My 2016 ALA Ignite Session, “Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Collecting Comics and Manga”

Backstory: In 2016, I attended my first full ALA Annual Conference as a librarian. I had been to the exhibits in 2011, but that was when the conference was in New Orleans in a convention center I knew pretty well. Adding to the excitement, I had submitted a proposal to present an Ignite session (a five-minute talk on a topic) and it had been accepted. My talk was at 11:50 AM on Saturday morning. At 11:20, I started trying to find the location where I’d be speaking, got a bit lost, and ended up making it to the room at 11:40. I got there and immediately noticed two things: 1. The room was a lot larger than I expected it to be, with a lot of people in it, and 2. There was a stage set up at the front of the room with five people up on stage and an empty chair for me. I was so embarrassed that I was late, apparently I should have been there before the first person was due to speak at 11:30, but I couldn’t do anything about it at that point. I made my way to the front of the room and when the next person got up to speak at 11:45, I slipped into my spot with 5 minutes to spare. At least I didn’t have too long to get nervous.

Here is a slightly edited version of the speech I gave that day with some of my original slides:

Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Collecting Comics and Manga

Title slide with my contact info: Kacy Helwick, Collection Development Librarian, New Orleans Public Library, Email: khelwick [at], Twitter: [at]kacy3
Intro slide with title and my contact info

I’m a collection development librarian, and personally I think it’s the best possible job to have in a library. Collection development is super exciting! 

I have a theory of collection development. It all boils down to 2 essential actions, Discovery, or learning about the new thing, and Evaluation, deciding if that new thing is worth spending money on. Discovery is the exciting bit, but Evaluation is equally important.

Essentially, collecting graphic novels is not much different from other collections, but there are some nontraditional resources. 


Notable American Comics Awards slide with the words "Glyph", "Ignatz", "Harvey", and "Eisner" in dynamic comics style bubbles.
Fun fact! The graphics from this presentation inspired my logo for this website.

Librarians love awards, but if you’re new to the world of comics, these may be unfamiliar to you. 

Glyph Comics Awards are definitely worth librarian attention since they recognize the best in comics made by, for, and about people of color from the preceding calendar year. They are awarded by the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention.

The Eisners may be the most library friendly award because of their awesome grant and the fact that a graphic novel librarian is often on the 5-member panel that generates the nominees. It’s a job I totally want one day.

The Harvey nominations and winners are chosen by comic book professionals with an open vote.

And finally, the Ignatz! These exclusively for independent and small presses, so this award is a great way to find titles that you may have missed otherwise.  


ALSC Graphic Novel Reading Lists, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
ALSC and YALSA logos were current for 2016, starbursts were added for this presentation.

After awards, I’d say lists are librarians’ favorite resource! 

For anyone trying to grow their kids graphic novels; ALSC updates their core graphic novel lists every few years. And YALSA puts out a list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens every year. It can be about a hundred titles, and they recommend a top ten for those with budget concerns. The teen’s list often has adult crossover interest too. 


Slide with web address of the 4 resources listed in the text paragraph below.
I’m proud that all these resources from 2016 are still relevant in 2020.

I love librarian resources, so SLJ’s Good Comics for Kids blog is obvious, but did you know No Flying No Tights was started by librarians and nearly all of the reviewers and editors are librarians? (I would know, because I’m one of those editors!) CBR and Manga Bookshelf are also great for when you need to evaluate titles. But for the most part, these don’t help look ahead to upcoming releases as much as they review books once they’re out. 

Screenshot of Diamond Bookshelf's homepage from 2016 with the commentary text "Best resource for discovering new and upcoming releases"

That’s why Diamond Bookshelf, from Diamond Distributors, is another one of my favorites, because it’s specifically for educators and libraries and I recommend it to anyone looking to start a collection as well as build one.

I’ve also found that the people who check out comics at our library quickly become power users. They are another resource for discovery. If you’re worried about circulation, having a patron requesting a book means it’ll circulate at least once, and likely a lot more. 

Bibliographic verification a.k.a. troubleshooting

That covers Discovery and Evaluation, but there is actually a third action that is essential to a lot of different library work: Bibliographic Verification. In collection development sense, it’s making sure that the thing is actually the correct one before you buy it. 

It can be really confusing to deal with comics that have rebooted back to issue #1 multiple times or a popular anime that has both manga and light novel adaptations. Wikipedia can be surprisingly helpful in these troubleshooting situations, especially since series pages are kept up to date and accurate by devoted fans.