Milne Library “gets graphic” with innovative collection

The newest addition to Milne Library’s stack is a sizable collection of graphic novels. Brought to us by education and instructional design librarian Michelle Costello, this collection has been in the making for over three years now, and greatly adds to what the library has to offer.  

The collection is comprised of content-specific children’s novels and others geared more toward college students and adults. As a result, first graders, high schoolers and adults alike can enjoy this genre. 

Content-specific elementary titles include Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean for science learners, The Maid of the Mist for history lessons and Tippy and the Night Parade for English language students. These titles can be found in the library’s Teacher Education Resource Center in the lower level. 

In the upper stacks, graphic novels for more mature readers can be found among the reference books and essay collections. These include a pictorial version of Pride and Prejudice, Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63—a memoir about the Vietnam War—and the first of John Lewis’ award-winning historical series March.

Costello’s objective for building a graphic novel collection was to help education students. Costello works closely with assistant professor of education Kelly Keegan’s secondary literacy education classes, in which students look for books that teach content-area literacy. Keegan decided that graphic novels would be a terrific way for students to “understand the content, but also make it interesting for them,” according to Costello. 

When Keegan first started this project, Milne’s graphic novel collection was less than impressive—but based on the students’ needs, Costello has been able to grow the collection considerably. 

Costello said that graphic novels are ideal to help reluctant readers engage in texts. 

“You might have some students who, once they get into either middle or high school, have decided that they no longer want to read,” she said. “But these students wouldn’t have any issue picking up a comic or watching a movie. So this is a way to get them still interested in reading, but in a format that is more like what they’re used to.”

Graphic novels are an asset to all student readers as well. They are “a great way to bridge what students already know with what they have yet to learn,” according to Costello, as they help facilitate and support students’ ability to visualize and understand complicated ideas. 

This will serve as an ideal way to get reluctant readers engaged in texts. The graphic novels can follow a more traditional format or can be innovative and take the form of a “choose your own adventure” book—something that Costello finds particularly exciting.  

Although the collection originated with the intent to aid education courses, Costello knows that the graphic novels have the potential to be integrated into other departments as well, such as history, English and foreign languages. 

“A great way for someone to learn a new language is through graphic novels because it might be easier for them to see the vocabulary and the tenses in context,” she said. 

Thus far, the collection does include several graphic novels in Spanish, French and Japanese. 

As graphic novels are only growing in popularity, it’s appropriate for the library to integrate the genre into their ample collection. Costello attests that a large number of students are checking out the graphic novels for pure enjoyment, not just for educational purposes. 

In fact, Costello is continuing to grow the collection; she welcomes suggestions from students, faculty and staff. Other than consulting award lists and other book lists, student recommendations are the primary way in which the collection has come to life. Submissions can be emailed to Costello or ordered through IDS’ purchase option. 

As for Costello’s personal favorite, “It’s too hard to say!”