Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Shannin Bailey

The One-Two Punch: Library Programming with Comics

They hit like a one-two punch. The worst part about it is, you never know when it will happen, but you’re always aware that it might—a series of disappointments with the ability to ruin your entire day. I mean, there you are, your friendly neighborhood public librarian, when the first punch strikes in the form of a patron wearing a Captain America hoodie.

Being the geek that you are, you try to strike up a conversation. But when the subject shifts from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the comic world, they freeze and mutter something about just liking the movies, and not knowing much about comics because they’re “not really a comic book kind of person.”

It’s not the end of the world, but it is kind of a bummer, so you stop to drink some caffeine (and maybe lick your wounds.) That’s when you stumble upon a string of emails from library administration, which is when the second punch hits. Suddenly, you’re reading all about falling circulation and program statistics, along with the need to come up with fresh ideas, all while trying to increase your community outreach.


So there it is, the infamous one-two punch. First, your love of comics wasn’t returned by someone wearing a Captain America hoodie, of all things, and now you’re overwhelmed by the needs and demands of your constantly changing profession. Instantly, it’s turned into the kind of day even caffeine can’t save. But…what if the one-two punch could be turned into something positive? What if you could somehow use this series of bummers to solve all of your problems?

Comics and Readers Advisory

First things first. Taking casual fans—like the patron with the shield on his hoodie—and introducing them to comics may not play out as badly as you’d think. They may not be “a comic book kind of person,” but explaining some of the differences between Brubaker’s Winter Solider arc and the film may peak their interest. That’s when you oh-so-casually suggest they check out the graphic novel. Suddenly, you’ve unlocked two achievements—you’ve successfully woven the things you love into your job, and you’re doing your part to help improve circulation statistics.

Comics Clubs

The next part requires a little more work, because it involves finding your target audience. Maybe our Captain America hoodie-wearing-friend enjoyed the Brubaker and is ready for a few more graphic novels, or you notice the same group of people browsing through your collection. That’s when it’s time to strike up another conversation. What if we had some sort of club here at the library? You suggest, again with the oh-so-casual tone. That could be kind of awesome, right? We can talk about different characters, writers, movies…so, what do you think? Now you’ve got a group together—along with a new and innovative programming idea.

Community Partnerships

After the group meets a few times and finds it’s rhythm, that’s when it’s time to reach out to your community—by partnering with local gaming and comic book stores, and working together to create events. Maybe something on Free Comic Day (which is so much fun it’s almost insane that you get paid to do it.)

…But that’s what you expected, right? After all, any comics fan worth their salt knows that a one-two punch is just the beginning. What you do next is the important thing—especially when what you did next was improve the circulation statistics of your graphic novel collection, build a new program with a solid attendance base, and create a mutually beneficial relationship with a few local businesses. Which is why, for your next trick, you should at least think about world domination.

About the Author

Shannin Bailey is a Reference Librarian in central Ohio. She considers herself a “geek’s geek,” and when she’s not explaining River Song’s timeline or why the Winter Soldier isn’t a villain, she’s a passionate advocate for promoting geek culture in public libraries through both programming and reader’s advisory. She’s presented professionally on Making Movies in Libraries, Using Facebook with Teen Advisory Groups, and Fandoms. She has a BA in English from The Ohio State University, and an MLIS from Kent State University. You can find her on Twitter (@shanninb), Tumblr and Instagram (@shanninb)

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