What Was Your Most Rewarding Experience as a Librarian?

As librarians, we all know on a base level that we’re making a difference, that our work is important. But too often, we lose sight of the key moments that fill us with joy, each true connection quickly overshadowed by the next project on our list.

Our librarians are excited to share the personal memories they turn to for that extra boost of inspiration.


Julie O’Connor: “Cutting the Ribbon

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a librarian since my job is to help libraries with their collection development needs on a daily basis. It’s gratifying to help solve collection development conundrums, whether they be large or small. But if pressed, I think back to one of my first experiences as a project librarian. It was 2005 and Camden County, New Jersey, received funding to build a much-needed library. Their excitement was contagious because the residents and leaders had waited so long for this building. I know everyone is over the moon when a new library opens or is renovated, but experiencing that for the first time was something that will always stay with me.

Fern Hallman: “Seeing is Believing

I was doing an ongoing vendor selection project and the librarians in that system were not thrilled that I was selecting their books. The library administrators who had decided to hire Brodart to do it that way held a meeting where the local library staff could ask me questions about my process. One of the librarians said she decided to put all of my recent selections on a book cart to really take a hard look at them and discovered that they were all checked out.

Scott Piepenburg: “Blazing a Trail

My most rewarding experience as a librarian was when I was put in charge of the district automation program for Dallas Independent School District, then the eighth largest school district in the nation. We took 225 schools from only five with any type of automation to full automation in 18 months. This included purchasing and installing computers, creating a district-wide network (none existed at the time), and undertaking a complete retrospective conversion of the shelf lists.

At the time, it was the most extensive automation project in the nation and resulted in the largest school automation project in the United States; we did this while also creating and implementing centralized receiving and cataloging, doing almost 5,000 titles per week. Having no model to follow, as the system administrator, I was quite excited with the project, and pleased how well it turned out.

Stephanie Campbell: “The Stay-Behind

When I was just starting out as a librarian, I worked in older adult outreach services and was charged with creating engaging programs for residents at nursing homes and assisted living apartments. The divergent mental and physical health issues found in institutional settings, coupled with different backgrounds and experiences, make these seniors a particularly challenging group to entertain. Playful activities such as bingo, crafts, and sing-alongs were the most prevalent among the in-house recreational offerings at that time.

I took a more educational approach, with book talks and brief documentaries on particular topics to encourage conversation. Residents often dozed off during my programs. Others left the room when they got bored. Some stayed just to be polite, then thanked me, and bolted out the door the minute it was over. I performed these programs monthly at multiple facilities and it was wonderful when the topic and the audience were a good match. But even if I could reach just one person, it made it all worthwhile.

I remember one female resident in particular who attended every program I did at that nursing home. One day, as she lingered after the presentation, she told me how much she valued my visits and the material I chose to present, because it made her feel like an adult again, not treated as a child. It was both heartbreaking and gratifying to hear that. I ended up personally delivering books to her outside of work for a while. The power of human connection really hit me, and I began to realize how much I could make a difference in someone’s life.

Suzanne Hawley: “Nothing Beats a ‘Black Tie’ Auction with a Vanna White Lookalike

In order to get my fifth-graders to read more and write about what they read, I decided to hold a dress-up auction near the end of the school year. The kids read like crazy and wrote about what they’d read. The biggest hurdle for me was to read all the letters…there were at least 90 students writing letters most years! I gave them points, which would be used as dollars to bid with. On the day of the “black tie” auction, we gave each student a paper black bow tie with the number of dollars they had earned. We had an auctioneer and a Vanna White lookalike. Everyone—teachers, students, parents, administrators—were dressed to the nines. I used a book called “Celebrity Addresses” and sent letters to everyone in there I thought the kids would like an autograph or trinket from. It was exciting to watch the items roll in. We received, among other things, an autographed picture from Michael Jordan, a pound (!) of Wrigley bubblegum, an FBI cap, many gift certificates, tapes from popular singers, many coupons for restaurants, and so much more.

Parents manned tables where the kids would go with their ties when they won an item. They’d receive their winnings and the parent would subtract the amount it cost from their balance. I held these auctions in three schools for 20 years. Once a community realized how much fun it was, they began contributing items. We even got bicycles and TVs. Fifth grade was the highest grade in all these schools. Teachers from other grades were invited to bring their classes in to watch for half an hour and in the last schools we could stream it on the TV. The end result was a huge increase enthusiasm for reading in every grade. The kids couldn’t wait to get to fifth grade so they could participate in the auction.

Kat Kan: “A Zoom Surprise and a Virtual Hug

There have been so many over the several decades that I’ve worked as a librarian. Here is one of the most recent.

A couple of weeks before this writing, as we were leaving our church after the service, I heard someone shouting, “Mrs. Kan! Mrs. Kan!” I turned, and a tall boy came running down the path from the building. He was one of my former students when I was a school librarian. I hadn’t seen him since May 2019. He was one of the quiet ones, always drawing, borrowing books, not saying much. I always looked out for him, to make sure he was feeling comfortable and that he was always welcome in the library. That Sunday he told me how much he missed me, and the library. Then he proudly told me, “I can drive now!”

He has a younger brother, who was not the best student, but did enjoy coming to the school library and always borrowed books to read for fun. This past Sunday, I spoke to their mother; she’s been attending services at our church for about a month now. She told me that her younger son has connected with some of his classmates and former classmates, and they have their own Zoom book club! She told me “It’s all because of you. You helped them to love reading.” She’s clearly proud of her sons, but gave me credit for them becoming readers. I nearly cried.

I work in a public library now, and my department answers our county’s Citizen Information Line to help people with questions about getting tested for COVID-19, registering for vaccinations, and so on. Here, people must register and make appointments for the free COVID-19 tests at the county’s contracted clinic; the website is clunky and rather difficult for most people to navigate. There is no direct way to contact the clinic or the company that designed the website, so we get those calls. Sometimes callers reach us after trying for hours to find information. When I answer the line, I try to be as helpful and comforting as I can be.

Today, I helped a woman who called our line three times (I helped her twice). I stayed on the line with her as she negotiated the website and finally succeeded in setting up appointments for herself and her husband. At the end of the third call, she said, “I don’t know your name, but if I could, I’d give you the biggest hug! You people (meaning my department) are the only ones giving us good information and help! Thank you, we appreciate you so much!” So, helping connect people to books, and helping people get the information they need to help themselves in this pandemic are two aspects of being a librarian. In both cases, just knowing I helped in any small way makes me feel as though I’m doing my part to help the world be a better place.

Gwen Vanderhage: “Cultural Exchange

One of my most rewarding experiences as a public librarian was helping a population of Eritrean refugees who frequented my branch. The children were voracious readers and consumers of American pop culture. It was fun to help them find books and videos — they always had very specific opinions about what icons they were searching for and authors they were reading, but not always the ones we had on the shelf that day. The parents wanted help navigating and printing forms from government websites and getting matched up with computer tutors. They helped us keep our foreign film collection up to date. These families truly emulated why the library is a hub in every community and we were happy to get to know them each evening.


Everyone needs encouragement. Hopefully our librarians have helped you feel better about your own work on the frontlines. If we’ve inspired you in any way, we encourage you to share your story.

What’s one of your most-affirming experiences as a librarian? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Origami How-To: 3 Videos to Get Started

By Kat Kan, MLS

Many people are going stir-crazy these days, so I thought now was a good time to share a few of my origami videos. Feel free to share these tutorials far and wide—and don’t forget to try some origami, yourself!

I have been folding origami since I was like eight years old. I started with origami paper, and when we moved back from Japan to the United States, I actually started using notebook paper from school. You can easily adapt notebook paper, wrapping paper, and others to make origami paper squares, even if you don’t have any at home.

No scissors? No problem! Just fold a piece of paper back and forth along the same edge until the paper weakens. Then, carefully tear in a straight line (It’s easier than it sounds!).

In the first video, I’ll show you how to build three things out of the same piece of paper: a house, a piano, and a fox. Let’s get started.


The traditional paper crane is called the orizuru. This was the very first thing I ever folded. I’m amazed that I did it! But I loved it so much that, of all the different origami that my grandmother taught me, this is still my favorite one. We’ll also be making a flapping bird toy.

In Japan, in the Shinto religion, each time you fold a paper crane, you’re praying. The idea is that if you can succeed in folding 1,000 cranes, your prayer will come true. I also share the true story of a little girl named Sadako Sasaki and the legacy she inspired. Do you have your paper ready?


“Trash Origami” is a really fun book with a lot of different kinds of ideas. We’re going to look at how to make two things from this book: a Jumping Frog and the Crown & Towers Game. That way once you’ve made your frog and your crowns, you can play a fun game with them.


Videos originally posted by Northwest Regional Library System, Florida.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

Beloved Comics Characters: Looking Back at 60 Years of Reading Comics

By Kat Kan, MLS

Recently, a friend on Facebook challenged me to post images of 10 comics characters that had an impact on me. Since I started reading comics with newspaper comic strips when I was in Kindergarten, I realized that I have been reading comics, in one form or another, for 60 years. I used that Facebook challenge to think back over the decades.

I remember watching lots of cartoons on television when I was between four and five years old: mostly Popeye, Mighty Mouse, Yogi Bear, and all the various Hanna-Barbera cartoons that were on back then. We had just moved to San Francisco from Hawaii in 1959. The newspaper’s comics page had strips like Peanuts, Blondie, Little Orphan Annie, and Steve Canyon, but I paid more attention to the humorous strips. I thought I was pretty grown up while “reading” the newspaper every day, although I always went straight to the “funnies.”

PopeyePopeye was one of my favorite cartoons. I could sing along with his “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” theme song, and I decided to eat lots of spinach in the hope I could grow to be as strong as he was (as I’m sure a lot of other kids did, too). Bugs Bunny was another favorite character, and my mother could get us kids to eat whole carrots as a treat. She let us strut around the house saying “What’s up, Doc?” while eating carrots like they were candy. Hmm, my Japanese mother was pretty smart, using cartoon characters to “trick” us into eating healthy…

When my Air Force Sergeant dad was transferred to Japan in late summer 1961, I was ready to start first grade. He and my mother started taking us kids with them to the Base Exchange (BX) every Saturday—think of it as WalMart or Target for military families. The BX had a magazine rack, and the bottom rack was filled with “funny books,” otherwise known as comic books. Until then I really had no idea that such things existed. My parents allowed us to choose one comic book each week (they had to approve our choice), which we three kids had to share. As the oldest, and the one who was actually reading, I tended to choose the comics. Over the course of every week, I’d read and reread the books until they fell apart.

Little LuluSome of my early favorites include Little Lulu, Nancy and Sluggo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, Dennis the Menace (yes, there were comic books, not just the newspaper comic strips), and Richie Rich. Of these titles, my absolute favorite is Little Lulu. She was such a sassy girl, easily able to handle all the boys, especially Tubby. I loved that she wore dresses, but that it didn’t stop her from doing all kinds of fun, physical things. She also believed that she and other girls were just as good as boys, and she acted on that. Decades later, Dark Horse Comics published collections of John Stanley’s Little Lulu comics, and my younger son, then about eight years old, would sit in a chair in my study and read them, giggling most of the time. One day he looked up and told me, “This comic is for girls.” I asked him, “You’re reading the book, do you like it?” “Yeah.” “So, if you like the comic, that means it’s not only for girls, right?” He thought for a moment, then said, “Yes!” And now, present day, Drawn & Quarterly is doing its own reprinting of Little Lulu comics. That girl has had lasting power… and I love it!

When I was in third grade, we Air Force families were moved from the Washington Heights housing in central Tokyo (near Ueno Park) out to newly built housing (called Kanto Mura) nearly an hour away from the city. The housing was set up in quadrangles of four-unit buildings. We had new neighbors, and all of us kids played with each other and went to each other’s homes all the time. The moms all helped each other keep track of us. Our house became the place where a bunch of the boys would come with their stacks of comics; I was the only girl in the group. We’d sit on the living room floor in kind of a circle, put all the comics in the middle, and just read one comic book after another. My parents still only let me buy the funny comics, but some of the boys brought really cool superhero comics. That was my introduction to Batman, The Phantom, Superman, and The Spirit. I really liked those heroes. I loved the adventures, and they just seemed to go better with the books I was reading: mythology, adventures, and mysteries.

Green LanternIn 1964 we moved back to the U.S., and within a few months my parents decided to buy a house. It was just a couple of blocks from a drugstore that had a comic book rack. By this time, I was getting a weekly allowance of a whopping 25 cents! I used part of that allowance once a month or so to buy comics. But now, with my own money, I was buying superhero and adventure comics. I really loved The Green Lantern then; Hal Jordan was my favorite superhero. I think I liked that he was pretty much a regular guy who got his powers from his ring, which in turn was powered by the lantern. It seemed to be more straight science fiction, which I was reading in books.

I also bought Tarzan comics (published by Gold Key). I was already reading the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, borrowed from my local public library. Back then, starting at age 10, I didn’t have to have a parent with me to go to the library and check out books. I read a lot, close to a book a day. When my mother ordered me to go outside, I’d often take a book or some comics and sit outside on the front steps from the sidewalk up to our lawn and read, until she’d order me to either pull weeds or go ride my bike.

By 1967 I would also pick up random comics that tied in to shows I watched on television: The Green Hornet, Star Trek, The Rat Patrol…I reread those comics a lot. I would also borrow comics from our neighbors. I remember reading a big stack of Metal Men comics and some Batman Family comics. I loved Batgirl on the Batman TV show, but the Batgirl in the comics wasn’t like Yvonne Craig’s portrayal, so I didn’t seek out Batman comics on the store racks. I had a nice little stack of comics that I kept reading. I also bought the occasional issue of “Mad,” especially if the issue included a parody of a TV show or movie I liked. In addition, I bought a number of mass market paperback collections of Peanuts comics, which I also read to pieces—literally.

My dad had been deployed to Vietnam the summer of 1967. When he returned home in 1968, he had orders to move across the country to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. As an enlisted man, he didn’t have a generous weight allowance for household goods to be shipped to his new assignment, so he ordered us kids to get rid of a lot of our stuff, especially books and comics. I snuck a few of them into one of my boxes, but I had to give up most of them.

For a couple of years, I just kept rereading those few comics I saved, especially Star Trek and Green Hornet, since I no longer had easy access to stores. We spent one year in Georgia, before my dad was reassigned to Hawaii. While we lived in Kailua that first year there, I found a stack of Classics Illustrated comics at a neighborhood garage sale and bought them. I read lots of classic literature already, but the comics were so much fun! When we finally got base housing at Hickam Air Force Base, where my dad was assigned, I started high school and met a girl who loved science fiction and comics as much as I did. Ruth introduced me to Marvel Comics. In the mid-1960s I had watched the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoons on TV, but I was a DC superhero comics fan. I spent a lot of time at Ruth’s house, where we would read through her X-Men comics.

Fast-forward to the mid-1970s. I was attending University of Hawaii and living at home, while working part-time at the local WaldenBooks. The store carried trade paperback collections of Heavy Metal comics translated from the French: I remember “Lone Sloan: Delirius.” And Simon & Schuster published trade paperback collections of Marvel Comics in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” “Bring On the Bad Guys,” “The Superhero Women,” and others. I found the trade paperback of “God Loves, Man Kills”—a classic X-Men story—and lots more. I went on a buying and reading spree. “Elfquest” by Wendy and Richard Pini came out in trade paperbacks in the late 1970s, along with comic book adaptations of Robert Asprin’s “Myth Adventures” fantasy novels, and I bought and read all of those.

MaiI focused my buying and reading on the trade collections of comics, because I bought them from bookstores. By this time, most supermarkets and drugstores carried very little in the way of magazines or comics. They had done away with the spinner racks, and just displayed a few magazines and maybe some Archie comics digests at the checkout counters. WaldenBooks didn’t carry them, but Honolulu Bookstore carried English translations of Japanese comics, starting in the mid-1980s. When we lived in Japan, I used to “read” the comics in my mother’s Japanese magazines, so when I saw some manga, I picked them up. One of my earliest purchases was “Mai, the Psychic Girl” by Kazuya Koda and Ryoichi Ikegami.

Ronin RabbitI also finally ventured into a couple of specialty comics shops. From that time, I started buying comics issues of some Marvel and DC series, then branched out to Eclipse Comics, Valiant, and several other publishers. Fantagraphics had been publishing “Usagi Yojimbo” comics, and I bought the trade paperback collections. I have kept up with “Usagi Yojimbo” through several decades now; Stan Sakai combines Japanese history, folklore, and cultural traditions to tell compelling stories featuring his ronin rabbit. As a mixed Japanese-White person (in Hawaii we’re called Hapa), I really appreciate seeing my Japanese culture represented in comics. I also bought the original black and white “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trades.

These days, I enjoy manga for the time the creators take to tell the stories, and for telling stories in many different genres—from crime drama to fantasy, to wacky humor, to serious science fiction, to historical fiction, to stories focusing on food, to creepy horror. I like the black and white art, which helps me read horror. I don’t like full-color gore that so many American horror comics depict. I also get a kick out of the fact that several publishers are reprinting or publishing new comics featuring some of the comics characters I read when I was young. And I love seeing prose writers getting into comics: people like Joe Hill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and others. I jumped up and down in my chair and screamed with joy at my computer screen when I saw that Jerry Craft’s graphic novel “The New Kid” had won the 2020 Newbery Award.

I read comics for all different age levels now, including mainstream superhero and independent comics, in almost every genre. I have supported Kickstarter and Patreon projects for a lot of new comics creators. I’m now 65 years old, and I love comics even more than I did at five. I don’t plan to stop reading comics until I can’t read any more at all. I love the incredible diversity of creators, styles, and genres that people can read. They exist in print and online. Some are available for free. Many libraries carry at least a few graphic novels that people can borrow. And I really love that my work at Brodart focuses on helping librarians find good graphic novels for their collections.

I never would have believed, even when I was in library school, that I could use my love for comics in my job. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ll continue on it as long as I can.

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Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

 

The Evolution of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards

By Kat Kan, MLS

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards have seen significant changes over the past 14 years, and I have been honored enough to be a part of the process. I witnessed first-hand the impact librarian judges have made on the Eisner Award voting and how the Awards have evolved to reflect emerging trends in publishing and society at large. It has been a fascinating journey to witness and participate in.

shutterstock_1130802248I’ve worked in libraries for about 36 years now. For most of that time, I have pushed to promote the acceptance of graphic novels as a vital component of library collections. For a couple of decades, it felt like a long, hard slog to convince other librarians of the value of graphic novels. Writing my “Graphically Speaking” column in Voice of Youth Advocates since 1994 may have helped—at least I like to think so! In late fall of 2004, when I was serving as chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Graphic Novel Task Force proposal, I received a phone call from Jackie Estrada, who administers the Eisner Awards for the San Diego Comic-Con International.

Kat Gift Picture

I spent my 50th birthday traveling to serve as a judge for the 2005 Eisner Awards. Jackie Estrada and my fellow judges surprised me with a cake and a very cute stuffed bunny, which I still have to this day.

She said that she wanted to add a librarian to the judges’ panel for the 2005 Eisner Awards, and she asked me to be that librarian judge. The Eisner Awards are the Oscars of the comics industry, so it was a huge deal that she wanted a librarian to be part of the awards. Of course I said yes! I didn’t find out until years later that Mr. Eisner himself had requested librarians to be included as judges for the awards. Incidentally, he passed away in early 2005. I’m sad I never had the chance to meet him.

I had served on various book list selection committees for YALSA over the years, so I had experience with having to read a lot of books, but this time all the reading was comics! For the Eisners, we judges were to select up to five nominees for each award category. We were also tasked with creating a new award category for best digital comic.

We all gathered in San Diego over the first weekend in April 2005. We spent the next two days in marathon discussion sessions, punctuated by someone dashing to a table or box to pull out the comics in question. We talked about the writing, the art, the stories. It was amazing and invigorating. We argued, but things never got heated among us. Jackie sat with us, ready to referee if needed, but our discussions remained cordial. I imagine the interaction between judges is similarly animated and stimulating every year.

There are two stages to the Eisner Awards process (from the Comic-Con Eisner Awards FAQ):

Judging (Nominations)

“The nominees in each category are chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges who meet in San Diego in the spring of each year… The judging panel, which changes each year, consists of five or six people representing various aspects of the comics industry.”

Voting

“Once the nominees have been chosen, voting…usually occurs in mid-April, with a deadline in early June. Voting is open to comic book/graphic novel/webcomic creators (writers, artists, cartoonists, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists); all nominees in any category; comic book/graphic novel publishers and editors; comics historians and educators; graphic novel librarians; owners and managers of comic book specialty retail stores.”

Serving as an Eisner judge is a once in a lifetime opportunity; I can never serve again. However, what Jackie did was open voting privileges, first to me, because I had served as an Eisner judge, then to all librarians who work with graphic novels. Why was this so special?  Before 2005, only those people working directly in the comics industry as publishers, creators, retailers, and journalists, could vote. Librarians were excluded from this list. But within a couple of years, voter eligibility was expanded to include not just comics industry professionals, publishers, and the librarian judges, Powbut also any librarian who works with comics and graphic novels. Broadening representation among judges and voters has helped the Awards to develop.

The following 11 awards categories were introduced after librarians were added to the judges’ panel and are still being presented:

  • Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8) (2012-present)
  • Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12) (2008–present)
  • Best Publication for Teens (ages 13–17) (2008–present)
  • Best Reality-Based Work (2007–present)
  • Best Adaptation from Another Medium (2013-2014, 2016–present)
  • Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Asia (2010–present)
  • Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books (2006–present)
  • Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism (2008–present)
  • Best Academic/Scholarly Work (2012–present)
  • Best Digital Comic (2005–present)
  • Best Webcomic (2017–present)

Since librarians became eligible voters, and as more librarians have taken advantage of that opportunity, we are seeing more independent comics creators and independent book trade publishers being nominated—and winning. Certain categories, especially YA and international adaptations to English, have been expanded. These changes reflect the maturation of the comics/graphic novels segment and growing contributions from what were once considered fringe sources.

Each succeeding year has brought more nominees from outside the Marvel/DC superhero mainstream, and various judges’ panels expanded the younger reader category into three age levels. The international comics category has also been split into two, separating Asian comics from those published elsewhere in the world.

shutterstock_521328379In 2005, seven women were nominated and two of them won. Fast forward to the 2015 Eisner Awards, when there were 30 nominations for women, and 12 of them won. Of the 29 categories, independent comics publishers and trade publishers won most of the awards; DC won one, and Marvel didn’t win any.

In 2019, there were 31 categories. New this year, the webcomics category was divided into digital comics and webcomics. More than 40 of the nominees were women, and Image Comics swept the entire Best New Series category.

The Eisner Awards have undergone dramatic changes over the past 14 years. I’m looking forward to seeing even more diversity and representation among nominees and winners in the years to come.

Sources:

Eisner Awards FAQ

2005 Eisner Award Winners

2015 Eisner Award Winners

2019 Eisner Award Nominees

2019 Eisner Award Winners

Kat_Kan_Better_Pic

Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

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You Can Run a Successful Will Eisner Week

By Kat Kan, MLS

Will EisnerMost people who work with comics in school, public, or academic libraries should have at least heard the name Will Eisner. He wrote and drew comics from the 1930s until his death in early January of 2005. He created the character called The Spirit, wrote military how-to manuals in comic book format during WWII, and continued that work in PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly until 1971. He also wrote and illustrated graphic novels, starting with “A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories” in 1978.

In testament to his standing in the industry, Eisner is commemorated in a number of ways. The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, among the major comics industry awards in the U.S., have been given out since 1988 as part of San Diego Comic-Con International. After his death, Eisner’s niece and nephew, Nancy and Carl Gropper, started the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation. The Foundation has funded library grants in cooperation with the American Library Association, and in 2009 began to commemorate Eisner’s birthday with Will Eisner Week — an annual celebration promoting comics, graphic novel literacy, free speech, and the legacy of Will Eisner. The celebration runs from March 1–7 every year (Eisner’s birthday is March 6). By 2017, which would have been Eisner’s 100th birthday, various agencies produced more than 100 events around the U.S. and in other countries.

For several years now, I have run a small program for Will Eisner Week at my local public library, Bay County Public Library (In fact, my 2016 program has been mentioned in the Will Eisner Week Playbook since 2017). In the past, the library had me do a program for kids and teens on a weekday afternoon, where I featured lots of age-appropriate comics for attendees to look at and gave away some free comics. Will Eisner Week Program 2019 booksThis year, we scheduled an early evening program for all ages, and I brought a sampling of recently published graphic novels and comics for all ages, from TOON Books for very early readers up to graphic novels for adult readers, including Eisner’s last book, “The Plot,” a nonfiction account of the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” I put together a one-page handout with a short biography of Eisner, and I downloaded a great comic about Eisner from Pop Culture Classroom, written by Jill Gerber, illustrated by Matt Strackbein, and edited by Dr. Katie Monnin (it’s a free download). The library made several copies of each handout available for those who attended. I gave a short talk about Eisner and his accomplishments, the Eisner Awards, and how librarians became closely connected to them by serving as judges on the Eisner juries.

We had a small audience of several families and one retired college professor who taught comics at his former institution up north (he’s what we call a snowbird: a winter resident in Florida). I brought a selection of free comics for people to take with them and encouraged everyone to come back for Free Comic Book Day in May. Considering that Panama City had suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Michael just five months before our program, I think it was a great success.

Programs around the country range from comics celebrity-studded panel discussions, film festivals, and comics conventions to small-town library programs, which cover just about anything related to Eisner himself or any aspect of comics and comics fandom. The Foundation provides access to a Playbook with all kinds of ideas for programming, a short biography of Eisner, and a list of past programs in many different libraries domestically and internationally. They also produce a poster and flyer each year featuring art from Eisner that any organization can customize with their program information. All of this is available at www.willeisner.com. This is a great resource for libraries to draw upon when developing their own programs and celebrations.

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Anyone can sign up to hold a program. Check the official web site of Will Eisner Studios, Inc. later on this year (signups usually open around November) to sign up for 2020. If you do, you can email details about your program to be included in their list for 2020, and you can request posters to put up in your library. You can do anything from holding a mini-comic convention, to a comics how-to program, to something like my program, which was more of what I call a “comics petting zoo” with books people for people to look at. Other libraries have done displays of Eisner’s works.  If you have a local comics retailer who is willing to support libraries, you could partner with the retailer for a program. If you know any comics creators local to your area, you might want to ask them to do a comics workshop; that’s what I’d like to do next year.

Just take it from me — conducting a Will Eisner Week program is both fun and easy!

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Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

Graphic Novels and Literacy Programs: Making an Impact

By Kat Kan, MLS

In my 35 years of working in libraries, I have always advocated for including graphic novels in library collections. Back in the early 1980s, that was not a popular position. People regarded comics as “kids’ stuff,” trash reading, or—influenced by Dr. Frederic Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent”a pernicious source of juvenile delinquency. The publication of such comics as “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and “Batman: The Dark Knight,” by Frank Miller, led still others to think of comics as only for adults and not safe for children. I was obliged to battle those wrongheaded perceptions as I tried to introduce comics and graphic novels into the libraries where I worked.

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Over the past three decades or so, things have been gradually changing, as more librarians and teachers have embraced the graphic novel format. Some library professional journals include regular graphic novel reviews, ALA conferences include at least a few panels and programs on comics and graphic novels, and teachers are using more graphic novels in their classes—not just as supplemental reading.

lady with comic_534338989So why comics? The format of art, together with smaller amounts of text (usually in word balloons), generally arranged in panels that show the story’s progression, looks a lot less intimidating to a non-reader or a struggling reader. The trick is, so much of the narrative is reflected in the art. My own mantra is “Exercise Your Whole Brain – Read Comics!”

Comics are now being published on just about every subject you could imagine, from language arts, to math, to science. Comics are especially beneficial for literacy programs due to their visual nature; the combination of text with pictures helps to reinforce memory of the content, and helps all kinds of students, not only those who need more help in building reading and comprehension skills.

Recent immigrant teens who came to the library where I worked in Fort Wayne, Indiana, told me they loved reading manga because the art helped them understand what was going on in the story, and they were learning more English by reading them. Some of my current students at my school check out lots of graphic novels because they think the format is fun and the stories are great. The teachers have told me some of those students struggle to read prose, so they don’t mind that the kids read comics.

Then there are kids like my younger son, who has been reading since Kindergarten (just like his mom!), but who never really enjoyed reading fiction. He did so only when required for class, and thus was branded a reluctant reader by his middle school language arts teacher. The summer before his freshman year in high school, I gave him “Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation,” a graphic novel by Tim Hamilton, and I asked him to try it. He came back to me that evening, bubbling over with excitement about the story and asking the kinds of questions any teacher would love to hear from students. He did read the novel his junior year, and he told me that having read the graphic novel adaptation, he found the prose novel much easier to understand and therefore more enjoyable. Now, as a college student, he actually reads some novels for fun.

TV_372377596Graphic novels also tend to boost library circulation, a topic discussed in a Publishers Weekly article in 2013: “How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library”. In my own school library, graphic novels account for 25-60% of circulation per week, depending on the class (4th graders borrow more often than any other age group). I conducted a small survey in my public library teen department of circulation statistics for some of the graphic novels, comparing them to bestselling prose fiction. I found that most of the graphic novels circulated at least three times more than any prose fiction (aside from the super-popular titles, such as the Harry Potter books). This means that graphic novels have a high return on investment for libraries. In my library, only the nonfiction picture books about animals out-circulate graphic novels—and some of those are in graphic format, too!

As you may have detected, I am passionate about comics, manga, and graphic novels. I love to sing their praises. But don’t just take my word for it (apologies to LeVar Burton). Here are some sources that reinforce what I’m saying.

Check out CBLDF Raising a Reader, especially pages 9-10, where Meryl Jaffe discusses multiple learning skills, including memory, sequencing skills, language, language usage, and critical thinking.

Educator Tracy Edmunds has a lot of great material on her blog. In particular, read “Why Comics?” from June 2, 2016 and “Why Should Kids Read Comics?” from June 21, 2016 for lots of information and sources you can use to justify using comics in your library.

Gene Luen Yang includes a story in his TED Talk about what happened in an algebra class when he started writing and drawing the lessons in comic book form. He points to two major reasons comics work so well: their visual nature and their permanence. Past, present, and future are all together on the page.

Other sources you might want to peruse are Pop Culture Classroom and Diamond Book Distributors’ online newsletter “Bookshelf,” which includes lesson plans from Dr. Katie Monnin, who is now Director of Education at Pop Culture Classroom.

On a final note, at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference, the ALA Council passed a petition to convert the existing Member Initiative Group into the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table. According to ALA, this “will allow for organization-wide engagement with professional and collection development, public outreach and advocacy, and internal mentorship, as well as furthering the cultivation of industry partnerships relating to the sequential art format in schools and libraries.”

Graphic novels are here to stay!

final_kat_caracatureIf you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

Fandom Programs

By Katharine L. Kan, MLIS

Stranger ThingsLibraries have long conducted special programming for patrons of varying ages. Fandom-related programs are relatively recent, but more libraries these days are trying them. Many librarians are fans themselves — of science fiction, of comics, of particular series of books, TV shows, or movies — so it’s relatively easy to create and run these programs. A fandom program is not as large-scale or complicated as a full-blown comics convention. The nice thing is that a library doesn’t have to spend too much money, especially if it can rely on the talents of staffers, a Teen Advisory Board, or willing library volunteers.

Why consider fandom programs? First of all: to attract fans, whether they love Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, Stranger Things, or any other series. Some of these fans may not otherwise think the library has materials they’d like to borrow. These programs also help publicize the library and make the general community aware that the library is more than just a place filled with books. The increased foot traffic generated by programs can immediately lead to greater circulation, and libraries can see other positive results, as well.

library-card1A fandom program might be just the thing to get a new family into the library and encourage them to apply for library cards. Also, when people come to think of the library as a place for community and to have fun, they tend to be more likely to support the library as a valuable resource. Teens especially enjoy fandom programs, and librarians can generally harness their creative energy to help plan and present the programs.

Following are three fandom programs conducted by my local public library: Bay County Public Library, in Panama City, Florida. Bay County has seen increased usage by families over the years, thanks to these and many other programs presented by the staff and volunteers. I’m a longtime volunteer for the Youth Services Department and have helped with programming for more than a decade. The ones I’ve helped with have been half-day or one-day events.

 

Doctor Who in the Library: September 10, 2016

fandom-photo-set-1aa.pngThis was a great family event, with activities for all ages. Staff members constructed a TARDIS out of large cardboard boxes — even painting the interior — and people had loads of fun going inside and having their photos taken. I ran a perler bead craft activity. In over 30 years of conducting activities like this, I had never had more than 20 people make something during any one-hour workshop, so I put together 74 kits for a three-hour program. Much to my surprise and delight, they were all gone in under two hours. Good thing I brought my extra beads. People started counting out beads to make the item they wanted, and in between heating up and fusing the finished designs with my handy iron, I put together a few kits as well. More than 100 people came in throughout the afternoon. I estimate that people made around 90 perler bead items.

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Fandom-photo-set-2Star Wars vs. Star Trek: July 11, 2017

Bay County Public Library’s Teen Advisory Board chose this fandom program and helped to run it along with the YA Specialist. I brought my button maker and helped attendees make buttons using Star Wars and Star Trek designs. The program included a trivia contest, crafts, and fun science experiments. Many of the teens came in costumes.

 

 

Harry Potter Day: July 22, 2017

Harry Potter Day was another family event, with costume contests, games, crafts, Harry Potter-themed snacks, a photo booth, and lots of fun. Librarians and other staff at the library loved cosplaying Harry Potter characters. One of the activities was the Potions class — staff had fun making props for the displays.

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None of these programs costs a lot of money, as long as library staff, their families, and community volunteers of all ages are willing to do some work. Any library can put on a successful fandom program. Choose your own fandom theme and have some fun!

 

 

Kat_Kan_Better_Pic

Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.