Attack on Comics: Graphic Novels, Manga and Multimodal Text Advocacy for Library Collections

Libraries receive challenges to their resources and these challenges are on the rise. This presentation will focus on comics, graphic novels and manga, as they are incredibly popular with readers and are increasingly garnering awards and recognition. Unfortunately, they are also disproportionately targeted for challenges and bans and referred to the Australian Classification Board. Fifteen publications have been referred to the Australian Classification Board (ACB) in 2023 at the time of writing. Two of them are manuals on explosives, one is a conspiracy filled antisemitic book, all twelve other publications are comics.

This is very concerning and clear evidence that comics are being disproportionately targeted. In libraries, comics collections are growing and the ALIA special interest group ‘Graphic Novels and Comics’ often receives questions around collection development guidelines for comics, acquisition criteria, cataloguing and placement and best practices in general. These requests often come from under-resourced school libraries and rural public libraries who see the popularity of the medium, are keen to improve their collections but lack confidence and expertise with comics.

Librarians are clearly in need of resources to better handle comics in libraries and to be more effective in advocating for them. The presentation aims to better equip public and school library staff to defend and advocate for comics as highly valuable inclusions in their collections by sharing the initial research and resources of a project that will hopefully be carried out during 2024 (pending final decision on the Barrett Reid Scholarship from the State Library of Victoria, where this project proposal is one of four finalists).

The main focus will be on two key aspects:

a) how to strengthen the acquisition, cataloguing and placement of comics in libraries while raising awareness of their literary value and their potential for developing lifelong readers, and

b) how to defend comics, which are disproportionately targeted, in the face of challenges and bans while upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read.

The presentation will explore collection development policy guidelines and examples/templates dedicated to comics, graphic novels and manga. It will present recommendations and suggestions on the benefits of graphic novels and manga as multimodal texts and their importance in school curriculums.

Finally, it will also present and discuss some guidelines for how to advocate for and defend graphic novels and manga.

Iurgi Urrutia

Librarian, Kingston Libraries

Author Bio

Iurgi urrutia is a librarian at Kingston Libraries (Victoria) with a background in media studies and teaching. He’s also the co-founder and convenor of ALIA Graphic Novels and Comics, ALIA’s special interest group dedicated to raising awareness and advocating for comics, graphic novels and manga in libraries, with particular attention to Australian creators and titles.