Note: This blog post is written for SLIS 672 at IU, Spring 2013
In class last Friday, we discussed whether public libraries should collect comics from the 1930s and 40s, and if yes, where they should be shelved (Childrens? Adult?). For example, for class this week we are reading selections from The Complete Terry and the Pirates, Vol. 1: 1934-1936 by Milton Caniff. This specific edition of Terry and the Pirates was published in 2007.
I am on the fence as to whether I would put this book in a library collection. It would completely depend on the community, and if there was a demand for it. Since this edition has a fairly recent publication date it goes to reason that people still want to read this comic. However, I think the majority of people who would be interested in this comic are people who have an interest in the history of comics or are nostalgic. In general, I think if I worked for a very large library I would put it in my collection. If I worked for a small library, I would not purchase it unless a patron requested it. Even then, I would have to give some thought as to whether to order it or not as the list price is $50, and perhaps the patron is requesting all 6 volumes. That would be a large chuck of money for a small library and probably could not be justified if just one patron wanted to read these comics.
As to where I would shelf it, I would definitely put it in the adult collection. Most likely, it would be shelved in the dewey (“non-fiction”) section in 741.5. I am not sure what age the intended audience of the Terry and the Pirates comics were when they were originally published. Now, I think it only belongs in an adult collection because a younger audience might have difficulties with the dialect of various characters and the historical context (including obvious racism).
I decided to check WorldCat to see which libraries in the area have Terry and the Pirates and where they shelve it. First, I noticed that not many libraries have a copy of the edition we are reading:
In fact, only one library in Indiana (Indianapolis) has a copy, and the other nearest libraries are in bordering states and over 100 miles away. All these libraries are in geographical areas with large populations. In addition, all the libraries in the above image shelved the book in the adult non-fiction in 741.5 as I expected.
Public libraries provide current and in demand materials. They are not meant to be historical collections. When it comes to old comics, some large libraries might choose to collect certain older titles that were influential and are still read today, but small libraries cannot afford large collections of older materials and will probably only purchase them if they are in high demand from the community.
I’ll end my post with this video I stumbled upon. I must say, it was entertaining for me because as I read Terry and the Pirates, the voices in my head were definitely those of old-time movie stars.