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April 3, 2010

Feature Story: Growing Graphic Novels in Texas


The annual Texas Library Association conference will be held April 14–17 in San Antonio. This year also marks the first that the TLA has completed its Maverick (actually announced at the end of 2009). Given both events, we wanted to address how TLA is promoting comics and graphic novels. Three librarians associated with TLA’s Maverick committee banded together to answer our questions: Alicia Holston (Farmers Branch Manske Public Library), WyLaina Hildreth (Denton Public Library), and Tuan Nguyen (Mackin Library Media).

Will there be anything graphic-novel-related going on at this year’s annual conference?
There is much excitement surrounding the first annual Maverick’s Recommended Reading at this year’s Texas Library Association Annual Conference, “Filtering Chaos from Information to Knowledge.” A book talk event highlighting several titles from the list will take place during the Young Adult Round Table session on Thursday. On Friday morning, several authors and artists from the Maverick list will be available at the session on YA graphic novels. Some notable names appearing will be Ellen Schreiber (Vampire Kisses), Kazu Kibuishi (Flight), Mariko Tamaki (Skim) and Chris Schweizer (Crogan’s Vengeance). Additionally, the Children’s Round Table will host a graphic novel panel with Jennifer and Matthew Holm (Baby Mouse), Shannon Hale (Rapunzel’s Revenge) and Jarrett Krosoczka (Lunch Lady). Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is also scheduled to make a special appearance.

How did the Maverick Graphic Novels Reading List come about?
It was a serendipitous meeting between two lifelong comic fans in library school. In their first library class at the University of North Texas, Tuan Nguyen and Alicia Holston sparked a friendship and discovered their shared passion of comics and graphic novels. Eventually, Tuan approached Alicia with an ambitious idea of creating a graphic-novel review committee for the Texas Library Association. The dynamic duo started brainstorming and researching what needed to be done, whom they needed to talk to and what was needed to support their idea. WyLaina Hildreth soon joined the mix and brought her own flair of experience and expertise. After many late nights of Thai food, the group put together a proposal to present to the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association. With YART's approval, a task force was created to explore the possibility of the committee. The task force was successful in their charge and after several years of undertaking, the Maverick Graphic Novel Committee was officially formed. 
How many people worked on putting the list together?
The Maverick committee is made up of nine voting members. Committee members are composed of librarians who work directly with teens in schools and in public libraries. Each brings with them a skill set that is essential to collection development, book talking, and a knowledge and interest in comics and graphic novels.
What criteria were used when putting the list together?
The committee looked to select the best graphic novels released within the previous year. Criteria for the nominations include age-appropriateness, well-roundedness of story line, artwork, and lettering. We also wanted the list to reflect the many different types of graphic novels and genres.
What has the reaction to the list been so far?
The reaction has been phenomenal. Librarians across Texas are elated with the opportunity of a recommended reading list for graphic novels. The Maverick list helps them with their collection-development choices and brings an added professional review source.
You've already begun putting a 2011 list together. How is that going?
It's going quite well. The committee has already begun nominating books and there has been an increased interest from the public and graphic novel publishers. Since there isn’t a limit on the number of titles being nominated, we are seeing a greater amount of titles being recommended. Recommending titles for nomination is open to anyone through a form on the Maverick website.
Will you keep doing the list annually for the foreseeable future?
Yes, it’s very important for the committee to support visual literacy in libraries and to bring awareness toward quality graphic novels. 
Do you see graphic novels taking a larger role at future TLA annual conferences? 
We do. We anticipate the crossing of streams within the graphic novel industry and the library profession. Not only will graphic novels play a larger role at TLA conferences, but librarians will also play a role at comic conferences. It’s the beginning of a new era for promoting visual literacy.