3 June 2024
A cart of various books, graphic novels various titles available for student check out.

Are graphic novels as HUGE in your library as they are in mine? It is our most highly circulated section, and every single title circulates at least once per school year.  Safe to say, we love graphic novels here at Adler Park School. 

As I observed which graphic novels the students were choosing, and corroborated my observations with circulation statistics, I noticed that they were reading mostly realistic fiction graphic novels. It occurred to me that they were looking for books about a realistic lived experience, either by people who look and act like themselves or those who don’t. That got my wheels turning about increasing the inclusivity of our graphic novels, with a focus on realistic fiction, to support what the students were looking for. 

The My Library Is… Grant funded the purchase of diverse and inclusive graphic novels for our library, either by the content, the main character, or the authors and illustrators. Ideally, all of the above! Students explored these new graphic novels, and then used Canva to create promotional bookmarks that were distributed through our school library and our public library. 

Since every graphic novel in our collection has been checked out at least once, the ongoing impact of this grant is enormous. All credit to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop and her concept of books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Students who haven’t seen themselves reflected in text before now see themselves in a graphic novel, showing them a mirror unto themselves. It is even better if they pick up a book that opens a window into another lived experience, or a sliding glass door book that lets them into another world. 

It seemed like now was the perfect time to ensure that other lived experiences were available to my students to increase tolerance and empathy. Receiving this grant was particularly well-timed with the state of our world right now, with the smallest differences between people setting off huge controversies. 

Our school is one of 5 schools in Libertyville District 70, and as we have a shared catalog and interlibrary loan system in place, these books are available to the district’s entire student population. 

If other libraries want to replicate this project, start by creating a list of inclusive graphic novels that reflect the diversity of your community. I searched through Titlewave, bookstore bestseller lists, social media, blog posts, and more to determine which graphic novels met my inclusivity criteria and would be popular with my students. Don’t forget to include any processing materials you would need in your grant proposal to ensure these graphic novels last through multiple circulations. I kept a spreadsheet of the titles and expenditures which helped me keep everything organized. 

Finally, a statement of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Simply put, our library is inclusive. Our collection development policy supports that, and our district’s equity statement supports that. Every book purchased is analyzed for inclusivity, both in terms of their creators and their content. As all these graphic novels are written by, illustrated by, or feature a main character that is inclusive in some way (or multiple ways) they support our inclusivity mission. 

Today's blog post was written by Erin Carr, Learning Center Director, Libertyville School District 70. 

This project was made possible by the My Library Is... Grant.