Comics and Critical Librarianship
Reframing the Narrative in Academic Libraries
Editors: Olivia Piepmeier and Stephanie Grimm
Published: May 2019
Though it is still not uncommon to hear the question “Comics? In libraries?!”, comics collections have existed in academic institutions for over fifty years. Libraries have taken a variety of approaches to address differing philosophies and needs for their collections, but discourse has typically focused on the practical concerns of management and organization, considering the best ways to collect, catalog, shelve, and share comic books and trades, graphic novels, and more.
As a growing body of practice and scholarship, critical librarianship provides essential perspectives on the power structures, systems, and social justice concerns within libraries. This edited work considers comics librarianship through the lens of critical librarianship, focusing on work done in and around the academic library. While questions like “where do we buy comics?” and “how do we house them?” seem sufficiently addressed, such questions of collection management and organization, teaching, and outreach often lack a critical perspective. How and why should comics support and challenge research collections? In what ways can comics unsettle some of our traditional considerations of teaching and outreach? Furthermore, how does our language of organization and classification serve to marginalize or canonize comics works? And what might be revealed by post-colonial, feminist, or critical race readings of our practices?
Whether a seasoned comics librarian or a comics fan with a budding interest in the field, readers will find that Reframing the Narrative provides a holistic consideration of comics librarianship practices with a critical edge. Presented through case studies, original research and essays, and personal reflection, the book engages with topics from collection and cataloging to teaching and outreach, with contributors representing academic libraries and academic archival collections of varying sizes and populations across the United States and Canada.
Olivia Piepmeier (she/her) is the Arts & Humanities Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her BA is in Art History and English from the University of North Carolina Greensboro and she attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for her MSLS. She built a strong graphic novel collection in her last position at Greensboro College and taught a for-credit course for two semesters on how to read and find comics with a feminist pedagogy.
Stephanie Grimm (she/her) is the Art and Art History Librarian at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She holds a BFA in Illustration and earned her MSI from the University of Michigan, where she developed a dedicated minicomics collection within the university libraries. She has worked with comics and illustration students at both art & design schools and research universities, and is a proponent of critical librarianship and literacy for artists and design students.