NEW PORT RICHEY — Gone are the days when a library was simply a place to check out traditional books. Not only do libraries serve as a community center that organizes events, they have embraced new collections that others once scoffed at — musical archives, video and board games, e-readers and more.
At the New Port Richey Public Library, graphic novels are the newest addition to the many bookshelves. Information Specialist Stephanie Jones hopes to have a collection of 350 newly purchased graphic novels catalogued and ready for check-out by the beginning of March.
Graphic novels are books made up of comics content but instead of being short periodicals like comic books, are longer works of prose and illustration. The term refers to the medium, not the genre, so graphic novels span the spectrum from fiction to non-fiction and include an endless array of topics and stories.
Graphic novels are often a starting place for people who aren’t big readers, Jones said, including her now 11-year-old son.
“When he was younger, he wouldn’t read anything but Batman graphic novels,” Jones said. “I let him read as many graphic novels as he wanted until he moved on and became a reader. By kindergarten he was reading Harry Potter.”
The average age of a graphic novel reader is closer to 30, Jones said, but they appeal to all ages. Many libraries across the country have already incorporated them into their collections.
Jones previously worked with graphic novels collections at a Clearwater library she used to work. When it came time to re-do the library’s budget last year, she suggested graphic novels.
The library also applied for an American Library Association Grant specifically to fund graphic novel purchases but they have yet to hear back.
To get the collection started, Jones scoured the New York Times Best Seller List, as well as suggestions from Graphic Novel Reporter, a website dedicated to graphic novel news and reviews.
A smaller graphic novel collection has been available in the teen room on the second floor of the library for some time but wasn’t out on the main floor for the general public. The new collection includes books with more mature themes for ages 16 and older.
“There have been so many studies on how graphic novels draw in people and improve literacy,” Jones said.
“By associating graphics with texts, students can encode information more readily and, in turn, improve their reading comprehension,” wrote Kathleen Mannion in a study by the Curriculum Foundation on improving literacy through graphics novels.
It can also be used to improve literacy among second language learners and reluctant readers, according to the Institution of Education Sciences.
The graphic novels are being shelved next to a reading area with comfy lounge chairs so patrons can browse through them and read them on-the-spot. They can also check them out to take home.
The collection is just a start, Jones said. The library will be adding to it throughout the next year and beyond.
The New Port Richey Public Library is at 5939 Main St., downtown. For more information call (727) 853-1279
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