Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

I pulled this post out of my drafts and gussied it up both because I think it’s important advice (especially for libraries with fewer resources) and also because I’ve been quite busy preparing for a presentation and haven’t had time to craft something new. Enjoy my words of wisdom!

The past couple of months have been a learning experience for me in several areas, but the one I’ve been working hardest at (and becoming the most improved in) is asking people for stuff.  Libraries don’t have infinite resources, but because we endeavor to use our powers for good, there are many amazing people and organizations out there that are not only willing to, but happy to lend aid or assistance to libraries for free. All you have to do is ask!

Asking for help can be hard. There’s an instinct to couch everything in apologetic terms (“I’m sorry to ask, but…” or “I hope I’m not be an inconvenience…”) that’s frankly unnecessary – I’m not saying be rude, but the fact is that A LOT of organizations provide support for libraries and educational institutions!  I have a couple of programs that I run which don’t DEPEND on the generosity of others, but donations and support are certainly going to make them better than I could on my own.  And that support means I have another cornerstone to advertise with, which means I might get more and a wider variety of attendees than I would otherwise.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to material goods – speakers and presenters don’t have to break your budget either, you just might have to explore different avenues than the most obvious ones.  Local talent is the best source for this, as they won’t have high (or any) transportation costs and are usually excited to help out and support their local library.

Some examples of things I’ve asked for:

  • Program support from Paizo, Inc. for starting up a Pathfinder roleplaying group: I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce myself in person to Paizo’s community manager, but her contact information is easily found by going to paizo.com and clicking on Contact Us. She was able to send us a Pathfinder Beginner’s Box, a core rule book, Gamemaster Guide, and Beastiary to get our group up and running. It is not crazy to imagine that other publishers might have similar support for libraries!
  • ARCs from different publishers: I’ve sent out the most requests and gotten the most negative responses, but it’s worth it for the publishers that do end up sending books. I’ve had success with Penguin Random House and Orca; cast this net wide and see what you pull up!
  • Free presenters/speakers: Local authors, cosplayers, comic artists, you name it: if they’re driving distance from me and responsive to e-mail, I’ve asked them to speak at the library. Our mini comic-con this past January was incredibly successful partially because our guest speakers were SO great; and all of them were more than happy to come for free. (I’m gonna go ahead and plug Paul Erickson, Casey Renee, Dean McQueen, C. Spike Trotman, and Brendan Detzner as being some of our amazing speakers.)
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Graphic Novel Collection Development for Teens

I had a couple of teens tell me how great our graphic novel collection is yesterday, which is pretty much the best compliment I can receive from them – I’ve been in charge of Youth and YA Graphic Novel collection development for about a year now, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.  Since graphic novel selection can be intimidating, I thought I’d put together some thoughts about how I approach it, that you might find helpful.

Picking what to put on the shelf can be tricky.  For a long time, when I would browse the graphic novel collection at my home library, I noticed that instead of separating YA graphic novels from the adult collection, they would all be on the same shelf – which is one way to do it, but not the best way to get them into the hands of teens, especially when you’ve got Youth and Adult Services on different floors.  Deciding what actually qualifies a graphic novel as being YA instead of Adult can be a tough call, but like YA Fiction, you get better at identifying what’s going to be a good selection with practice.

The most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, you should be buying books you legitimately think your teens will want to read.  Like any other area of collection development, it’s not about what YOU want to read – it’s about them!  Listen to your teens when they make requests, and pay attention to what else they’re reading, watching, and playing.  Has the new Tomb Raider game been as popular in your library as mine?  Did you know that Dark Horse is publishing an ongoing Tomb Raider comic?  And if they enjoy that, Cory Doctorow has an excellent new release called In Real LIfe that I can recommend, after which you should probably start the World Trigger series…

All that, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push their boundaries or make selections that might be outside of their immediate interests.  That’s ALSO our job – not just to find the stuff they KNOW they want to read, but also to find the stuff WE know they’ll want to read, as soon as they know about it.  Like my Tomb Raider example above, this works pretty much like readers advisory for any other genre or format.

Remember, there’s more to the comic world than DC or Marvel (which is not to say that both publishers aren’t doing great things; they TOTALLY are, remind me to tell you how much I love Ms. MarvelUnbeatable Squirrel Girl, and Gotham Academy/Gotham by Midnight).  Look into Boom!Studios, Archaia, IDW, and First Second, among others.  Boom!Studios especially is doing some great stuff for younger audiences (including the Adventure Time comic series and Lumberjanes, one of my personal favorites).

Here are some of my favorite picks that have also been really popular with my teens:

– DC’s Batgirl (we started with the New 52 run, written by Gail Simone, but I’m very excited for when we start getting Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl of Burnside run)

– Attack on Titan series by Hajime Isayama

– The Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley

– Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn

– Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

– In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

– Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka

– Hoax Hunters by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley

– Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima

– Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks