Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Circulating Comic Books at Your Library

Comic books on display at the author’s library.

In October 2013, with the popularity of comic book-based movies growing and graphic novels experiencing a growing wave of popularity among young readers, we decided to start circulating comic books in our children’s library. We reasoned that in terms of material type, a comic book is merely a slightly flimsier magazine, and we’d circulated those for decades. And since individual comic books are extremely reasonably priced, it was a small investment for the administration to approve. We started with yearly subscriptions to what was at the time a pitifully small amount of “kids” comic runs that you could get directly through Marvel & D.C. comics- one year of Avengers Assemble for $26.95, plus a Looney Toons subscription and a Young Justice League series. The comics proved immediately popular, but back in 2013 there was a hitch – there didn’t seem to be a way for us to get any other comics for children into the library via subscription. Our town doesn’t have a comic store, and I was an enthusiastic novice.

In July 2014, I finally found a solution in Midtown Comics, the venerable New York City comic book chain. They have an option on their website to create “pull lists.” A pull list is what it sounds like – you give Midtown Comics a list of comic books you’d like to get as they’re published, and they pull them for you. Traditionally, a pull list is kept in the store for in-person pickup, but Midtown has a shipping option. You can chose to have each issue individually mailed to you as it’s published, but it’s not very cost effective. I find doing a monthly bundle of everything published from your pull list to be the most expedient way of receiving them. We’ve moved away from using Midtown in the past few years, as our collector, Anna Taylor, has built a great relationship with Capital Comics in Annapolis, MD, who not only sends us things from our pull list, but also throws in issues they think our patrons might be interested in. If we like them, we shoot them an email and they add the titles to the monthly list.

There are some unfortunate realities in circulating comic books. Chief among them is the fact that a comic book is not designed to withstand circulation in a public library. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 20 circs out of one book. But at 2 or 3 dollars each, that’s an impressive ROI. And Comic books in our library fly off the shelves. They’re shelved in a clear plastic display above the graphic novel section, and are available for checkout for three weeks, like our circulating magazines. They are cataloged in house, and are in the same material type as magazines. Between July 2014 when our first packaged pull list arrived from Midtown Comics to July 2015, Children’s magazine circulation increased from 877 total circs to 1,673 circs. And the phenomena is not limited to the past – our teen department introduced circulating comics last year. Circulation of teen magazines is up 305% year to year.

Does your library circulate comic books? When did you start? Where do you get  your materials from?

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials 

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