CFP: Comic Books, Special Collections, and the Academic Library

Edited book, to be published by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
Edited by: Brian Flota and Kate Morris (James Madison University Libraries)
Stichtag: 09.10.2020

As comic book properties continue their reign over popular culture, there has been continued growth in the academic field of Comics Studies. As a result, graphic novels and comic trade paperbacks have begun to populate the shelves of many academic libraries. Single issue collections of comic books, however, tend to find their home in Special Collections because of their flimsy construction, highly acidic paper, and, occasionally, the scarcity of certain specific issues. Furthermore, after decades of neglecting comic books because of the perception of them as “lowbrow” cultural objects, with a few exceptions, academic libraries have only recently begun to seriously collect them. Given the challenges of time, cost, and space associated with collecting, cataloging, and preserving these pieces of comics history, thoughtful consideration must go into any decision to begin such a collection or to sustain existing collections.

Comic Books, Special Collections, and the Academic Library aims to be the first collection of essays about comic books in libraries geared toward the academic library and special collections in particular. Each section will be framed in the form of a question, such as “Why Should Your Institution Collect Comics?” and “How Do You Engage in Library Instruction with Your Comics Collection?” Challenges specific to comic book collections in academic libraries will be addressed, such as finding space and funds to build a collection, making diverse and inclusive collections, leading innovative library instruction and information literacy sessions with comics, working with undergraduate and graduate students on comics research, grant writing, attracting potential donors, working outside traditional university-vendor relationships to buy comics from dealers, identifying new areas of scholarship within Comics Studies, and identifying librarians and faculty with comics expertise. We will learn best practices for developing, cultivating, growing, cataloging, and making use of comic book collections from academic librarians who have been trailblazers in this arena.

We are Looking for Chapters on the Following Questions (and areas of emphasis)

Why Should Your Institution Collect Comics?

Topics include:

  • Increasing Area of Scholarly Study
  • What are Comics?
    • Definitions
      • Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Trades
      • Comic strips, digital comics
      • Zines
      • Original comic art
  • History of Comics, especially in libraries
  • Visual and Textual Literacies
  • Multidisciplinary value of comic books
  • Do libraries in your geographical region collect comics?
  • Would scholarship at your institution be bolstered by collecting comics?

Your Library Collects or Wants to Collect Comics — Now What?

Topics include:

  • Collection development and scope
    • Identifying comics to acquire
    • Forming relationships with local comic dealers and collectors
  • Funding collection
    • Grant opportunities
    • Cultivating Donors
  • Storing and preserving comics
    • Digital Preservation of Comics
      • Open access
  • Description/cataloging decisions and impact on access
  • Making Diverse and Inclusive Collections
  • Internationally-produced comic books
  • Countering claims of comics’ “lowbrow” status

How Do You Engage in Library Instruction and Outreach with Your Comics Collection?

Topics include:

  • Cataloging
  • Outreach
    • Liaison Librarian and Faculty Relationships
  • Learning Outcomes with Comics
    • Information Literacy (ACRL Framework)
    • Speaker Series / Lectures
    • Class visits
    • Making Comics
      • Traditional print
      • Comic-making software
  • Exhibits and displays
    • Pop-up exhibitions, digital exhibitions

How Can Comics Be Used as Primary Source Material by Students and Faculty?

Topics include:

  • Literary Studies
  • Material Culture Studies
  • History of the Book
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Feminist Theory and Gender Studies
  • Queer Theory
  • Disability Studies
  • History
  • Art and Art History
  • Cultural Studies
  • Popular Culture Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Advertising

How Should the Collection be Supplemented?

Topics include:

  • Scholarship on Comics
    • Monographs and edited collections
    • Scholarly Journals
    • Transmedia studies
    • Collecting comics-related literature and objects
    • Promotional materials
    • Movies, films, DVDs, soundtracks
    • Toys, video games, and other memorabilia
  • Reference materials and reader advisory
    • Research Guides

The editors are open to other ideas and possibilities not considered above related to collecting, promoting, and stewarding comic books in collaboration with special collections in academic libraries, and encourage creative interpretation of the CFP.


  • Proposal Deadline: October 9, 2020
  • Authors notified and chapter guidelines distributed: November 13, 2020
  • Full chapters due: February 12, 2021

(editors may provide feedback and make revision suggestions and will work with selected authors to set timeline for resubmission)

Required Proposal Information

  • Proposed Chapter Title
  • Keywords
  • Abstract (300 words max)
  • Primary author information (name, title, institution, preferred email address)
  • Additional author information (if applicable)
  • Author bio or bios (100 words max)

Submission Process

Authors interested in submitting a proposal should complete the Proposal Form on or before October 9, 2020.

Please direct questions to:
Brian Flota (
Kate Morris (

Selection Criteria

Contributions from a variety of academic institutions, from authors at different stages of their career, and with diversity and representation in mind, are welcomed by the editors. Co-authoring is encouraged (but not required), particularly where senior authors can partner with early career writers. Contributions that offer fresh or underrepresented perspectives are especially encouraged.

Full CFP details and link to submission form: