Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Panel Discussion Recap

Yesterday's graphic novel panel discussion for the librarians went pretty well. The whole meeting was kicked off by Michael Wallace, a speaker hired through the YALSA who has a background in working with teens and has a love for graphic novels and comics. He started out talking about youth services and what role or roles public libraries have to play in regards to them.

His main focus seemed to sit on using graphic novels to get kids reading, especially kids who have trouble reading. He made an interesting point in regards to reading comprehension, that the most difficult thing to teach is how to make connections between different ideas by simply using words. If I understood his presentation, graphic novels can serve as a middle ground between picture books and books without pictures. He didn't seem to focus much at all on the artistic merits of the medium, although he did mention Maus winning the Pulitzer for literature. In his defense, though, he ran short on time. It was easy to tell he was used to speaking longer than the 45 minutes the meeting allowed him.

The panel discussion itself went pretty much how I thought it would. The panel was comprised of one guy who really knows superhero comics, another who really knows manga, a woman who knows manga fairly well, and little old me. Since my main interest is more on the indie side of things, it was a nice balance and I think we presented some good titles to them. The librarians were pretty receptive to hearing about graphic novels we all personally like, even the librarians who don't think much of the form. One comment I made that seemed to stick with them was that comics are a medium of expression, not a genre within a medium. While I can't take credit for the thought (I think I stole it from Scott McCloud, but I'm not sure) it's one that's important to remember. Especially with recent comics like the graphic version of the 9/11 report that just came out.

At the end, several from the audience came up, thanked us and asked for our emails to hit us up with questions. The four of us on the panel decided we'd like to try to get together again in a few months and maybe develop a e-newsletter of some sort to suggest new titles. I liked everyone in the group, so it would nice to stay in touch with them.

Only somewhat related, one of my classes this coming term for library school is on collection development. If we have any large projects I'm hoping to be able to use graphic novels in some way. Since it's still a growing field for libraries, I'm starting to think it might be a good area to get involved in.

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