Comic books & graphic novels – one year on
One of my (self-appointed) tasks as a library officer in the Senior Library @ TTS is managing our collection of comic books. When I started working there, we had about two full shelves of graphic novels. Many of them were graphic novel adaptations of ‘classic’ novels, like Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights, but we also had lots of other titles that I though kids would be more likely to pick up for leisure reading like Preludes & Nocturnes, superhero titles like Batman and The Hulk, the whole Tintin and Asterix collections, and a couple of mangas.
I asked our then head of library why we didn’t bring in monthly single issue titles, because I thought it might be a nice way not only of capturing students’ attention, but also of keeping them coming back, to read the new releases as they came out every month. She herself wasn’t familiar with new titles (in her words – “my knowledge of comic books extends to Beano and Mad Magazine”) but was more than happy to let me run it as a little experiment to see how the students would react to it.
Getting Started – what to actually buy?
The timing of this experiment was actually very fortuitous – both DC and Marvel were going through a bit of a reboot. The DC Rebirth universe was just starting, and Marvel, well…. they’ve since started yet another reboot, but that’s another discourse for another day. I knew I wanted to get some titles that our users would already be familiar with, because that would be more likely to grab their attention. Our youngest students are 11, and they’re also the ones most likely to try new things and to actually get excited about stuff like this, so I knew the titles had to be age appropriate.
I used to read a lot of comics when I was younger, and I’ve brought home the occasional graphic novel since (I even did a whole presentation of the art of Sandman during my MLIS course) but I’ve never really kept up with things, or been on top of the latest news in the world of comics. So I reached out to the people around me who do actively keep up with these things. One of them, my trainer Suria, recommended that I visit Absolute Comics because that’s where he gets his comics from, and the staff were not just very knowledgeable, but extremely nice and helpful as well.
While Suria is a real pain in the ass a lot of the time (like when he makes me do burpees when all I want is to eat a giant sundae and watch trashy TV), one thing he doesn’t do is lie to me. The staff really are brilliant, and every month since that first time I visited, it’s been a pleasure to stop by and chat with whoever’s on duty at the time. The very first visit I made, they not only made a couple of great age-appropriate suggestions (Teen Titans, Invincible Iron Man, Champions), but also got me hooked up with a membership discount, a copy of Previews World to browse through at my own pace, and gave me an email address and contact number to reach out to should I have any further questions.
Since then, they’ve accommodated my requests for ridiculous titles I’ve scrounged up from the back of beyond, continued recommending me great new titles, and even thrown in a couple of freebies now and then like movie posters that I’ve passed on to the film department in school. They keep me on track with cross-overs and tie-ins, and just generally really amazing vendors. I cannot recommend them enough if you’re based in Singapore and looking to get your own comic book fix.
Where are we now?
We’re coming up on to the one year anniversary of our first purchase, and we currently have just under 350 single issues in our collection. I pick up my shipment from Absolute Comics once a month. While some months have a couple more titles, what with trade paperbacks or special requests, and some months have less because of series ending their runs or cancelled subscriptions, I average about 30 titles a month.
Circulation statistics probably aren’t the most accurate reflection of how much use they’re getting, because being single issues they only run to about 20 odd pages each, so they tend to get read in the library premises rather than being checked out and brought home by users. But I can say with confidence that the experiment was quite a success, and our users love this addition to the collection.
It’s not just the reluctant readers or the boys who are picking these up either – one of our most regular users is a girl who reads voraciously across our entire collection. Parents pick things up for their kids, staff members stop by my desk and ask when the new titles will be in… the approachability of the genre is abundantly clear to me, and I genuinely look forward to cataloguing and putting out the new titles every month. It really is one of my favourite things I do at work, and I’m glad it’s taken off so well and is making so many people happy in the process.