Acquisitions and Collection Development

Graphic Novels in Education

Having written Graphic Novels in Your School Library based on my work as a school librarian, I’ve been thinking about ways to apply the graphic novel format to the purposes of educations for a long time now.  While many still consider its potential in this area dubious, it is not much of a stretch to bring works like Shaun Tan’s the Arrival into the classroom or school media center to explore nuances of immigration, or Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese to brew a discussion about racism and diversity, or even to use Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War to ignite a complex debate about the heated topic of privacy vs. security with high school students.  There are many titles with great possibilities for direct curricular application.  But to take this route and only this route is to ignore the goldmine that all of these narratives are riding on, which is to say the form itself.

Try this in the classroom or as a library project.  Familiarize your students with the three rudiments of sequential art language: the gutter (the space between the two panels which tricks the reader’s imagination into creating the passage of time), codes and symbols (everything from speed lines to word and thought balloons to curse symbols), words (anything spoken by a character, written within the narrative captions or any sound effects).  Once they understand these rudiments, supply paper and pencils and run them through the following two exercises.

  1. Using one to three panels for each instance, depict a person jumping five different ways (thus five different one-to-three panel depictions).  Use the gutter, codes and symbols, words, facial expressions and body language to get the message across.
  2. Using one to three panels for each instance, depict “sad” five different ways. Use the gutter, codes and symbols, words, facial expressions and body language.  Consider: what has made the person said?  Can you depict the cause without the effect and still get the emotion across?  Do you need to have a person in your depiction to illustrate the concept?

Besides being fun as heck, these exercises are an excellent way to open a discussion about the form, and they also trip cognitive switches that key in on sequencing, context, interpretation and language.  I’ve done these exercises with students from kindergarten through graduate school and the array of examples never fails to produce a few that are unexpected, unique and actually expand a reader’s understanding of how to communicate.  If that isn’t educational potential, I don’t know what is.

Jesse Karp is a school librarian at LREI, an independent school in New York City, and teaches the course Graphic Novel: Narrative and Sequential Art to MLS students at Pratt Institute.  He is the author of the YA novel Those That Wake and the upcoming Graphic Novels in Your School Library, published by ALA Editions.  Please visit him at

What I'm Reading: Warm Bodies

This blog post was initially posted at Becky Spratford's Blog RA For All: HorrorBecky Spratford is the author of the upcoming Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition).

Recently I finished the post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  Wait right there.  I know what you are thinking, "another post-apocalyptic zombie novel."  But this one is different.

Warm Bodies is Marion's first novel, and it is remarkable for what it is not.  It is not a story of how people are surviving after zombies rise up and destroy life as we know it.  Rather it is the story of a zombie, R, who cannot remember his life before he was a zombie, but with the help of Julie, his human friend, he is beginning to heal.

That's right, I said heal.  The zombie virus appears to be mutating.  And R and Julie, and their human-zombie friendship is leading toward a new future for life on earth by book's end.

I don't want to give much more away about the plot, rather, I want to talk about the appeal-- the "why" you would want to read this novel.

The main appeal to this story are the two main characters and their evolving relationship:  R (the zombie) and Julie (the young adult human). The entire book is from R's point of view.  He is an evolving zombie.  He is healing from the virus that made him a man-eating monster.  Through his relationship with Julie, he is learning to become human again.  As the two grow closer, Jule shares her personal thoughts about how humanity is choosing to live now. I was enthralled by R, how he evolves, and how together with Julie they tried to "change the world."

Since this novel is character centered over action centered, the pace is not super fast, but it is also not slow either.  It would call it "steadily building."  The pace is appropriate to the thought-provoking nature of the story.  As readers, we need a breather from the tense scenes so that we can sit back and process what just happened.  This is a novel of ideas, big ideas, about human civilization and life.  We experience it all through R and Julie, but we readers need time to think about things for ourselves too.

This novel is also appealing because it is so unexpected.  Yes, there have been zombie novels from the zombie's perspective before, but never have I read one that looks at the possibility of the zombies healing and rejoining the world, albeit a totally new world from the one we actually live in.  It is not just the overall theme and plot that are unexpected though.  R and Julie are interesting and original characters.  For someone who reads a lot of zombie books, it was nice to read one that surprised me. 

I also want to comment on the setting, which I found extraordinary.  Interestingly, in Marion's imagination of a post-apocalyptic world, humans have turned their huge sports stadiums into new cities.  The scenes when R goes into the human settlement and describes what he sees were riveting.  It was a completely original way to look at how we would organize our lives after everything has collapsed.  Despite the overwhelming mass of fiction which has looked at this issue in the past, Marion managed to add something new to the pile.  I would suggest this book to readers just for these few chapters alone.

So it must now be asked, is Warm Bodies horror?  In the new book, I define horror as, "a story in which the author manipulates the readers' emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader."

I think the answer to this question may depend on the reader.  The main goal of this novel is to explore the zombie apocalypse and posit a solution, a chance for the virus to be cured, and for civilization to go on again.  However, the unease is huge here.  Since we are in the head of a zombie (who does eat people during the book), we, the readers, are never fully at ease.  Even as our sympathy for R grows, we never fully trust him.  The book does not work if Marion does not play with our emotions and keep us unsteady, engrossed, and ultimately scared of what is coming next.

I would say that Warm Bodies is part of the "new" type of horror as begun by Joe Hill in Horns.  Click here to see where I discuss this issue in detail.  So be prepared to be frightened, but in an unexpected way.

Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, character-centered, unexpected

Where This Book Took Me (summer reading feature): post-apocalyptic America; into the brain of a zombie.

Readalikes:  The new book has a great chapter on zombie books.  If you haven't been able to tell by now, zombie books are my personal favorite horror stories.  So I have a ton of suggestions for sure bet zombie reads listed in there.  But specifically here, readers who liked the more thought-provoking style with a character centered (not action oriented) focus should try the following books featuring zombies:

The annotations for these suggestions will all appear in Chapter 7-- Zombies: Following the Walking Dead of the new book.

I did also see one Amazon reviewer liken R to Edward Scissorhands. I totally agree. So if you like that movie, try Warm Bodies.

Of course there is also an entire cottage industry in nonfiction zombie survival guides.  It all started with The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.  

But click through and see what else customers bought and you will find nonfiction options like thisthis, and this.  

And don't forget the book you should suggest to R to read for himself (now that he is beginning to regain that skill): So Now You're a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead.

Misconceptions about Licensing Electronic Content and E-Rights

This article was originally posted at Lesley Ellen Harris' blog

With the relative newness of digital licensing and the growing opportunities for licensing electronic content (including on social networking sites), there are a number of misconceptions already developing. By discussing and clearing up these misconceptions, it will help clear the path to an easier negotiating road and to better licenses.

Misconception #1: Not all licenses are negotiable. Almost every licence is negotiable, but often you have to ask the other side if they are willing to negotiate so that you will have a licence that meets your needs. Always remember to only accept a licence and arrangement that works for you in your particular circumstances.

Misconception #2: Licenses must be in “heretherewithto” language. It is best for everyone to use plain English in your licenses and not technical or legal language. Say what you mean and put that in writing. If the language is unclear, ask the other side what things mean. Define terms in the licence that are unclear.

Misconception #3: I need a lawyer. Often content owners and users know more about digital licensing than lawyers. Do not be intimidated by not having continuous access to a lawyer. Do your homework and ask questions so you are comfortable with the arrangement into which you are entering.

Misconception #4: Renegotiating every year is mandatory. Nothing is mandatory! Negotiating is time-consuming and costly. At the same time, technology is changing rapidly and so is the way we all use digital content. Lengthy durations for licence agreements may not be appropriate, so consider an automatic renewal clause, provided that both parties are satisfied with how the licence is working out for them and provided each side has an opportunity to positively opt-in to the renewal.

Misconception #5: You can control your users. The licence agreement you sign is between you and either an owner or user of content. Your licence only contractually obligates you and that owner or user. As such, you cannot agree, or expect the other party, to police subsequent users of that content. However, you may wish to educate staff and researchers about legally using licensed content, and obligate any user licensing your content to do the same.

Misconception #6: You may restrict fair use or fair dealing. Parties to a licence may agree to limit fair use or fair dealing between the parties subject to the agreement. However, any other persons are not bound by that agreement. These persons may apply the relevant copyright law to their use, which means that fair use or fair dealing, would apply to that licensed content.

Misconception #7: Standard licenses are the answer. Each situation is unique. Although model or standard licenses may seem like the answer to avoid costly and time-draining negotiations, you must always look at your own particular situation and find an arrangement that is suitable to your needs.

Misconception #8: One side always loses in negotiations. In the ideal world, negotiations should be “win-win.” In other words, both parties should be satisfied with the end result. This, of course, is not always possible. By being prepared before entering into negotiations and by understanding your needs as well as the needs of the other party, you will be taking the right steps to finding an agreement satisfactory to both sides.

Resources on licensing:

The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter regularly carries articles on licensing.

Licensing Digital Content, A Practical Guide for Librarians, 2nd ed.

A Canadian Museum’s Guide to Developing a Digital Licensing Agreement Strategy, 2nd ed published May 2011.

Self-study online courses on licensing offered by the American Library Association (ALA)

Horror Audiobook Reviews

This blog post was initially posted at Becky Spratford's Blog RA For All: HorrorBecky Spratford is the author of the upcoming Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition).

One of the arguments I make in Chapter 13 of the new book (available for pre-order now) is that horror works really well in audio.  In my book, I discuss this issue further and also provide a list of 10 sure bet audiobook for horror fans that are easily available at the public library.

However, this list is only a starting point. I am always on the lookout for more horror audiobook review sites. Recently I came across Audiobook Heaven, an audiobook review blog. They not only do a good job reviewing audiobooks, but also, they label each review well.  Any and all possible genres that the title could even remotely be classified as are included here.  In this time of blurring genre lines, their comprehensive labeling is much appreciated.

Use the following links to search Audiobook Heaven for yourself to find some audio tales of terror.  Happy Listening!

Our E-books Are Everywhere!

Okay, perhaps not everywhere, but certainly in more places than ever before! We've been working hard to make our e-books more accessible. The following outlets either carry our e-book titles already or will in the near future:

These are just the beginning. Keep your eyes peeled here at the blog for future updates!

"A gem of a book ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country"

The stated mission of the American Library Association is, “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” New from ALA Editions, How to Pay for College: A Library How-To Handbook is an effective guide emphasizing the help that the local library can offer in this process, using its reference materials, the Internet, and the advice of experienced researchers.

Gail Buckner, writing for FOXBusiness, agrees; in her rave review she notes, "The publishing arm of the American Library Association has assembled a gem of a book that  ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country. How to Pay for College is only slightly larger than a paperback and a bit more than a half inch thick, yet the editors who pulled the information together manage to cover more material than books that are four times larger and twice as expensive. And they do it in plain English. This is not only a book that parents should read, but they should also share it with their teenager."

Check out the full article and then surf on over to the ALA Store and order a copy for your library today!

Workplace Learning & Leadership: It’s a Book!

They may not be as heart-warming and engaging as the words “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy” are. And we’re certainly not giving out cigars. But the phrase “it’s (finally) a book” is tremendously satisfying and rewarding to those of us who have given birth to one.

The recent publication of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Nonprofit Trainers, which Lori Reed and I co-wrote for ALA Editions over a two-year period while meeting quite a few other professional and personal commitments, does bring home the satisfaction that accompanies any extended act of creation—particularly one that celebrates the spirit of collaboration by itself being the product of extended and extensive collaborations.

And it’s far from being all about us. Workplace Learning & Leadershipreflects the collaborations we established with acquisitions editor Christopher Rhodes and other colleagues at ALA Editions. It also is the result of collaborations with the trainer-teacher-learners—many of them active in the ALA Learning Round Table–who volunteered hours of their time for the interviews that are the heart of the book

Given the theme—that workplace learning and performance professionals are increasingly ineffectual if we don’t assume leadership roles within our organizations and foster the development of communities of learning—there’s little surprise in the acknowledgement that our colleagues helped create what ALA Editions published. It’s one thing for trainer-teacher-learners like Lori and me to try to pull together our own experiences in a way that helps others learn how to create effective training programs. It’s quite another to recognize that learning is at least partially fostered through effective storytelling, and that it takes a lot of great storytellers to create a book about effective learning.

Gathering some of the best storytellers we know, then taking a back seat to those storytellers so they could engage readers in a memorable and entertaining learning experience, reflects what we all know about learning: it has to be sticky. And stickiness is enhanced by a variety of voices.

The foundation for all of this, of course, is recognition that success in training-teaching-learning is rooted in a sense of humility. It’s not about any of us posing as the ultimate experts in our field. Nor is it about achieving a level of expertise and then resting on our laurels. Learning is continuous—as is the act of gathering and documenting practices that benefit all of us—so what we have done throughWorkplace Learning & Leadership and our ongoing attempts to stay ahead of those who rely on us to provide effective learning experiences is to celebrate.

We are celebrating the joys and benefits of collaboration. Of community. And the effective use of leadership to the benefit of all we serve. We are also celebrating the leadership skills all of us have developed as well as the leadership skills we see in others. Most importantly, we are celebrating the positive effects our efforts have on learners and the people whom they ultimately serve.

It’s all about providing something of lasting worth. Something that contributes to the workplace learning and performance endeavors we all adore. And something that will reach and touch members of our community we otherwise might not have the chance to meet.

Twelve-Step Program for Becoming an Urban Fantasy Heroine

Are you tired of your boring, every-day life? Are you dying to live the exciting, adventurous life of an urban fantasy heroine. Just follow these twelve easy steps. You won't even recognize yourself by the time the transformation is completed (and neither will your friends and relatives).
1. Be adopted, or be an orphan, or have at least one unknown parent. (Don't whine about this. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work.")   

2. Meditate at length on the circumstances of your extremely unhappy and chaotic childhood. 

3. Drive an eccentric car or motorcycle (for example, a 1970s muscle car, a bright yellow VW beetle, your grannie’s 1985 Buick, an ancient Mercedes, or a sleek Ducati) and be able to fix it yourself when it (inevitably) breaks down. 

4. Live in a unique location in a dark gritty city (for example, a converted warehouse, a walk-up apartment in an iffy neighborhood, or a de-sanctified church)—no suburban ranch or classy colonial for you. 

5. Develop an annoying addiction to a particular designer-label coffee (or tea) and complain bitterly when you are offered any other beverage. 

6. Suffer from crippling levels of guilt and self-doubt, and keep reminding yourself that every single bad thing that happens  to you and your friends and relatives is all your fault—and no  one else’s.  

7. Choose only extremely hot, sexy, tall, muscular, sardonic guys for boyfriends. (Average Joes and shy geeks can’t handle a chick like you.) 

8. Deny your supernatural powers for as long as you possibly can. You didn’t ask for them; you don’t want them. Keep whining, “I just want a normal life.” 

9. Develop skills with as many weapons as you can think of and carry all of them on your person at all times: down your back, beneath your jacket, in your shoes, holstered to your waist, under your hair, down your bra, and strapped to your arms and legs. 

10. Do not cook—not ever. Keep only beer and cheese in your refrigerator and only crackers and peanut butter in your cupboard. (Telephone numbers for local pizza and Chinese take-out are on speed dial.)

11. Wear only black clothing, preferably tight jeans and skimpy tank tops under a black leather jacket (with loops and pockets for weapons, of course),  and underneath it all—lacy silk underwear.

12. Be a redhead, preferably a natural one.

After growing up as the high school principal’s daughter in a small Ohio town (an adolescent’s nightmare),Patricia Mathews inexplicably pursued a career in public education, working as a teacher, program coordinator, and curriculum and assessment designer. She currently has the best job of her life—working behind the reference desk at her local branch library. Before getting caught up in paranormal fiction, her favorite readings were narrative nonfiction and character-driven fiction. Now, however, she can’t resist the heroes and heroines of urban fantasy. She lives in northeastern Ohio with her two cats, and although she watches them carefully, she has never caught them in the act of shape shifting.

ALA Editions on Nook

Owners of a Nook, the award-winning Barnes & Noble eReader, can now purchase several best-selling ALA Editions e-books at We’re adding more titles every week, and among those already available are:

ALA Editions e-books are also available through Amazon, the Google eBookstore, NetLibrary, and other e-book distributors, as well as directly from the ALA Store.

Check Out PLA's Turning the Page 2.0


If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re going to want to check out and sign up for this new, FREE training program. Just one hour a week (like my book!), for six weeks, library staff and supporters from around the country can build their advocacy skills and strengthen their libraries with PLA’s Turning the Page 2.0! If, like many, you’re looking for low-cost, effective and “schedule friendly” training for yourself and/or your staff, don’t miss this!

Go to: and check it out!

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