Getting Started with Graphic Medicine in Public Librarianship
Liaison: Brittany Netherton
Introduction: My name is Brittany Netherton, and I got my start as a comics reader at an early age, reading “The Adventures of Captain Choco” repeatedly on the back of my cereal box. When I was getting my MLS from the University of Kentucky it never occurred to me that comics would ever be more than just something I occasionally purchased for a collection. Luckily for me, the stars aligned in 2018 when my Library’s call to creatively address public health in collections and programming intersected with my love for comics and Graphic Medicine blipped onto my radar. Since then, I have established a dedicated Graphic Medicine collection, created Graphic Medicine Book Club Kits, and spoken about Graphic Medicine in Public Libraries in places such as San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic-Con, and the New England Graphic Medicine Conference.
How to get started: If you’re interested in creating a Graphic Medicine collection for your Library, I have a few tips for you:
- Know your community. Who is the audience for your Graphic Medicine collection? The general public? Students? Medical Practitioners or Educators? What topics are they most interested in? Focus on those topics first.
- Hot tip: If the general public is your audience, utilize your town’s Health Assessments to identify the top health concerns in your area and any disparities that exist. Build a collection to reflect what you learn.
- Purchase an initial collection to see how your community responds. This collection doesn’t have to break the bank! There are plenty of resources on the graphicmedicine.org website you can use to help you identify titles to purchase. Promote them to your patrons and see what the interest level is.
- Hot tip: If you have enough money to purchase duplicates, consider buying one copy for the comics collection and one for the regular non-fiction collection.
- Utilize the Graphic Medicine community – we all love to see each other succeed!
Key texts, reading suggestions, and resources:
- I keep an updated list of the Graphic Medicine titles at my Library. My personal favorites (so far!) are A Fire Story by Brian Fies, everything by Sarah Anderson, and Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart. Rosalie Lightning is unlike any book I have ever known; as much as I love it, I find myself unable to recommend it to people, because it is just too heart wrenching.
- I love “What is a Graphic Novel?” a short how-to that teaches new readers what to expect with the comic format. Many of your patrons who are interested in your Graphic Medicine titles may have never read a comic before, and this is a great way to illustrate the process to them
- Alice Jaggers’ Graphic Medicine Database is one of my favorite collection development tools, and is especially helpful when used in conjunction with any type of Health Assessment like I mention above.
- Check out the NNLM Graphic Medicine Book Club Kits as well. I based the kits I created for Darien Library on these, and utilized grant funding from NNLM NER to help me make the project a reality.
“Developed resources reported in this [publications, press releases, internet sites] are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.”