Graphic Novels Break Through at ALA

American Library Association Graphic for 2018 Conference in New Orleans with illustrated streetcar and stereotypical New Orleans style buildings
Another successful American Library Association (ALA) Conference is completed and one thing is clear – librarians love graphic novels!

The conference this year in New Orleans ran from Thursday, June 21 to Monday, June 26. Early during the festivities, the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) met for their annual meeting and elected CBLDF Executive Director, Charles Brownstein as the President to replace Martin Garnar. Affiliated with ALA, FTRF is a non-profit legal and education association dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of libraries and individuals, ensuring access to the free flow of information.

Saturday June 23rd, the Will and Ann Eisner Foundation awarded the 2018 Will Eisner Grants for Graphic Novels. The grants consist of two separate awards of $2000 for libraries to use with Diamond Distributors to grow their collections, as well as $1000 for traveling expenses to attend the ceremony at ALA, and a full Will Eisner Library – a collection of all of Eisner’s graphic novels plus biography and art books about the forerunner of modern comics.

This year’s recipients include Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), who received The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant, for their upcoming project Through the Eyes of Veterans: A Community Collaboration. The Growth Grant will allow them funding to partner with Colorado Springs Bemis School of Art’s Military Artistic Healing on a series of creative workshops for active duty and veterans, as well as expand their collection of graphic novels to help meet the needs of their community.

The 2018 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant was awarded to Tuscarawas County Public Library System, New Philadelphia, OH for their IllustrateHER: Empowering Girls through Visual Storytelling and Multimodal Reading project aimed at girls in grades 3 through 12 to improve their media literacy, and encourage developing their relationship with graphic novels written by female creators, or focused on strong female characters. In addition to expanding thier collection of graphic novels, the grant will allow them to run an art contest as well as workshops to inspire young women to create their own comics.

Perhaps the largest news for comics came at the end of the conference, when the ALA approved the request submitted to replace the ALA Graphic Novels & Comics in Libraries Member Interest Group, with an official Graphic Novels & Comics in Library Round Table. The difference might sound slight to non-librarians, but it is a huge step forward to creating larger, more protected spaces for comics in libraries around the country.

The shift from Member Interest Group to Round Table will further support initiatives like the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries and professional conference participation and presentations like ALA Annual’s GraphiCon by members. With an annual budget created through member dues and an official member roster, the group will be able to expand and innovate more resources and expand our outreach opportunities.

ALA members who are interested in joining the Round Table will see it show up as an option on their next membership renewal! Dues will likely be comparable to existing round tables, generally ranging from $10-20 per year.

With the landmark creation of the Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table, this will be the first of many great years for comics to come at ALA. The official roster will definitely show the vast support librarians give comics and help continue to raise the profile of graphic novels in libraries, creating more access, and more readers. Certainly, there will continue to be more exciting things from this development in the future, so keep checking in with or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about them!

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2018 by visiting the Rewards Zone, making a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!