Sunday, May 17, 2015

Which library? Rot & Ruin graphic novel

Last month, the trade paperback of the first graphic novel of the Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry came out.  I read and enjoyed this story from between books 2 and 3, but was faced with a very tough question: Where on Earth do I put this?

While I do love graphic novels, and they are great for people who don't have much time to read (library directors, high school students) or for reluctant readers, there is an issue that rears its ugly head over them: they have pictures.  Yeah, obvious, I know.  But that fact raises two problems: they are discounted as not being literary enough (baloney; see also my discussion of Maus) or parents debate whether children should have access to them.  To read about violence and other questionable topics is one thing.  To have them visually portrayed is another.

I have installed the complete novel series of Rot & Ruin at both of my libraries.  The question I faced was whether I could put it in the school library, or if it should just go into the public library.  People would get access to it somewhere.  But, where?

There's not a terrible amount of blood or gore, especially considering that it's a zombie novel.  But it is a zombie novel, and what's at stake in the plot is creepy and unnerving.  Would it be appropriate for the school setting?  It's for teens, like its parent novel series, but I do have students that start reading it in sixth grade.

After some ruminating, I decided to loan it to a particular freshman.  He's a great patron, and I knew he'd give me honest answers on whether it was okay to have in school.  Toward the end of last school year, he'd been asking if we could carry A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin; he was reading the first one at the time.  I said no, that it wasn't appropriate for school, and that I like my job.  When I saw him in the fall, he had finished A Game of Thrones, and honestly told me that he now understood why I couldn't have it in the school library.

So, I handed it to him one morning, explained that I wasn't sure which library to put it in, and told him to read it and let me know what he thought.  He loves the series, and was thrilled to have the opportunity.  When I saw him at lunchtime, he was partway through and gushing about how great it was.

Last Wednesday, he returned it, and I asked him about it.  He gushed more about it, and told me how a friend was interested in it, too.  Not too keen on the art style, but he loved the story.

"Do you think I can put it in this library, or is it a bit too mature?" I asked.  He thought about it, then said that he thought it okay.  Not much violence or gore.

"Would you let your little brother read it?" I asked.  His little brother is in fifth grade.

"He's not like other fifth graders," he replied.

I laughed.  "True," I agreed.  "But do you think it would be okay for fifth graders to read it?"

"No, Miss (Librarian), but I think sixth graders could handle it," my student determined.

And thus, I have taken his advice and added it to the school collection.

It's a good idea to find outside sources when considering collection development.  Get the opinions of your most fervent patrons.  I know you consider what they like and what gets the most checkouts, but don't be afraid to hand them something new, or even an advanced reading copy, and find out what they think.  It's worthwhile.