Librarianship, Comic Books, and the Detriments of Book Snobbery
A couple of months ago, I decided I wanted to be a librarian. Now, I'm proud to say I'm working my way through my first semester of grad school for a Masters of Library and Information Science at Kent State University.
What does this have to do with comic book stores, you ask? Well, quite a lot.
With the decision to become a librarian comes a change of reading philosophy. It's the librarian's job to encourage reading in all its forms--no matter the genre or medium--in order to help the library's patrons. Librarianship has no place for book snobbery. If a patron wants to read graphic novels or audiobooks or Stephanie Meyer novels, it's not the place of the librarian to judge. (Furthermore, you never know if a patron has a learning disability that makes it hard to read print and therefore he or she listens to audiobooks, but I that's another post for another day.)
Because librarians should encourage all types of reading, I decided to explore types of reading I had never experienced before. It was less than a year ago when I tried audiobooks for the first time. And a month ago I decided I wanted to give comics a chance.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Didn't comic books die out in the '80s? How can you say comic books are legitimate reading material? Aren't they kind of low-brow? Aren't they just for kids? Who cares about superheroes? That's all they're about anyway. I thought only nerds read comic books... Well, I'm here to tell you that none of the above are true.
Despite it's saucy title, this comic is all about the protagonist, Suzie, and her boyfriend, Jon, trying to save the library where Suzie works from foreclosure. There are quotes from Lolita, references to Thomas Pynchon, and other nerdy quirks that only someone with cultural acumen would enjoy. And, yes, there's lots of sex. Lots. Just like there is in many literary classics. If you didn't know this, you aren't as high-brow as you think.
See? No mention of superheroes here. In fact, many comics follow plot lines that don't involve superheroes. Such as...
No superheroes here. This is a crime story in the style of 1940s Hollywood noir.
And even when there are superheroes involved, the modern ones are actually super cool. (Pun intended, oh yeah.) For example, comic book publishers today are recognizing the need to give historically marginalized groups representation in their comics. A perfect example of this is...
Ms. Marvel, the character who is eponymous to one of the largest comic book publishing companies on the planet is now a young Indian-American girl who actively practices her Islamic faith. All I can say is HELL YEAH to that. I'm a white gal and I get tired of reading about people who are just like me. It's boring. So good job, Marvel!
Now, what does all this have to do with librarianship? Well, quite a lot.
When I'm a librarian and I encounter a patron who loves stories, but traditional reading doesn't work for him or her, I want to be equipped with the knowledge to recommend something that will work. And--horror of horrors to book snobs everywhere--someone might just like a comic book. At the end of the day, if someone finds that he or she enjoys reading something at my recommendation, I count that as a success.
As a way of educating myself on comic books, my roommate and I went on a voyage to Legion Comics (which is in a strip mall behind the Summit, if you're a Birmingham, AL reader). I got copies of the comics mentioned above, as well as...
I want to know what you think. What are your feelings about comic books? Would you ever try them? Do you think librarians should recommend comic books to patrons? Why or why not?
Tell me in the comments!