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Getting graphic at the county library system


If you have frequented the Sweetwater County Library lately, you may have noticed the addition of an adult graphic novel section. If you aren’t looking for it, you’ll probably pass it by as it is still in its inception and is quite small. Look between the large print and mystery sections, and you’ll find it.

The library has boasted juvenile and young sdult graphic novel sections for some time now, and it was time for the adults to hop on the bandwagon.

You might be wondering why the library even has a graphic novel section. In recent years graphic novels have increased dramatically in popularity across library systems throughout the country. Libraries haven’t always been in the graphic novel collecting game though. Historically, there has been a stigma associated with comic books and graphic novels. The literary quality of early graphic novels was seen as poor and undeserving of high readership – definitely not library-worthy.

Starting in the mid-80s and early 90s, that negative opinion began to change. Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” was published in 1987 and ushered in the era of the serious graphic novel. “Watchmen” was one of the first superhero graphic novels to be seen as quality literature and garner academic attention. Look for both the graphic novel and the movie at the library.

Another title that pushed the graphic novel envelope was “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman. If you only read one of the titles I mention in the article, please read this one (get it from the Hay Library or have it sent over to your home library to pick up.) I was actually introduced to this title during an English literature class at the University of Minnesota where I received my undergraduate degree. In this graphic novel, Spiegelman relates the story of his father’s experience in the Holocaust using mice and other animals to depict the people in the story. The story is extremely powerful and uniquely told. “Maus” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

“Watchmen” and “Maus” helped to revolutionize the graphic novel medium and paved the way for subsequent graphic novel authors.

The term “graphic novel” actually describes a medium, not a genre. There are many genres within the graphic novel medium. Most of us are probably familiar with the superhero genre; these include stories of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. This is just a sampling of what graphic novels have to offer though. There are also spinoffs such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – which began after the series finale of the TV show, classics like Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, nonfiction titles that take a genealogical spin or explore significant historical events such as the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express, and personal narratives and memoirs.

If you are a “Walking Dead” fan, you know that the TV series actually proceeded the graphic novels. The “Walking Dead” graphic novels are some of the most popular here at the Sweetwater County Library. The popularity of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (a.k.a. “Game of Thrones”) birthed a graphic novel series based closely upon Martin’s books.

You can find the books, graphic novels, and DVDs at the Sweetwater County Library.

Though the popularity of graphic novels can certainly be linked to TV series such as “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” their appeal also extends to a more academic context.

Many ESL teachers use graphic novels to aid in English instruction, and others use them to engage reluctant readers. Graphic novels are great transitional tools for young readers moving from picture books to chapter books as well. Kids and adults alike are now living in a more multi-media age, and graphic novels provide that kind of reading experience. They are a great literacy tool!

Stop by the Sweetwater County Library and check out our graphic novel collections. You might just find a new favorite way to enjoy literature!


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