new story format and genre. So use whatever resource you have and communicate with those around you. Your new graphic novel collection will become a great asset to your library. And who knows, you may become a graphic novel reader yourself.



Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. “Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians”.

Columbia University Library. “Research Guides: Graphic Novels”.

About the Author

An avid reader, writer, and a lover of anything geeky, Gloria Romano balances her time with work, gaming, and entertainment. She is a children’s librarian at the Peninsula Public Library in Lawrence, New York, where she develops programs for toddlers and researches the newest trends in children’s literature. Along with Cosplay, Comics, and Geek Culture in Libraries, she also writes for No Flying, No Tights and is an active member of the Nassau County Library Association’s Pop Culture Committee. On some occasions, you may find her writing whatever pops into her head, especially a line of poetry or a scene of fiction, or absorbed in a book.

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