Comics and manga have gained popularity in classrooms at every level — from scaffolding canonical texts and engaging English language learners, to encouraging independent reading. In higher education, they are also supporting academic course objectives and research initiatives, while enabling libraries to diversify their collections. In this free webinar, you’ll get an insightful overview of where comics and manga fit in academic libraries and college coursework, including working with faculty to develop a comprehensive curriculum, and how comics can be used for academic inquiry and writing skills development.

We’ve also put together a brief FAQ based on attendee questions below, and you can access the panelists’ slides here.


  • Raylene Gomez Hernandez, Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Pamela Jackson, San Diego State University Library


Qs: What are some best practices for developing and promoting a comic collection to meet the needs of faculty and students? How do you promote an emerging collection? What are some good ways to promote comic book collections in libraries?

  • RG: From my perspective as faculty, I believe one of the best ways to develop a comic collection is to take into consideration the needs and wants of both the student population and the faculty & staff in terms of content that is consistently addressed in and outside of the classroom. Comics can function as an immersive illustration of a plethora of topics so finding fun, enticing and easy to grasp examples for analysis is a priority while also paying attention to titles and publishers. I also enjoy finding a balance between popularized and well-known titles and more obscure or newer publications. And finally I think revisiting the collection often is a good practice for quality and also for consistency purposes. As new titles come up, we might want to add or substitute from the current list of items.
  • PJ: I’m not sure there’s one “right way” so maybe not best practices, but I can share what I did: When we first became serious about collecting and using comics, I carefully combed through the curriculum to determine what classes and/or professors I thought would benefit from the use of comics and reached out to them to let them know we had the collection and how it related to their subject area. A colleague and I used to joke, “There’s a comic for that!” because there literally is a comic on just about every topic. It’s a lot to wrap your mind around so I took a semester-long sabbatical to research comics and our curriculum to make those connections to better enable marketing the resources and facilitating research. I’m in special collections so our instruction often consists of class visits to see primary source material and we started using comics in just about every course. I’m often asked by other librarians to pull a few comics on whatever the course topic is that they are teaching (saving my peers the need to have all that comics knowledge themselves). It’s kind of like being a “Collections Concierge.” Beyond that, I think the standard PR helps – blogs, news pieces, social media, sample successful assignments, etc. In my experience, faculty were eager to include comics but some felt intimidated and needed help choosing appropriate titles and with the pedagogy.

Q: How can comic books best be used to promote information literacy among students?

  • PJ: (ACRL Framework) I think the faculty I’m working with use comics more to teach Visual Literacy than Information Literacy, so my examples might not be as strong here, although we can think of visual literacy as a form of info lit, too. But I do think it can be done. One example would be with nonfiction comics and authority issues (Authority is Constructed and Contextual) — who wrote them, is their research valid, what are the power dynamics? Or, when we look at “Information Creation as a Process” in comics scholarship, we talk A LOT about the power of the visual medium and how reading with pictures can make a stronger impact on the reader, so this framework really resonates: “recognizing that information may be perceived differently based on the format in which it is packaged.”
  • RG: In my case I have used comics to help my first-year students understand the power of media culture and the impact of socio-cultural contexts on popularized products. I think this aligns quite well with information literacy as I push them to analyze and deconstruct the political, ideological and socio-cultural components of the story and how it is presented to an audience through the medium of a form of entertainment.

Q: What selection criteria do you use in building your comics collection and do you receive a lot of faculty requests?  

  • PJ: We have a comics collection development policy. It’s very broad, but generally speaking, I try to collect items that will support the curriculum on our campus with an eye to preserving unique and at-risk collections. The vast majority of our collection came via donations. I do have a modest annual budget to buy comics and scholarship about comics. There can never be enough funding for this and I’m usually weeping at the end of the budget year over the things I couldn’t buy. I co-direct our Center for Comics Studies and work very closely with the faculty teaching comics, so yes, they request titles all the time, but more than that, I push titles of interest out to them. Knowing the curriculum and the kinds of topics students are researching helps. We don’t have a comics department with dedicated faculty so they don’t always have their finger on the pulse of what’s being published. That’s where I come in!

Q: How do you gain buy-in from faculty who disapprove of comics? What language or strategies would you suggest?

  • PJ: Naysayers still exist, but this has been less of an issue here at SDSU than others may experience. Maybe it’s because of Comic-Con so our faculty are exposed to comics every year? I think showing faculty that comics are not “just for kids,” explaining that comics are not only reading but “serious reading,” and perhaps most importantly, that comics are not all funny or superheroes. Those not in the know are often blown away by the seriousness of comics. I would also take a look at the curriculum at some of the Universities with comics classes for language that helps explain how comics can help teach on certain topics. For example, check SDSU’s Certificate in Comics Studies and Building a Comics and Social Justice Curriculum courses for syllabi and language. I would love to hear an argument against using comics after looking at these syllabi!
  • RG: This has been one of the biggest issues for me in my academic career. My dissertation focused on analyzing One Piece as a cultural product of immense value for post-modern Japan and the Western world, but I was constantly met with obstacles and critics that labeled my work as “unnecessary,” and “not relevant enough for academia’s eyes.” In response I have taken the approach of many cultural materialism theories to showcase the importance of this manga and other comic books for not only the general population that consumes them but also for higher education in the sense that they represent specific cultural products that reflect characteristics and aspects of specific socio-cultural moments. I think an efficient way to tackle this is to ensure the receptors and the critics that we are looking beyond the superficial, pure enjoyment layer and actually deconstructing content for academic inquiry. And relying on other programs that have created previous rationales is very useful, too.

Q: Shelving: Integrated into the collection or a separate space?

  • PJ: We have both. The circulating comics used to be integrated and the shelves were overflowing and a hot mess. We now have it in a browsing collection which highlights one of our library’s subject strengths, facilitates more symbiosis with the portion of the collection that’s housed in special collections, and serves as a gathering place for all things comics. It also allows me to better market the collection. For example, we have low bookshelves so I can display titles on top of the shelves that coincide with heritage month celebrations.

Q: Is there any interest in the history of comics?

  • PJ: Always. We have classes that look at comics history and comics publishing through time. We’ve had guest speakers talk about various topics in comics history. From an art perspective, classes may discuss different styles. Publishing history comes up from time-to-time. SDSU also has archival collections related to the history of fandom, particularly in southern California, so that intersects with comics history as well.

Q: What comics do you recommend for social sciences studies?

  • PJ: History? What era or topic? Civics? Area Studies? Identity? Gender? It’s all in the social sciences! I could say that cataloging is getting much better for comics so searching a database like WorldCat with subject headings may make comics more discoverable. I also use Comic Vine, which lets fans tag comics by Concepts to create lists. I link to a few more “topic helpers” on my research guide.

Q: Can you suggest any Preservation best practices?

  • PJ: For graphic novels and bound books, the same preservation principles used in rare book preservation apply – control the heat and humidity levels, keep out pests, dust the books on occasion, and make sure there’s never any mold. For single issue comic books, it varies by library with climate controls always the same as above. Some libraries box them without bags and boards. Some place them in file cabinets or flat archival boxes. SDSU uses archival backer boards (acid-free), poly bags and waterproof poly comics boxes. Regular industry backer boards test acidic on one side and the bags can be lower quality (unless it’s in mylar). We work to get everything out of regular cardboard industry comics boxes as soon as possible.

Q: How do you stay ‘in the know’ about what is popular in the manga/comic world?

  • PJ: Whew, this is time-consuming, but also really rewarding if you happen to also be a fan. I’m on scholarly comics listservs and social media groups, I read trade journals and comics news sites, I attend conventions, I regularly talk to artists, scholars and other fans, I get email newsletters from publishers, and I usually check the new releases on Wednesdays… and I still often feel like I am chronically behind on knowing what’s up because there is so much!
  • LP: We rely on a range of professional resources, including BooklistLibrary JournalSchool Library JournalPublishers Weekly, as well as Good Comics for KidsThe Graphic LibraryManga BookshelfManga Librarian, Mangasplaining, and No Flying No Tights. For broader industry coverage, also check out ICv2, Popverse, and The Beat.