October 21, 2013

NCLA Conference Report-Back


NCLA, for those who don't live my state, is the North Carolina Library Association, and its biennial conference was held last week in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Events, workshops, sessions, posters, and a solid vendor presence make it an excellent opportunity to find resources and contacts relevant to whatever your library interests may be. Case in point: my informational haul on comics librarianship.

Although I didn't have a chance to make the full rounds through the vendor haul, I was lucky enough to stop by the booth of McFarland & Company, a Jefferson, NC-based publisher of academic texts on all topics, including an excellent-looking body of comics scholarship.  Since I take the library angle, I was especially pleased to see editor Robert G. Weiner's Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research,  History and Cataloging, upon which I pounced immediately.  Since I just purchased it a few days ago, I have yet to dig in, but I will surely post my thoughts when I've read it.  My initial impression from the table of contents is that it has a lot to offer, and I'm looking forward particularly to read the section on "nomenclature and aesthetics" and the chapters on cataloging.  There's even one on shelving strategies in public libraries -- words cannot express how excited I am about that!

Amy Godfrey demonstrates
how to use panels and gutters
on the Comics Contraption;
photo by Jennifer Lohmann
The highlight of the day, comics-wise, was a presentation by my Comics Fest collaborator Amy Godfrey about her (and my, to a much lesser extent) efforts to involve the Durham community in the creation and appreciation of comics. Amy told the audience about Comics Fest and her many workshops with children, teens, and adults throughout the community. A special treat, and an attention-grabber as we carried it through the hallways, was the Comics Contraption, custom-designed tool for comics programming and outreach in Durham. The Contraption holds a giant spool of paper that allows two panels to be viewed at a time: one by a previous artist, and a blank one for a new artist who can only see the panel before, resulting in a (nearly) never-ending comic jam / exquisite corpse deluxe.  (Read more about the Durham Comics Project and the Comics Contraption -- and see the resulting strips -- at durhamcomicsproject.org.)  Amy's excellent presentation drew a good crowd of engaged, question-asking librarians working many roles in libraries around the state, and at the end they rushed the stage for even more Q&A and networking.  Well done, Amy!

NCLA is a great support network for NC librarians and becoming better every day, and this year's conference demonstrated the need for folks like Amy, who is bringing comics to the people everyday, to demonstrate her methods to like-minded librarians. It also demonstrated the role that library conferences can play as venues for discussions about comics librarianship and its future.

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