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SDCC Catch-Up: Graphic Novel Programming in Libraries panel

A full audience was treated to a panel of librarians who are also die-hard comic book and graphic novel enthusiasts to speak about graphic novel-related programming in their libraries. They included: Robin Brenner (Brookline Public Library), Snow Wildsmith (Charlotte-Mecklenburge Public Library), Mike Pawuk (Cuyahoga County Public Library), Nick Smith (Pasadena Public Library), Hilary Chang (McCully-Moiliili Public Library) and Jill Patterson (La Habra Branch Library).

The panel kicked off with the successes and challenges of running a graphic novel book club. Most panelists spoke about the difficulty in getting adults interested in joining a club and even simply reading graphic novels. Most successes with book clubs have been with kids aged 10-12 and teens. However the panelists talked about expectations of low turn-out at first until word of mouth gets out. They also suggested how partnering with bookstores can help to promote the club and increase the number of patrons participating.

The consensus from the panelists was that the most successful book clubs are manga book clubs. In smaller communities it is difficult for teens to find people with similar interests but these clubs help manga fans connect. Robin and other panelists talked about the nature of these clubs in how teens aren’t really interested in discussing the manga but enjoy having a space where they can sit and read simultaneously or view anime together.

Nick talked about how manga has provided him with an opportunity to spin other types of programming from the content in the manga themselves. He gave the example of starting a successful GO club because of the number of patrons that read Hikaru No Go. Also many patrons are not only fans but also aspiring manga artists, which led Nick to establish a manga drawing club. Other successful spinoff activities described as inspired by manga were learning about and sampling Japanese foods and snacks and participating in traditional crafts.

Robin spoke a bit about her methods in getting patrons to talk about the manga they are reading. She tries to make them feel like experts and asks them what books she should look out for, what new series to order and what are important books to add to the collection.

Snow felt that it was important to bring the whole convention experience to her own branch and organized a manga/anime con for patrons who could not travel to larger shows in the area. She chose a Sunday afternoon, when the library is normally closed to the public and put together a number of different activities on a shoe-string budget and by enlisting the help from contacts and friends of hers in the community. Her convention included anime showings, simple Japanese language lessons, origami lessons, portfolio reviews for aspiring manga artists and tae kwon do demonstrations. She also had a couple video game systems (with Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution), a button maker and sidewalk chalk on-hand.

Robin stressed the importance of keeping open communication with parents to help them better understand the material their children and teens are reading. She suggested hosting a parents night about graphic novels, manga and anime to create a forum for parents to ask questions.

Mike spoke about how Free Comic Book Day (a yearly initiative in early May started by Diamond Comics to promote comic books to the larger public) is a great framework for programming on graphic novels in the library. He emphasized that librarians should not be shy in contacting graphic novel publishers for promotional materials to give away and that that partnering with a local comic book store is an easy way to bring people to the branch. 

Hilary talked about her past experiences using Free Comic Book Day as a surefire way to get people to sign up for a library card and to promote the collection.

Most of the panelists talked about how hosting creators either during Free Comic Book Day or whenever to participate in live drawing demonstrations for kids is a great way to attract patrons to these events.

Scott Robins About Scott Robins

Scott Robins is a librarian at the Toronto Public Library and the co-author of A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics. He is the children's programming director for the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He has also served on the graphic novel selection committee for the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens and is a jury member of the Joe Shuster Awards in the "Comics for Kids" category.


  1. Nathan Hale says:

    I really wish I had made it to this panel. It was on my Comic-Con to-do list. But we didn’t make it in time. Thanks for the report!

  2. How about some thoughts on graphic novels or comics in schools? The kids in my school love Bone, but that’s all we have. Do graphic comics and anime have a place in an elementary school(k-5)library?

  3. SCOTT ROBINS says:

    Claud – I have a report on a panel on Comics in the Classroom to post from SDCC. There’s some interesting insights from there. I’m moving in the next couple of weeks so its been a bit delayed. But also, take a look through all the review posts from this site to get a sense of the other great books that could definitely have a place in elementary school libraries and classrooms.

  4. Karen Mac says:

    At our library, we’ve started having “Comics Jams.” We use our ELMO device to display selection from graphic novels/comics/manga chosen by kids who come to the Jams. Kids take turns with us reading the comics in funny voices and we all have a blast! It’s essentially a comics book club where members read the book together and discuss it right then and there.

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