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Graphic novels in your YA collection

January 20, 2009
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I originally had (something like) this scheduled to post last week, then I took another look at it and said to myself, “Trisha, you are really wordy in this post, even more rambly than usual, when the most important part is actually the last paragraph and there are some 700 or so other words that don’t matter as much.” Then, going through some of my RSS feeds, I read this post from The Reader’s Advisor Online blog, and this section in particular poses part 1 of what I was trying to ask:

Where does it go? Books, bless them, are actual tangible items that must physically rest in one place on our shelves. And wherever a book does go, we also have to work out a way for finding it again, which is where Dewey Decimal and Guys who Deal with Medical Reference come in. But, and here’s the twist: readers’ advisors not only have to know about the book, and where the book goes, but also how to get that book to readers who might enjoy it (who may or may not be readers who regularly browse the Medical Reference shelves).

Substitute Medical Reference with manga, graphic novels, or light novels and that’s part of what I want to know. Should I put the Artemis Fowl graphic novel with the graphic novels or in regular YA fiction with the rest of Colfer’s books? What about Shannon Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge? Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki? But these are decisions regarding individual books and I’m also interested in the larger picture. You can pick up a couple of books and decide where you’re going to put each one, but how do you maintain consistency in these decisions across a larger number of books?

The bigger question, then, is how would I create consistency in these shelving decisions? I don’t want to be arbitrary, and I think making shelving decisions purely based on potential circulation is arbitrary, but I also don’t want some of these GNs that are tougher sells than your typical superhero GN or shōjo/shōnen manga to languish on the shelf. What I do want to be is consistent. As a librarian, I want consistency so that people know, this is where you’ll find books of that type. I have no problem with shelving some prose fiction by series. For example, the Students Across the Seven Seas books. I can justify putting them together on logical, concrete grounds: they’re branded in the sense that the S.A.S.S series name is on the books and the covers have the same look, the individual books are written by different authors, and they’re published on a regular basis. Making a decision on based solely on where I think an item will circulate best ? That seems so capricious. But is consistency not as important as putting a graphic novel—particularly one like Skim—or a light novel where the most people who would be interested in borrowing it will find it, and who cares what this means for consistency?

For any librarians/library school students, I’ve saved the, let me see, six paragraphs that originally preceded this and basically cover how my collection development philosophy regarding the subject has adapted. You can read them below the cut. And, even if you’re not a librarian, I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding the above questions.

How do you treat them in your YA section? Specifically, how do you handle the graphic novel adaptations of prose novels (e.g., Coraline, Artemis Fowl) and graphic novels written by authors whose backlist is comprised of prose novels (e.g. Shannon Hale and Rapunzel’s Revenge, Cecil Castellucci’s two Plain Janes books)? Alternatively, what about light novels? Do you put them with manga or regular YA fiction?

With the manga adaptations of Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak series coming out this year, as well as the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya novels, this topic has been on my mind recently. (Aha, it’s all because of you, Yen Press and Little, Brown!) I used to be very strict about putting graphic novels in their own section, but, especially after the demise of Minx, I’m starting to rethink things.

One of the things that multiple bloggers commented on regarding Minx is that (they think) it would have done better in YA fiction sections, NOT with graphic novels, where, apparently, it was shelved in bookstores. In my library, I have the Minx books with the graphic novels, and so these comments did make me rethink why I put them with the rest of there to begin with.

Originally, it was for consistency. I figured, since I already had a graphic novel section, it made sense to put all graphic novels together. A person looking for a graphic novel could just head there to find what they’re looking for. But then…what about the browsers? Someone who might not know that, yes, they really do want to read Graphic Novel A by Author B because they liked Prose Novel C? Or the Artemis Fowl fan who has already read the entire series but had no idea the graphic novel existed and who would be interested in reading it if only he knew about it, so he can see what Holly, Foaly, and Mulch look like? Would they know to look with the graphic novels?

Now, I’m starting to really think about these questions first instead of automatically putting everything with the graphic novels. I’m saying, Wait, I think this would do better with the regular fiction. Should I put it there or with the graphic novels? I haven’t yet gone back and moved older books out of the graphic novel section, though I’m considering doing so. Which I guess solves the Cirque du Freak question. But what about the other way? Actually, I have been putting light novels with the manga originals, figuring they would circulate better there, so I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for me to do come to the same conclusion about prose originals and GN/manga adaptations.

Now that I’ve got that figured out, where does this leave me with the various Minx titles and other non-superhero GNs? I could put the two Plain Janes GNs with the rest of Castellucci’s books, but where would the Minx books that weren’t written by prose authors go? Should I just say forget it, GNs only go into regular fiction if I already have a book by the author in the regular fiction section? I don’t want to create a special Minx section, especially since the line has already been discontinued. But then, there are some graphic novels I think would circ better out of the graphic novel section, written by authors who don’t have the same fiction backlist as Castellucci, Hale, et al. I’m tempted to move Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim from the graphic novels to regular fiction because of this. I have it with my fiction new books right now and am pleasantly surprised by how well it’s circulated there, but once it moves from the new book section, I don’t think it’ll circ as well with the graphic novels. If I did move it from the GNs, should I then to put Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki with the regular fiction so the two books can be shelved together?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2009 10:42 am

    You had a lot to share and so do I…so I will try to make this concise and understandable🙂

    It makes sense to put all the manga together in a specific location, as well as marvel/dc superhero graphic novels. These are genres that are seen as specific and seperate from ‘regular’ fiction.

    When it comes to graphic versions of novels or texts, I feel they might be better placed next to the ‘standard’ version. Having the 911 report or Coraline shelved amid O-Parts Hunter doesn’t make too much sense. Someone looking for the traditional 911 report is like, 99% certain to see the graphic version of it and maybe give it a go (same with Artemis Fowl). This is not the case if the graphic versions were sitting on a shelf on the opposite side of the room.

    On the other hand, having Plain Janes (and the other Minx graphic novels) and Daniel Clowes near Dark Knight kind of makes sense to me. As a user, I would expect to find all of those in one location (Perhaps because I have already been taught to look that way by bookstores).

    I guess what I’m saying is there is no easy answer, and books truely have to be shelved on a case to case basis. It might work out the best to follow the layouts of popular bookstores. Unfortunately what is fastest and most sensical is not always the norm. Users accept and adapt to the standard (qwerty keyboards, dodge caravan) and it can be very hard to get them to change to something that will actually work better for them!

  2. January 21, 2009 2:27 pm

    These are really good, interesting, and TOUGH questions you raise! At our library, we put all junior high level comics and graphic novels and manga in one section, apart from fiction. Most graphic nonfiction also goes in this section. So it’s definitely consistent, but I also don’t think it serves the entire GN collection that well.

    Because of their odd sizes, and the packed state of our fiction shelves, it’s practical to shelve them together. But in my observation, the more literary, stand-alone graphic novels get lost/ignored among the more popular manga, superhero, and comic strip books (and Jeff Smith’s Bone series). We do have some limited face-out display racks, and I try to pull books like Rapunzel’s Revenge, Laika, Plain Janes, etc., so they get a little more attention. It’s an okay compromise, but it doesn’t address the author problem.

    Anyway, no answers from my corner… but thanks for the food for thought. It’s a lot to chew on.

  3. January 23, 2009 12:02 am

    Thanks, Emily and Lisa!

    Lisa, it sounds like our YA sections are organized similarly. “Compromise” is a great word to describe it. I was looking at some of my non-superhero GNs today and their circulation was okay. Decent. Not horrible, better than some of my regular fiction, but not close to the superhero GNs and manga. Maybe I shouldn’t be excessively troubled about the circ stats, since, as you pointed out, this GN subset includes literary and standalone titles, and we generally don’t expect literary, standalone novels to circulate as much as series and general/popular fiction. I guess it comes down to the expectation that GN/manga circulation will be significantly higher than non-GN/manga material so I still can’t help wondering if they’d circ more elsewhere, even though if you gave me some of these circ stats for literary, standalone fiction, I probably wouldn’t be (too) disappointed.

  4. January 23, 2009 4:00 am

    Hmm. Sometime in the past week, I was reading an article suggesting libraries have “illustrated fiction” sections that would include picture books for older children and teens — those that are really too old for a picture book section but tend to be ignored when interfiled with novels because they’re skinny, “too babyish,” etc. (Was this in SLJ? Horn Book? A blog? The head spins…) Anyway, I wonder if such a section of sophisticated picture books and the more literary GNs might not make a nice, special hybrid collection of “illustrated fiction” that would really make those titles more visible. Of course, then you’d have to figure out where to put them — in our crowded library, always a problem!

  5. Jenny permalink
    January 23, 2009 8:59 am

    What about interfiling GN along with fiction and putting GN spine labels on them the way we do with genre fiction?

  6. January 28, 2009 1:09 am

    Jenny – This wouldn’t work in my library, because I don’t label my genre books. (I do separate out a few romance series though and shelve them at the end of the fiction collection.) The only stickers we put on the YA spines are the YA stickers and label for the author’s name. And a series designation, if it’s with the series books. If I did put genre labels on my books, though, this might work.

    But then, if you use genre labels and interfile everything, would you put a GN sticker on a book plus a genre label? That would take up a lot of space.

    • Chandra permalink
      March 31, 2009 12:07 pm

      We have a teen room, so we have 2 areas for our books. Outside of the room, we have shelves for our hard covered books, our paperbacks, our paperback series, and our audio books. Inside the room, we have our manga, which is shelves around the room by title. In the center of the room we have 3 display racks. 2 hold magazines, and one holds our American graphic novels. Our YA non-fiction is shelved with the adult non-fiction.

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