That photo to the right is what greeted me today when I got to my Teen Room. We all know how well-loved our graphic novels are—we can see them loved to bits, literally. Given that every library eventually runs out of shelf space, and titles slowly fall to bits, no matter how popular a collection may be, the dreaded question of how best to weed graphic novel collections is asked on many a listserv and in many a workshop. With thanks to all the discussions I’ve had over the years, both in person and online, here are my basic guidelines for having to thin the herd of (undoubtedly popular) graphic novels.
1. Weeding for condition
The easiest for most librarians to tackle is the simple act of weeding a title because it’s falling apart. Many graphic novels are read upwards of 50 to 100 times, if not more, and eventually even the most mended volumes will eventually become unreadable. Pages yellow, binding shreds, and covers get more and more tattered. Of course, in terms of saving space, this does not help, as a replacement copy will be ordered for popular and mid-series titles, but it’s a good place to start.
2. Checking for duplicates
This may seem like easy advice, but I do find that checking for duplicate copies can help weed out a bit of space. Sometimes a once-popular title just doesn’t warrant multiple copies any more, so you can just weed the volumes in poorest condition and keep one on your shelf.
3. Weeding due to low circulation
To be perfectly blunt, this is rarely a problem. Most of my graphic novels, whatever collection I’m looking at, circulate and have circulated in what would be for prose novels a robust number of times per year. My most popular graphic novel titles have gone out around 20 times in the past two years or over 100 times in their entire time on the shelf. My steady titles have gone out 4-5 times in the past year.
However, this is when you have to skew your thinking a bit if ruthless weeding is in order. If it hasn’t gone out in the past two years, it’s likely going to go. If it has only circulated a few times in its entire lifetime and still hasn’t gone out in the past two years, it’s definitely gone. Even if it has circulated in the past year, condition and general popularity may put it on the chopping block. As an example, the manga series Oh My Goddess! was once a standard order for teen and adult guys and was steadily popular, but I’ve come very close to weeding the entire series due to low circulation now.
On the reverse side, though, if it’s a stand-alone title that is likely to move relatively infrequently, I’ll give it more of a chance. The majority of my nonfiction graphic novels do not fly off the shelves, nor do the stand-alone, more independently published titles. They get more leeway.
4. Weeding for random volumes
My least popular titles are most often those titles that are out of order from a series—so, even if the series itself might be popular, if I only have a couple of volumes out of sequence, they’re not going out. We’ve all had someone lose a number of key volumes to a series, and sadly, many of us have to contend with theft. Superhero series do better with missing volumes, as the basic stories can be followed in each volume without leaving the reader hanging. With manga, this is not the case: when you only have volumes 4, 7 and 8 left of the 10-volume series Sand Chronicles, it’s just not going to make sense to keep them. Some libraries may be able to go back and purchase new copies of the missing volumes, but for many, the decision will have to be to weed out the remaining volumes. The upside of that will be more space for newer series, but it’s especially sad when series are no longer available (because they have gone out of print or the publisher has gone out of business.)
5. Weeding because there will *sniffle* never be any more
Which brings us to weeding a series because there is simply little hope of ever being able to finish it. As many of us know, the past few years have seen a dwindling of available titles due to companies going out of business or simply stopping publication on a series.
There are a few titles that I cling to precisely because there will never be any hope of getting another edition. I continue to keep the charming Amy Unbounded or Kazu Kibuishi’s early treasure Daisy Kutter. However, whether it’s because a publisher has gone out of business or a license has been lost, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and jettison a whole series that will never be complete. I still hold out hope for a few of the better Tokyopop licensed series finding publishing homes (and in fact, I just heard word that somehow, someday, Jen Lee Quick’s series Off*beat may finally get a third and final print volume), but I really don’t need to keep the random volumes of less than stellar Tokyopop series on my shelves. Even if they circulate moderately well, I’d rather have space for newer titles that might one day actually be complete.
Other solutions to space problems can be more creative. If a series is not circulating but may have more appeal to another segment of your readers (either Children’s or Adult), try moving it to that section’s graphic novel collection and see if circulation picks up. If it doesn’t, at least you gave that series a bit more of a chance to find its feet.
Finally, if you are part of a networked system, why not check in with your fellow librarians and see about sharing series? If you discover you have volumes 4, 7 and 8 left of Sand Chronicles but a neighboring library has 1-3 and 5, why not consider sending your few volumes to them to form a more complete run of the series? You will know the series exists somewhere and has a better chance of circulating well, and your patrons can still request them. This can be taken further by investigating to see who owns what series in your network and allows you to weed titles readily available elsewhere in your system secure in the knowledge that your patrons will still be able to request their favorites.
So, dear readers, what are your tactics for weeding? Any solutions that you have found to work best? Where do you draw your lines in terms of weeding and letting a title have just a little more time?
The Good Comics for Kids Question Tuesday column is here to do one thing: answer your questions! To send in your questions for the next Question Tuesday, please go to our form here or send out a tweet to me at @nfntrobin or to all of us at @goodcomics4kids. We will endeavor to answer as many questions as possible in our weekly column. All questions are due in by Friday at midnight so we’ll have a chance to write up the answers for the next week.