(Disclaimer: I had to duck out about a half hour early to attend the NERTCL luncheon. If anyone stayed for the entire cartooning session, please add to this post! Thanks.)
Presented by James Sturm, cartoonist and cofounder of The Center for Cartoon Studies, and Caitlin McGurk, head librarian at the center.
How can libraries use comics to promote visual literacy and storytelling? What roles to libraries and comics have in common? How can librarians promote all stories, including ones told in this visual form?
And this slide was on the screen when the presentation started:
Cat & Girl comic
Caitlin McGurk presented first. Caitlin is a comics librarian. She starts by going over her background and how she got to where she is at CCS.
Why be a librarian?
- You can study what you love and share what you love and are passionate about.
- It's a career that allows you to learn and love learning for a living!
Caitlin's passion has always been comics and zines. So she was driven to find a library that would allow her to use that. How did she do that?
- Looked for other librarians who are interested and starting networking, asking for internships, etc.
- Got an internship at Marvel - catalogued their archives and helped start their lending library (for editors at Marvel)
- Then hired at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center libray, to create a library for their materials. Started comic and zine making programs for the patients and their siblings. Zine making is great for bibiotherapy.
- Now Caitlin is at the Schultz library at CCS.
- When she was hired they used LibraryThing, but the collection was huge (over 10,000 items). So she built a Koha open sourse ILS. Used a lot of CCS student volunteers to help build it.
- Catalogued, archived, organized their minicomics, zines, student work.
Comics and Libraries: the great equalizers
- Both libraries and comics are acessable. Available to all ages at all levels.
- Both are beyond priviledge and class.
- Both are a safe place, comfort zone.
How can comics help students learn?
- Great for helping students learning vocabulary. Adds the visual connetion.
- Wonderful for people on the autism spectrum because of images with text. Can help these visual thinkers with vocabulary but also social learning, understanding facial expressions, body language, etc.
- Comic creation promotes storytelling for people of all ages
A great way to get people engaged and interested, thinking creatively.
- Comics are a "nonthreatening and empowering" format.
Caitlin heard an NPR interview with Mo Willems a long time ago that stuck with her. He said we are all artists. We all used to doodle when we were kids. We can all draw, but most of us just stopped. Kids see that adults don't draw, so they think of it as something just for kids, not a legitimate art form.
Alexa Kitchen, age 7, wrote "Drawing Comics is Easy! (Except when it's hard)" She is the daughter of a cartoonist, so she was raised in a household that valued comics and cartoon art.
Someone in the audience asked Caitlin how librarians should shelve their comics. She responded that CSS is a unique place, so she doesn't personally tackle this issue. But one tip, if you are in a public or academic library, is to try to intershelve some. For example, you want to have Maus shelved with your history books so people can find it there, as well as in your graphic novel collection. By intershelving you can show people the amazing GN that are out there on various topics.
Next we heard from James Sturm, cartoonist and co-founder of CCS.
Since late 1800s, there have been books and comics written about how to write comics. Why? Because kids love to cartoon and want to create comics.
Perhaps kids stop drawing because they can't cross the chasm of what they are creating and what they are consuming (amazing Pixar movies, photoshopped Marvel superheroes, etc.)
So how can we narrow that chasm? Provide them with other choices. Comics and GN come in many shapes and sizes, not all the most polished art.
For young kids, he recommends not going overboard with word balloons, boxes, etc. Stick to character creation. Kids love seeing their doodles come to life. Ed Emberley books are a great example. He helps you take shapes and lines and make something with a personality.
James showed some slides from his book Adventures in Cartooning. In it, he uses narrative to get kids excited and engaged in cartoon creation. He sees his book as being the next step from Ed Emberley for kids who are ready to take cartoon creation to the next level.