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YA, graphic novels and the spaces in between

Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category

Why collect graphic novels?

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I’m writing about the interviews I conducted with six librarians last year. (Names of people and libraries have been changed to ensure confidentiality.) One of the first topics we discussed was why their library had a graphic novel collection. The most common reason was because their borrowers wanted to read them, with interest gleaned through requests for purchase and circulation statistics once acquired. Ms Marchamley cited the popularity of graphic novels among her students as the reason for Banksia Park High School Library’s collection, “I don’t think you can deny that they’re not getting used, especially all the new ones.” Her colleague Ms Tyler continued, “I mean nothing really sits on the shelf.” Ms Turner said of Tuart Grove High School Library’s graphic novels, “There’s a little hard core of students who prefer that format, so they’re ticking over steadily.”

As a voracious reader of graphic novels, Mr Carlton had slightly different reasons for a library collecting graphic novels. He was passionate about the format and read them in his spare time. He referred to their popularity, but also considered graphic novels were “a part of literature.”

I think you can’t not have graphic novels in your collection, because not everyone wants [conventional books]. I mean if you’re going to have you know, audio cassettes,…you’re going to have videos, books, DVDs…It’s just another format. And you’ve got the internet in there, so you’ve got graphic novels whether you want it or not through the internet [ie. web comics].

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Written by ClareSnow

29 December 2008 at 10:02 am

Yaoi in the Library

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Update: I made a mistake in this post and corrected it 11 June 2009.

I interviewed Librarian Ms Davilak at Hakea Park Public Library for my PhD research. (Names of people and libraries have been changed to ensure confidentiality.)

Yaoi Hakea Park’s graphic novel collection was located in the YA area. When complaints were received about titles in this collection (at that time only from staff members before the title was put on the shelf), the title was investigated and if found to be unsuitable for teenagers, moved to the general (adult) collection and interfiled with ordinary fiction. One such title was manga of the genre Boys’ Love, which has themes of romance and love between two men [1]. This genre is aimed at different age groups, and includes Yaoi, erotic titles aimed at adults [2]. The title at Hakea Park had no explicit material – the two male characters only went as far as kissing. It was deemed to be unsuitable for the YA collection and moved to adult fiction. Young People’s Librarian Ms Davilak felt this outcome was acceptable, because the title had not been removed from the library. It was investigated by four librarians at Hakea Park and deemed suitable for teenagers. Ms Davilak explained, “We all talked about it. We decided that we would leave it where it was.” A fortunate outcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) teenagers and those questioning their sexuality who would benefit from finding such material in their YA collection. While Yaoi and Boys’ Love is generally created by and for women and McLelland believes,

Gay men tend not to identify with the beautiful youths in women’s manga and feel that these figures are figments of women’s imaginations. [3]

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Written by ClareSnow

10 October 2008 at 11:38 am

Challenges to Graphic Novels in Libraries

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Updated 1 August to correct a misquote from David Serchay**

I’m currently writing my PhD thesis, collating all the data I amassed from my survey, focus groups and interviews. It’s a slow process, but this week my muse has been visiting and I’ve been writing about challenges to graphic novels in libraries. A discussion on the GNLIB-L email list a couple of months ago reflected some of what my interviewees discussed, so I thought I’d blog about it.

Are comics just for kids?

The perception that comics and graphic novels are “just for kids” [1] was true in the past, but is no longer the case. Janna Morishima, a publisher of children’s comics and graphic novels, said at the 2007 New York ComicCon, “It has been over forty years since comics were really a kid’s medium” [2]. The perception still lingers and causes problems in libraries with graphic novel collections, particularly those housed within a Young Adult (YA) section.

What may go unchallenged in words only, may become contentious when delivered graphically. [3]

The visual nature of graphic novels makes titles aimed at a more mature audience more easily accessible than ordinary books, which may have to be read in their entirety to find objectionable passages. A graphic novel could be flicked through, one or two objectionable pictures noticed, and the whole item deemed “inappropriate” [4]. In discussing adult manga in Japan, long time writer on manga, anime and Japanese culture, Fred Patten maintains,

Practically every adult [manga] comic of any length will involve sexual relationships at some point, usually graphically depicted though not to the extent of being X-rated. [5]

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Written by ClareSnow

31 July 2008 at 12:01 pm

“Real” reading

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There’s been a discussion on the GNLIB-L email list about whether reading a graphic novel is the equivalent of reading an ordinary book. This is something I’ll be discussing in my literature review for my thesis. (I’ve already done most of my lit review, but the rest of my thesis is still a work in progress.) A teacher librarian on GNLIB-L asked if reading graphic novels leads to reading other materials and someone from a public library asked why this is necessary,

comics and graphic novels are not just a phase that readers go through. They are a physical format that many readers enjoy, and in many cases become part of an ongoing reading experience.

Another public librarian said,

I am happy to see kids, teens, adults, reading anything.

I’ve been transcribing recordings from interviews I did with librarians about their graphic novel collections and I’ve just come across the same discussion in an interview with a teacher librarian. Like the teacher librarians on GNLIB-L, she wanted students to branch out after reading graphic novels. (I’ve changed people’s names to ensure confidentiality).

Researcher: Do you think they [graphic novels] encourage reluctant readers to read?
Renee: I don’t, no.
Researcher: Yeah?
Renee: No, I think they’re really an acquired taste. And I think what they do is they…they’re a bit of a safety blanket for students who are maybe not the keenest of readers. Who aren’t very adventurous. We’ve got a couple of Year 8s in that category who it’s really hard to get off the…[graphic novels] and get them onto other things. Having said that I had a little look at the students who tend to read only this stuff and not much else and had a look in their records to see what else they’ve read over the last couple of years. And it’s all predominantly fantasy…And often quite complex you know, quite intricately written stuff. So it’s not that they can’t read it’s just that…
Researcher: They like that genre.
Renee: Yeah.
…snip…
Renee: But some of them you have to definitely push them out of their comfort zone and get them to read something else. We’ve got a scheme running in Year 8 at the moment…where they’re encouraged to read from a variety of different genres and in the early days there are two students in particular I can think of who are from an Asian background who every time it came to doing a task on a book they would pick manga and do it on those and you know, the teacher and I were sort of trying to funnel them off that channel onto something else. I mean we’ve got there now, but as soon as something else graphic comes in you know they want…
Researcher: They want that.
Renee: Yeah and they’re all searching the catalogue to see what there is and what we’ve got.
Researcher: Yeah. So you don’t think it’s like some people think, “Oh it’s fine if they only ever read graphic novels.” You do try to get them to read…
Renee: Oh, in the same way, if someone only ever read fantasy.
Researcher: Yeah.
Renee: I’d say, “Try something else, try historical fiction or try something from a different genre.”
Researcher: So you think variety is the best thing?
Renee: I think, well…I mean how do you know what else is out there if you don’t have a little try of it? Yes, it would be a bit like saying someone could only eat Italian food for the rest of their life. You know, not try any of the other things.

Renee the teacher librarian is a bit contradictory in what she says. While she thinks GNs don’t lead to reading other things, she mentioned the students who also read fantasy. But as mentioned on GNLIB-L, fantasy (and sci-fi)

are genres that still don’t get the respect they deserve from many “literary” minded people.

This interview highlights the difference between public and school libraries. A school librarian on GNLIB-L said,

as teachers we have some responsibility to help kids find out about all genres and formats.

The interview I transcribed before this was with Nathan, a former public library colleague who was also an avid reader of comics and graphic novels. He went to a new employer and was very happy to work at improving their graphic novel collection. Although a library clerk he advised the YA librarian on purchases and greatly enjoyed accompanying her to comic shops with $1000 to spend. He was passionate in saying graphic novels were equivalent to ordinary (text only) books and a legitimate part of literature, comparing the drawings to artwork and thus the books to literature.

This made me wonder if it was whether a person enjoyed reading the format themselves that lead them to think it was fine to only read graphic novels and not go onto reading ordinary books. The majority of the population doesn’t read or enjoy comics and graphic novels, and Renee the teacher librarian told me she didn’t like reading them herself, “Personally it doesn’t do it for me.” As well as the differences between school and public librarian’s goals, this could be a factor in the situation.

Of course Renee and Nathan are only two case studies and I can’t generalize from that to everyone, but it’s something to discuss in my thesis.

Written by ClareSnow

15 March 2008 at 4:47 pm

Last Interview

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Last year I interviewed librarians from public and school libraries who have graphic novel collections. One school library didn’t have the time to talk to me before the summer holidays and last week I was able to talk to two members of the library staff. So I’ve finished all my interviews. Yay! I’m still transcribing the recordings and the amount of data I’ve amassed seems daunting. But as with the focus groups, once I’ve coded it in Nvivo it’ll be a lot easier to deal with (computers make things so much easier, sometimes). I’ve just got to finish all the boring transcribing and coding.

The libraries were all very different in the way they handled their graphic novels, how long they’ve had their collections and the use the teenagers/students made of the graphic novels. The growing popularity of manga was shown in the last library, with a lot of their graphic novel use and borrowing coming from manga.

During my last interview I was able to recommend the GNLIB-L email list as a good source of info on graphic novels. It can be a busy list, but it’s useful for news, reviews, recommendations and general questions about graphic novels in libraries. If you ask a question there’s always someone (and usually more than one person) who knows the answer. Last year the address changed and the above link is to the current address.

Written by ClareSnow

5 March 2008 at 2:16 pm

Interviews with librarians

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I’m interviewing school and public librarians who have graphic novel collections in their library. At first I was just going to talk to public librarians, but after going to schools for the focus groups I realised I want to talk to school librarians as well.

I’m investigating librarians’ thoughts on their graphic novel collections, users of the collection, and the format in general. I have an interview guide with questions, which is available online. The discussion is allowed to go onto other topics if this happens.

I’ve done my first interview. It was with a former colleague, which is a good way to begin. I hope the rest of the interviews go as well as this first one did.

Written by ClareSnow

30 July 2007 at 2:34 pm

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