Banned & Challenged Graphic Novels; or sometimes it’s ok to judge a book by its cover

It’s Banned Books Week, which always makes me think of S. R. Ranganathan’s Five laws of library science.

Books are for use – Every reader his/her book – Every book its reader – Save the time of the reader – The library is a growing organism.

2017.39 Banned logoThe first three laws deal with censorship directly; books should be for use, not hidden away; librarians do not judge what people choose to read; and items will be collected no matter how small a group may elect to read them.

These first three laws can often become unbalanced because items are misshelved (in the youth collection when they should be in the adult collection, for instance) or because libraries allow patrons to check out any materials, unrestricted by age. I discovered V.C. Andrews when I was in the sixth grade because she was in the paperback shelving area by the cozy, cat-centered mystery paperbacks I  enjoyed reading. If my mom knew how young I was when I started hiding V. C. Andrews books between my mattress and box spring I’m sure she would have disapproved of my choices, not the library’s choice to collect the books themselves. Many times, challenged and banned book issues can be resolved with a little common sense and reflection on what the freedom to read really means.

In browsing the top banned and challenged graphic novels, I found three main themes for why they are challenged.

Mis-Leveled / Notion all comics are for kids

2017.39 Sex CriminalsLibrarians do not have time to read every item they add to a collection before deciding where it goes (contrary to many librarian stereotypes). They rely on reviews, recommendations from the publisher, and other librarians to determine where to shelve a book. However, IF A COMIC IS CALLED BIG, HARD, SEX CRIMINALS, DO YOU REALLY THINK IT’S APPROPRIATE FOR KIDS? The cover has a naked lady with a whip and a gun on the cover. Maybe flipping through the pages you notice naked men and women engaging in adult situations and realize that not all comics are for kids. In this situation, I am all for judging a book by its cover. As a reader of Sex Criminals from the very beginning, this books deals with relationships, adulthood, and self discovery in a unique way, conveying deep commentary in a bizarre premise.

Sometimes, certain authors who write novels and comics, and for adult and youth, can be extremely difficult to level. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is often shelved in youth graphic novels even though it was published by Vertigo, DC Comics’ mature imprint, and has many adult themes.  The association of Gaiman and comics implies a youthful tone. With a little research, librarians can empower themselves to make thoughtful choices based on information about publishers and authors.

Books about people….who are considered different/deviant by some

2017.39 This one summerUnfortunately, some people believe that if a viewpoint which is not their own or contradicts what they view as morally right and good, is expressed, no one should have access to that information. Graphic novels such as PersepolisThis One Summer, and Fun Home  are challenged and banned because people do not like or agree with the characters portrayed solely for being who they are. They believe the books inappropriately promote Islam, portray LGBTQA+ characters, yes simply having an LGBTQA+ character is enough to warrant a challenge in many cases. While it is ok to self regulate your reading habits or those of your children, it is not ok to limit access to the items which another person can see themselves reflected in the page. It is the goals of libraries to make all types of information available to the public and leave it up to them to decide what they like to read, what they don’t, discover the truth, or consider something new.

Mis-appropriation of historical context

2017.39 tintinComics have been around for a very long time in many countries and have promoted terrible stereotypes. It is something that has been acknowledged and studied in popular culture studies for decades. Tintin in America was recently challenged due to the portrayal of Native American and similarly, Tintin in the Congo uses horrific stereotypical depictions of Africans. Herge was writing Tintin in the 1930 and a lot has changed in society which makes images like these difficult to address. Many people will liken it to the contemporary debates of the use of stereotypes, like the Redskins and the Braves, as sports team logos; however, this debate runs deeper than multi-million dollar sports teams trying to stick with tradition. Comics like Tintin are a time capsule of popular culture and a powerful tool to start a discussion about racism, stereotypes, and colonialism. What is most important with books like Tintin is the context in which they are presented. This is an old book with old views and must be read as such, what was believed and felt then is not what is believed and felt now. Should it be shelved in the adult collection, allowing adult to decide when to share the book with their children? Does shelving things in the adult collection really prevent fans from seeking out all the books by an author. These are all question which must be addressed while balancing the need for a censorship free library experience.

Dealing with a request to ban or challenge a book is always difficult to handle, but there are many great resources available to librarians. Check ’em out!

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund http://cbldf.org/ 

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/oif

ALA Banned Books Week http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks

 

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Comfort Comics for When Life is Rough

Unfortunately, I was emotionally unable to write the past two weeks due to personal issues which left me quite shaken. Someone broke into our apartment, grabbed a lot of stuff, and left the back door wide open. Everyone is alright, but I just needed some time to get personal and emotional affairs in order before I could focus on writing again.

It was a bit bizarre, right before this incident, I picked up The Book of Hygge: the Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits. Hygge has been making the rounds lately and is essentially a philosophy of presentness and contentment in the moment, taking joy in small things that create a sense of coziness and security for ourselves and the people around us. Well, I was feeling awfully insecure and uncozy after the burglary and I sought out my comfort comics. So today, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite comfort comics, the comics that when I’m feeling sad or lonely or vulnerable, I pick up and feel better. Thank you to the creators and publisher for creating stories to soothe the soul.

Cat Getting Out of A Bag and Other Observations
By Jeffrey Brown
Published by Chronicle Books

2017.22 cat getting out of a bag
http://jeffreybrowncomics.blogspot.com/

You may recognize Jeffrey Brown from his widely popular series Darth Vader and Kids and Jedi Academy Star Wars comics. Brown’s simple and charming style is accessible and comforting in times which call for a short break, a cup of something warm, and a big grin. Most pages are simple 3×3 grid vignettes about quintessentially cat things; begging for attention only to eat a plant, sitting in boxes and getting stuck, and refusal to be seen by the vet. What I love about Cat Getting Out of a Bag is how much it reminds me of my relationship with my cat, Jonesy, and I’m sure the relationship most people have with their pets. I talk to him, about him, wonder what he’s up to while I’m at work, he truly is like a child to me. And there’s something magical about cats which lend themselves so well to comics. They are mischievous and coy, self-centered yet crave attention, a whole gambit of emotions difficult to capture on the page, all which Brown captures with delight.

Love is Love
By Various Authors and Artists
Published by IDW and DC Comics

2017.22 love is love
http://www.idwpublishing.com/product/love-is-love/

This book is a collaboration of IDW and DC Comics, and also features characters from Archie, many Image titles, and original works. Love is Love is a feat of collaboration spurred from creative reactions to the Orlando Night Club shooting on June 12, 2016. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been almost a year since so many innocent people lost their lives and this book stands as a testament to their memory. Each page is filled with love and understanding, teaching us to be brave and to not accept hate. Some pages are single art pieces while others are two page stories reminding us that that the smallest gesture of kindness can make a big difference. I think this is especially important after falling victim to the harmful act of a fellow human to understand who you react to a situation speaks to your character.

 
Wonder Woman: the True Amazon
Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson
Lettered by Jason Arthur

2017.22 wonder woman
http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/wonder-woman-the-true-amazon

Wonder Woman just hit the big screen this past weekend and has been a box office success. If you enjoyed the film, I highly recommend Jill Thompson’s Wonder Woman: the True Amazon. This standalone story looks at Diana’s formative years as a child and young woman on Themyscira, beloved and spoiled by all the Amazons. But when Alethea, a stable worker, does not show Diana the undying affection she’s come to expect, she challenged Diana to be selfless and genuine, a challenge she has difficulty meeting. We all go through bouts of life where we put ourselves before all others, but this book teaches us the importance of seeing yourself as part of a greater society and understanding the sacrifices you, and others, must make for the goodness of others.

 

Bandette
Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Colleen Coover

2017.22 Bandette
http://www.colleencoover.net/?page_id=4131

Oh, the irony. The comic that makes me feel most comfy and cozy is about a petty art thief, but if anyone is going to make you happy, it’s the plucky sticky fingers, Bandette. Set in Paris, a place I found homey during my visits, Bandette is an art thief who has more in her hands than just candy. She embodies a Robin Hoodesque mantra of steal from the rich and give to… well Bandette, who tends to skim a little bit off the top. Along with her urchins, Parisian ballet students, food delivery drivers, and others from her arrondissement and Detective Inspector Belgique, Bandette accomplishes her heists, while enriching her community. This book is truly about seeking out a community you can rely on in your time of need and how friendships are the most priceless jewel in life.

What are your comfort comics? Do you have a title you find yourself going back to time and time again? Let me know On Twitter @librnwithissues

Comic Book Award Season for Collection Development

The Eisner Award nominations were released a few weeks ago and mark the industry’s largest and most prestigious awards. Award lists are a great collection development tool for librarians; they provide well vetted titles which would make great additions to any library collection. Some awards have been given out for decades and others are new; some are fraught with controversy and others allow creators to pat each other on the back. Here are some awards lists which provide diverse collection development opportunities.

Eisner AwardLet’s face it, the Eisner Awards are the Oscars of the comic book industry and awarded every year at International ComicCon in San Diego. The Eisner has been around since 1987, and was renamed from the short lived Kirby Award. What is great about the Eisners is the diversity of the award categories. From standard awards for creators and story type to honoring webcomics, educational/academic works, and comic book news outlets, the Eisner Nominees will inform your comic know how in many areas.

Along with the Eisners,  the Harvey Award is one of the largest American comic and graphic novel awards. The Harvey Awards differ from other awards because they are nominated by comic book professionals and the final votes are cast by unpaid volunteers  and the awards are financed by sponsorships. The are the honors that creators give to their peers which provides a different type of award list.

The Angouleme International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France is the third largest comic book festival in the world and hosts an international award ceremony for creators. Unlike other awards, the Angouleme awards  have broad categories and are chosen from a large pool of titles. The Grand Prix de la ville d’Angouleme is awarded to a living creator to honor their lifetime achievement and becomes the president of the jury for the next year. Noted recluse Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes won the Grand Prix in 2014, becoming the fourth non-European to win the award in 41 years. While the Angouleme has been fraught controversy, including the lack of nominating any women for the Grand Prix, citing the unfounded notion that none possessed a lifetime of work worthy of professional greatness, it is still a good place to look for diverse, international titles worth collecting. Hopefully, in the years to come, they will be more cognizant of the continued diverse presence in the comics industry.

International Manga AwardOn another international note, there are numerous manga awards to help you develop a well rounded manga collection. The Shogakukan Manga Award, sponsored by Shogakukan Publishing, has been awarded since 1955. Currently there are four categories; general, shonen (books geared to boys), shojo (books geared to girls) and children. The Kodansha Manga Award is structured the same way with the same four categories and has been awarded since 1977. An interesting and relatively new manga award is the International Manga Award and was founded in 2007 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Manga has continued to grow in popularity worldwide and this award is given to a non-Japanese manga artist annually. The entry list can be rather long and the ministry awards gold, silver, and bronze award. Some of these titles can be difficult to find translations for, but the list illustrates the diversity in manga creation.

Two other international awards to keep an eye on are the Ledger Awards, which are Australian comic awards, and the British Comic Awards which has six categories; the Hall of Fame, Emerging Talent, Young People’s Comic Awards, Best Book, and Best Comic for British comic books.

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has many book and media awards. During the annual ALA conference, the awards ceremonies are always a highly and are often live streamed for those who cannot attend. The Great Graphic Novels for Teens list compiles both fiction and non-fiction graphic novels appropriate for teens and young adults, but to be honest, are also highly enjoyable for adults as well.  Be sure to check out lists back to 2007 for older titles for a retrospective collection.

Inking is one of the more specialized aspects of comic book creations. While the artist or penciller draws the initial layout of a page, the inker defines the final shape, adds shadow and texture to drawings. The Inkwell Award has several categories for different types of inking and lifetime achievement awards.

 

Many broader genre and entertainment awards also honor exceptional comics and graphic novels during their award ceremonies. Here are a few to keep in mind when doing graphic novel collection development:

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards nominated 10 books for their Outstanding Comic Book category.

The Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story honors  the “best science fiction of fantasy story Stoker Awardtold in graphic form and published in the prior calendar year” and has been awarded since 2009.

The Horror Writers Association awards Bram Stoker Awards annually and since 2011 have award graphic novels for superior achievement in horror writing.

Also, make sure to check out your state library association’s award list. As comic have become more ubiquitous, graphic novels have been appearing on general children and teens best book lists, unseparated into their own category. Many library associations accept submissions from all members, so even if you aren’t on the selection committee, you can suggest that comics and graphic novels be reviewed for awards.

 

 

Trade Watching – Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys #1

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys #1
Author Anthony Del Col
Artist Werther Dell’Edera
Colorist Stefano Simeone
Letters Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite

Famous literary characters and works have been adapted into graphic novels and single issue comic books for quite some time and have covered a wide span of classic and contemporary literature. Marvel Illustrated, an imprint of Marvel Comics, started in 2007 and adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Eric Shanower & Skottie Young’s Wizard of Oz series. As licensed properties have increased in popularity, there has also been a rise in old characters making new appearances.

Last week, comics saw the resurrection of childhood literary classic characters Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. At over 85 years old, there are reasons why the teenaged detectives still resonate with contemporary readers. Their original, post-depression era perspectives on the prosperity of the United States was far from the plucky, wholesome teens of the 1960s and show how their characters morph to the current socioeconomic and political climate. While they have made appearances in graphic novel form from the children’s graphic novel publisher Papercuts, this new rendition of the classic detectives is not for the young of heart.

The first page of this issues hits full force with nostalgia featuring the sleepy New England town of Bayport, which may be a friendly place to live if you are not Frank and Joe Hardy. Their father, a corrupt cop taking bribes, had disgraced his family and their town and pitted Frank and Joe against each other in regards to their father’s innocence. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Comic Cover #1As the Hardy Boys soon learn, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children because they are quickly taken into custody in their father’s perhaps not-so apparent suicide. The story quickly moves from a nostalgic driven narrative to a hard-boiled police procedural with a good cop/bad cop dichotomy when a mysterious birdie emerges from a clock, and an old friend  returns with a plan to find who really killed their father.

This book is a collaboration of Anthony Del Col, co-author of Kill Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini, and Assassin’s Creed and artist Werther Dell’Edera of G.I. Joe and Detective Comics. Del Col’s experience morphing established characters into new forms lends itself well to the Hardy Boys. These brothers, who obviously love each other, are being torn apart over the controversy surrounding their father, a story told in many classic tales. Use of heavy narration by the Hardy Boys is overwrought and doesn’t lend itself well to the comic book medium because the art at times became ignorable because it is not integral to the storytelling. Also, the title is Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, though we aren’t introduce to Nancy properly in this issue.

Colors also play an important part in this issue. As the timeline shifts from the interrogation room to the past and present timelines, shadows are used for their intensity and chaotic nature in the integration room while brighter, matte colors are used for present day scenes of teenage life. The overall tone of the book is darker that many readers would expect from a nostalgic title.

For readers who enjoy a good femme fatale, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys may fit the bill in a lighter tone than Ed Brubaker’s Fatale and Fade Out. These teen detectives deal with hardcore issues in a serious manner. I’m excited to see where this book goes over the next few issues and think it will be a hit for adult fans who grew up with these teen detectives.

Trade Watching – Curse Words #1

Collection development is a large part of a library’s budget and a librarian’s time. It can be difficult to develop a graphic novel collection development plan when the length between reading a review for a first issue and the time when a trade comes out can be affected by many factors, including printer issues and unscheduled delays. Trade Watching posts will consist of reviews of #1 issues with their projected trade paperback release date along with a reminder when that date rolls around.

2017-05-curse-wordsCurse Words #1
By Charles Soule and Ryan Browne
Colors by Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd, and Michael Parkinson
Letters by Chris Crank, Ryan Browne, and Shawn Depasquale.

“Once Upon a time, there was a wizard. Then it all went to hell,” cold opens the new Image title by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne. Meet Wizord, a magician from another dimension sent by his master, Lord Sizzajee, to end the world. However, after days of spell preparation, a chance encounter with a hot dog vendor turns Wizord into Earth’s protector instead of destroyer. When asked, “How is it that they [people relaxing along the water] can spend so much time in idleness? Where are their masters?” Wizord gets his first glimpse at a world without slaves and masters, nobles and those in their services, and he admires. Staying on Earth, Wizord cleans up his look, but keeps his incredible hipster beard, rents an office space, and with his sidekick, a talking Koala named Margaret, starts his work as a Wizard for Hire.

In this issue, we discover Wizord’s origin, along with a few of his clients. His business has only three rules: no curses, no wars, no love. He’s extinguished wildfires, conjured food to alleviate hunger, returned a missing child to their family, and denied a nefarious looking general. When Johnny One, a baby faced musician who could be mistaken for a Canadian YouTuber turned Usher protégé, visits Wizord to become platinum, all seems to go well until Cornwall, an Elizabethan inspired wizard, attacks Wizord for his insurrection.

2017-05-curse-words-pg-7Browne’s art is arresting and vibrant, creating a colorful yet based in reality world for Wizord to inhabit. Panel layout plays a large roll in pushing the narrative for many comics and Browne’s use of irregular, yet straight lined panels invoke the mystical arts. Many of the panels feel like they are parts of a potion which must be put together in a particular way for the story to advance. The use of color injects a lot of symbolism into this book. The potion created to destroy the world is pink, but Wizord is paid in sapphires, has a blue staff and his magic is blue. Cornwall’s magic is also pink and his staff is rather phallic in nature. I’m excited to see how the symbolism continues in the next few issues.

I have been a huge fan of Soule since his run on She-Hulk a few years ago. He tends to write solitary characters with extraordinary powers like She-Hulk, Daredevil, and Swamp Thing. An immigration lawyer as well as a writer, it feels like Soule’s work with immigrants seeps into his books though the outsider characters he often writes. It is also interesting to note that this book does not have caption boxes, everything is divulged through dialogue and the occasional tweet, mostly about how Margaret is left out of some of Wizord’s situations. It is difficult to tell the relationship between Wizord and Margaret. Why is Margaret an animal? Is she a magician gone bad? In servitude to Wizord? We’ll have to wait and  see in issue #2 and beyond.

Curse Words Volume 1 is set to be released on July 25th, 2017.

Quality of Graphic Novel Trade Paperbacks

Library material budgets require the cost of purchasing, replacing, and mending ordered materials to remain low as possible. Binding and mending of materials is an integral part of the life cycle of library collections. Books get worn down and broken, usually a sign of a well-loved book, author, title or series. Many times, high quality binding can extend the circulating life of a library book to over 100 circs (with some mending), before it is eventually discarded. However, comics and graphic novels seem to get more withdrawn worthy damage quicker than the average novel.

We know that graphic novels are being purchased and circulated in libraries at a higher rates than before. According to It’s No Joke: Comics and Collection Development from Public Libraries Online, library graphic novel sales made up 14% of the graphic novel book market in 2009. It is unfortunate, but often the cost of constantly replacing poorly bound comic books makes them difficult to keep in the collection. I have had some graphic novels circ as little as three times before it is deemed unmendable. Plus, not many small to mid-sized libraries have in-house menders on staff to repair books and keep them in working order for as long as possible.

Bookbinding tied block
By Simon Eugster – Simon / ?! 18:08, 10 May 2008 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
There are four primary types of binding for comics and graphic novels; the saddle stitch, sewn, perfect binding, and, least available, library binding.

Saddle Stitch
Saddle Stitch binding is when one wide printed sheet makes up four pages of the book, are folded within each other (called a signature) and stapled through the center of the spine. This type of binding is often used for single issue comic books and extremely short original graphic novels. Saddle stitch is easy to reinforce by sewing through the staples and easy to mend with more staples or hinge tape. Plus there are many products out there to protect saddle stitch items like magazine protectors and mending materials which tape over the top of the item, such as Kapco’s Easy Hold Reinforcements. Unless you are circulating single issue comic books, it is very unlikely anything in your GN collection will use saddle stitch alone.

Sewn Binding
Sewn binding is when signatures are sewn together to make one longer book and are often hardcover. You can tell if you have a sewn book because you will see the stitches in several chunks of the book and when you open the book flat it will open to the sewn sections. Every once in awhile, you’ll find a sewn book which has been glued together, but it is fairly rare. Mending a sewn book can be difficult because the stitches are hidden beneath the spine.

Perfect Binding
Perfect binding is when all the pages are lined up against a flat edge, cut, and glued on the spot. Honestly I have no clue why this is called perfect binding because, in my experience, it is the worst binding for libraries. Because all the pages are cut and glued at the spine, pages fall out in chunks plus the gutter can be so narrow that you can’t get tattle tape or hinge tape in there without obscuring text or illustrations. I have had books circulate as few as three times with perfect binding and needing to be withdrawn because the damage was so extensive. It is also really difficult because over 80% of GN trade paperbacks are bound using perfect binding.

Library Binding
Similar to sewn binding, library binding increases the shelf life of a book by reinforcing the spine with extra stitches and the spine and covers are held together with heavy linen spine tape. The reinforced spine helps the book lay flat preventing spine cracking and pages falling out. The covers are often more durable than traditional hard covers to prevent the edges from fraying. It is still pretty rare to find GNs which are sold with library bindings and they are more expensive.

While it can be difficult to know which type of binding you’ll be getting when you order a book, it is important to keep the type of binding in mind when processing and mending graphic novels. The small gutter and colorful images makes mending and processing without impacting the reading experience incredibly difficult. I was recently at a convention and spoke with a comic book publisher who was expanding their trade paperback production and wanted input specifically from libraries and I am eager to see what type of binding they come up with.

I do have a few recommendations to expand the life of you graphic novel and comics collections.

1) Make sure the ends of your shelf are sturdy and tall. Having soft cover graphic novels flop over the top of a book end or under a shelf stopper is terrible for the binding and warps the pages.
2) Also, if you are shelving your graphic novels in groups (all Wonder Woman together for example) look into large size periodical holders. This will group the books together to aid patron browsing and give the books extra support.
3) Invest in hard protective covers for the soft cover trade paperbacks. This stiffens the front and back covers and the spine and prevents the spine from cracking and the signatures from falling out
4) Take a book mending course. There are many different techniques you can use to extend the life of your books and mending workshops are the best place to learn new techniques from the experts. Often, these are taught by specific companies, so be prepared for a sales pitch or two.

 

BISAC & Comics: More than subjects and classification

While I do a lot of comic book reviews, read alikes, and programming ideas for this blog, in my heart, I am a cataloger. I love making sure comic books are findable and accessible through cataloging and classification. It’s not for everyone and many people don’t understand what catalogers and metadata librarians really do, but for the select few, it brings us so much joy.

If you liked it then you should have put Metadata on it
(Gotta love cataloging humor)-Info Sci Antelope tumblr

The most accurate way of providing access to materials is through subject analysis. There are many different subject headings available to librarians; Library of Congress, Sears, Medical, Art and Architecture Thesaurus, the list goes on. But a few weeks ago, I came across the first book with BISAC subject headings in the LOC CIP (Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication, the metadata on the verso of the title page) with BISAC subject headings, which means the Library of Congress is now including them in their original cataloging.

BISAC: An Overview

Book Industry Study Group BISG logoBISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications, a subgroup of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), a trade association for publishers and the book industry. BISG defines use of BISAC as, “transmitting information between trading partners, as search terms in bibliographic databases, as access points for database searching and as shelving guides.” Basically, BISAC can be used as both searchable subject headings, like LCSH, and classification/shelving guides, like LCCN. Getting a two-for-one deal on subject headings and classification seems like a good way to streamline services and it is understandable that many professional libraries would be eager to jump on the BISAC bandwagon.

Many libraries colloquially refer to BISAC as, “The Bookstore Model” because the subjects are laid out for bookstores, often making them more user friendly. When I work the reference desk, people are amazed when I can walk them directly to the stacks where the subject they are looking for is housed. I deal with Dewey and the Library of Congress every day.  The hierarchy and classes makes sense to me, but not the average lay person.

BISAC is formed using headings made up of two to four parts/levels and each is separated using a “/”. A tree is a group of headings which share the first and second level information and a branch is a distinctive third level which belongs to a tree. One of the most fascinating aspects of BISAC is that all the subjects are left undefined because, “The Committee attempts to create clear and succinct subject descriptors that are not duplicative within the list”. Doesn’t leave much up for debate, right?

BISAC v. DEWEY v. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: The Shelving Debate

Many public librarians loath hauling around the 4 volumes of the DHey Girl, You know I'm not usually the jealous type, but who is MARC?DC and 5 volume Library of Congress Subject Headings just to catalog something. I’m sure other people have become wary of placing comic books in the 741.5 (Comic book, strips, etc.) in DDC because it quickly becomes a giant black hole consuming everything with nuance. Many libraries simply move their graphic novels to the fiction collection and arrange them by the standard author/title.

What I love about BISAC is, even if you don’t use it for subject headings or classification, you can use it as a guide for arranging graphic novels in the fiction collection. On the American Library Association Graphic Novel Member Interest Group (ALAGNMIG) Facebook page and casually among my comics reading patrons and friends, many people have requested that superheroes be shelved together, story arcs, no matter the authors or illustrators, and specific sub genres, like manga, be shelved together.

BISAC: More than Just Subjects

Not only is BISAC a great way to think about classifying your collection in groups, it is also a great collection development tool. Sometimes, it is difficult to actively think about diversity in collection development. You get your professional journals, your favorite review websites and go with the flow.  However, browsing the BISAC headings, you can easily ask, “When was the last time I ordered COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / LGBT or COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Dystopian”.

Does your library use BISAC for subject headings? Classification? Let me know by sending an e-mail to librnwithissues@gmail.com or leave your ideas in the comments.

Further Reading

If you’d like to learn more about BISAC in libraries, here are some great, if dated, websites:

ALCTS: BISAC and Beyond: http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/e-forum/041712
The Dewey Dilemma from Library Journal: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2010/05/public-services/the-dewey-dilemma/#_
BISAC Basics via the Feral Cataloger: https://cbtarsala.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/bisac-basics/
Dewey or Don’t We?: Transitioning to a Deweyless Library via Colorado State Libraries: http://cslinsession.cvlsites.org/past/dewey-or-dont-we/

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