Professional Development Through Discussion in the Librarians' Graphic Book Club

When you think of professional development you probably think of a talk or a panel, or perhaps reading a book or article – but do you think of a book club? Since July 2021, the ALIA Graphic Novels and Comics special interest group has been running the Librarians’ Graphic Book Club, primarily for library workers but open to anyone interested in comics in libraries, which is also a valuable professional development tool.

This talk will cover how this has been achieved, what is working well, what we learned we needed to change over the two years we have run it, how it differs from a regular book club, and what you should know if you want to start something similar yourself. ALIA Graphic identified the need for additional professional development opportunities to address the too commonly held views that comics are somehow not ‘proper’ reading or that they’re only for kids or reluctant readers.

Even a cursory look at the variety of comics published in Australia, let alone international publications, shows that this is far from the case and libraries need to be aware of this. One of the primary reasons for initially choosing this format was that ALIA Graphic was aware that there is a great deal of passion and knowledge about the interplay of comics and libraries in the profession, but much of it is spread through individual library workers and has been developed through their experiences working in libraries. The book club format allowed us to foster a professional development experience that focused on sharing information and ideas between everyone involved, rather than a more unidirectional talk or panel where the flow of information is almost entirely from the presenter.

Another important reason is it allowed another, regular opportunity to highlight important comics and graphic novels, both classic and new, and bring them to a wider level of recognition among library workers. Again, the book club format lent itself particularly well to this as the inherent discussions involved allow for a more nuanced engagement with the titles. Going into 2024 ALIA Graphic is planning to try something new with the way the book club is managed, with the potential for moving to an asynchronous discussion model to allow for greater accessibility that takes into consideration the often-changeable rosters that library workers have, and it is planned for this to be covered in the talk as well.

James Baker

Librarian, Melbourne Anthenaeum Library

Author Bio

James is a librarian at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library and teacher in the Diploma of Library and Information Services Course at Swinburne University of Technology. In addition to this James is one of the co-convenors for ALIA Victoria and the secretary for ALIA Graphic Novels and Comics. In his role with ALIA Graphic, James has developed and run the Librarians’ Graphic Book Club offering professional development relating to comics and graphic novels in libraries.