In 2010, Karen Green published an article in Publisher’s Weekly which pointed out that cataloging and shelving inconsistencies in the LC system used by most academic libraries resulted in comics being hard to find either online or in person. Spread between PN6700-6790, NC1300-1766, and a number of subject-related categorizations, the placement of comics in the academic library is generally up to the individual librarian to determine, and none of the placements have a great deal of inherent rationality. Green also noted in 2010 that independently published comics without ISBNS often do not end up in academic collections at all, or else are placed in pre-cataloged areas with only a “skeleton record.”
My experience looking for comics in academic libraries from 2014 to the present has demonstrated to me that these inconsistencies still persist. In my undergraduate experiences at the University of Washington in 2014-2016, comics could mostly be found in the PN6700s in one library, but some were also scattered among novels in the fiction section or sorted by subject. Non-fiction graphic novels could be anywhere. The experience of searching for a specific graphic novel could be so frustrating that it was preferable to request the books online and have them delivered to the holds desk. As Green says, the fact that LC headings can’t seem to figure out if comics need to be held in one place or another, or even apply consistent headings to works by one author, implies that some revision needs to be made to the way the headings function with respect to the medium. Eight years after Green’s article, whatever changes or considerations it stirred among librarians remain invisible to me on the university shelf. This is a persistent problem that needs to be resolved; the purpose of the LC system is to sort items physically in a way that makes coherent logical sense so they can be found by students and faculty looking to read them.
The problem of figuring out how to classify graphic novels–by format and then by author or content or title–seems to stump our profession in a range of settings. Public libraries face the question of whether to situate all graphic novels firmly in 741.5 and then sort by author, or to distribute GNs throughout their fiction and nonfiction collections by subject. As a user, I favor the former system for reasons of usability, though I think that nonfiction graphic novels can also belong in Dewey classes relevant to their subject.
Green, K. (2010). ‘Whaddaya Got?’ Finding Graphic Novels in an Academic Library. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/45109-whaddaya-got-finding-graphic-novels-in-an-academic-library.html