From From the Splash Page of

Special To The SPLASH By Sara Ryan

June 24: It was June 14th in Atlanta. Neil Gaiman was there. So were Jeff Smith and Colleen Doran. Also reps from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, TokyoPop, Image, CrossGen, the CBLDF, Diamond, and Book Wholesalers Incorporated, among others. Oh, and Art Spiegelman did his first ever post-Pulitzer presentation sans cigarettes. (He did have Nicorette gum, however.) But there wasn’t a dealer’s room or an artist’s alley, and nobody, not even Steve Lieber, was doing portfolio reviews.

So what was this show? It was “Getting Graphic @ Your Library,” a full- day preconference put on by the YOUNG ADULT LIBRARY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, as part of the AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’s Annual Conference. One hundred seventy five librarians learned about the history of comics, censorship and intellectual freedom issues, how to promote graphic novels once you’ve got them into your book collection, how to catalog them so that people can find them, and what manga you should buy if you don’t know Japanese.

The publishers and distributors were very generous. All the librarians who attended received huge bags of swag: Bone action figures, Simpsons comics, the 911 Emergency Relief anthology, Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, Debbie Dreschler’s “Summer of Love”, Jay osler’s “Clan Apis”, Enki Bilal’s “The Black Order Brigade” and “The Dormant Beast”, single issues of “Bone” and “A Distant Soil”, among many other titles. Not to mention the actual bag to carry it all in: courtesy of Dark Horse, featuring Sock Monkey and Drinky Crow.

Librarians across the country are putting graphic novels into their collections — sometimes specifically for teenagers, sometimes for adults and kids as well — and finding that there’s a huge demand for the format. “It’s a format, not a genre” was one of the refrains of the day, as people learned the breadth of material available. Several people also used the phrase “tipping point” — from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, which is about ideas and trends spreading through our culture like epidemics. People said that when these librarians went back to their libraries, they could really push comics and graphic novels to new audiences, and even help to give the format more mainstream credibility. There are nearly 9,000 public libraries in the United States — that’s public library *systems*, each of which may have dozens of branches — and there are 98,000 school libraries. That’s a lot of places for people to discover comics and graphic novels.

There’ll be another focus on graphic novels in libraries during the week of October 13-19. That’s Teen Read Week, and the theme of Teen Read Week this year is GET GRAPHIC @ YOUR LIBRARY — yes, just like the theme for the preconference. Many libraries will celebrate the week with programs featuring comic book writers, illustrators and fans.

So if you don’t know your local librarian, introduce yourself. Experts on comics and graphic novels are getting more and more valuable for librarians to know.