Greg Baldino writes from C2E2 for Bleeding Cool
If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time checking out graphic novels from the library like there’s no tomorrow, because one can only buy so many intersectional feminist comics when you have to pay rent in Chicago. But can the world’s greatest libraries and your friendly neighborhood comic shops work together? Are they mortal enemies locked in an endless Bataillean cycle of destruction and renewal? Or can they be unlikely allies, with bickering and karate?
The answers to these and literally all other questions were answered in the C2E2 panel “When Comic Shops, Teachers, and Libraries Work Together,” hosted by moderating influence Jason Nisavic, a teacher from Allen B Shepherd High School.
Joining him on the panel were comics retailer Tim Davis, owner of Alternate Reality Comics, Ann Marie Bryant, librarian for Richards High School, and Izabel Gronski, young adult librarian for Oaklawn Public Library.
Izabel was the first librarian to speak, talking about how she runs comic book conventions at her public library. The impetus behind them was, as she described, to make the events free and more accessible for patrons and families who may not be able to afford the cost and time of going to a traditional comic convention in the city. This also led to her putting together a symposium on teaching with comics. Libraries, it turns out, are good places to put on such events because unlike most bookstores they generally have rooms for meetings and public events that can be repurposed for panels and retailers.
Ann Marie noted that the teachers in her school were a mix of young educators who were very comic book savvy and more veteran instructors who were more reluctant and less comfortable with comics being used as educational tools in the classroom. One of the things she cited, which would come up again in the later Q & A session, was the use of graphic adaptations of classic literature as a learning aid to help students better understand books.
One book which got name checked more than any other was Bitch Planet. One of the things Izabel and Ann Marie talked about was how while as a school librarian ordering a book with that title would be very likely challenged by the school board, a public library was not under such constraints. (In fact. the Oaklawn Library ordered in 10 copies of the book to support it as a library reading club selection.)
As a retailer, Tim is under a different set of circumstances and goals, with both advantages and disadvantages. Explaining the layout of his store, with kids titles in the front, more mainstream/PG comics in the rest of the store, and a “adult” section sequestered in the back, Tim shelves Bitch Planet in the adult section. While he doesn’t find the book offensive himself, because of the type of store he wants to present to his customers he doesn’t want to have such a title out where it could be viewed without context and cause offense.
However he still carries it because one of the things he has always tried to do is carry the widest range of graphic novels, something Jason found to be useful as an educator. For Jason, the advantage of a diverse collection of books, either in a store or in a library, is being able to browse and find unexpected material that can be used to support lesson plans and curriculum standards.
Questions from the audience ranged from queries about how to put on comic conventions in your own library (PROTIP: we learned to not use the trademarked word “comic-con” with hyphen or San Diego Comic-Con may send you a cease-and desist,) to handling requests for books from minors that could be red flag situations.
One thing that was agreed upon was how tying graphic novels to curriculum standards was the most effective leverage for getting comics into school libraries and classrooms. And one of the best ways to argue for a graphic novel meeting said standards is with scholarly articles on them.
So clearly, for the good of schools and libraries everywhere, I have to keep doing this.
Greg Baldino just finished writing his third book on Monday of this week, so it is nonsense that he signed up to write articles all weekend. Never go freelance, kids.