Bagged & Boarded: Agent Gates and the Secret of Devonton Abbey

agentgates Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey: A Parody of Downton Abbey |  2/5 stars

[Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads | Comixology]

 tl;dr summary: A satiric romp through the underbelly of Dovonton Abbey, where the next heir is a dog, the under butler is working with a secret organization, and the Dowager Countess is the head of a secret intelligence agency, all while love, the philosopher’s stone,  and intrigue abound.

Review:  Just. No.

Yes, I get it. It’s a parody of a blockbuster TV show that everyone and their tithed second cousins have either watched or at least heard of. Even TheHusband, who has tends to yawn when other similar shows are on, watches DA for the drama and the occasional backstabbing.

AGENT GATES’s purpose, I suppose, is taking the best elements of Downton Abbey, a drawing room mystery, throws in a bit of James Bond action, and pulls the downstairs staff in as secret agents working for a royal secret intelligence unit.

But it fails. It fails on a lot of levels. The ability to capture the characters quirks from the TV show is in fits and starts. The art seems like it was rushed, some characters seem to to have more details attributed to them, others are given a few strokes of the pen to give their likeness. The dialogue is beyond over the top and doesn’t even attempt to catch the character’s personalities and attributes.

It felt like someone watched a few episodes of the first season, saw an opportunity to make a few bucks and had some spare time, and came up with this dribble.

There is a subtle art to parody and satire, and this graphic novel is miserable with attempt. Library loan? Sure. But to buy? Only if it is in the clearance bin.

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2012, 2003, 1999

Bagged & Boarded: Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections

9781555704612_p0_v1_s260x420 Bagged & Boarded: Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections | 3.5/5

Quick summary: As the title states, it is a collection development book aimed at librarians who work with k-12 on purchasing, promoting, justifying, and defending their graphic novel collection.

tl;dr summary: Despite the fact this is geared for public librarians, there is a lot of rich material and resources that are relevant to academics or special librarians. Miller ditches chatter and presents the content in a clean, organized style. While I read this on consecutive order, you could easily jump from section to section. Each section is summed up with main points presented, which I found refreshing and easy to track. While the most content is still relevant nearly a decade after publication, it is not without its flaws. Which brings us to tbe problem of the book: It was published in 2005 and many of the recommended titles are out of print or recommended web resources are dead. This title should should not be a one off, but should be revised every few years to keep it fresh.

When looking for titles for support in graphic novels, titles are usually geared for public libraries, school libraries, hard core research,  or the youths; basically everyone and thing other than what I’m looking for. I’m an academic librarian at a community college whose demographic is older then teens but whose collections are not geared for serious research. We’re kind of in a no mans land when it comes to available materials to support some of our topics, graphic novels being one of them. There has to be something that can answer my questions about collection development and be easily accessible.

So when I was shelf walking one day, I saw this title sitting with other collection development titles. I was intrigued but skeptical because we’re neither a public library nor is our core audience teens, so it seemed out of place. I picked it up regardless of my first impression.

Boy was I wrong.

At only 130 pages, Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections, doesn’t seem like it would offer a lot of guidance on collection development or offer  practical advice. You would be wrong. Organized in an easy to follow manner, DaPGNC cuts to the quick starting with history of GNs to genres, and then moves briskly along to collection development guidelines (Use the 5 Cs: credibility, circulation, commitment, collection, and cost), maintenance, suggestions for circulation, marketing, and programming,

Each section is broken down to a paragraph or two of what it is, then examples (if needed), then a summary which includes bullet points of what you’ve just read. I thought this set up was brilliant because it makes it easier to find information later if you’re scanning bullet points. I also liked how he wrote with a very minimalist style and dropped the theory behind all the information he was presenting. Just the facts please.

Additionally, what makes DaPGNC intriguing is that the use of “teen,” “YA,” “juvenile” or anything to signify the youths is kept at a very bare minimum. For example, in promotions, Miller refers to using both Teen Advisory Board and general public when soliciting ideas. In fact, Miller’s lack of mentioning the youths was so infrequent, I kept checking the title of the book to make sure I was reading the right book because after all, this is part of a Teens @ The Library series.  This is not to say there isn’t sections about working with teens and the collection, but it’s so subtle you almost miss it.  Someone looking for a how-to book geared to working with teens might find this bit annoying. Personally, I loved it.

This for me is a good thing – I am thrilled to not only have a great resource but I needed it to be a resource I could practically use that was not heavily slated to one demographic over another, which was my big worry. This title definitely fits that bill.

All through the book, Miller makes recommendations for print titles as well as websites to support the collection. While many of the suggestions are still easily available and the websites are still active, due to the age of the book (8 years), many were not.  This was pretty frustrating when Miller makes a great recommendation only to find not only is the link dead, but it was never picked up somewhere else.

In addition to succinct  information, Miller also presents lots and lots of ideas on marketing, programming, and collection development. While some of them are not feasible at my current library, but his suggestions and recommendations will become handy one day. Additionally, he includes cross reference of recommended titles in the back, along with an index and list of additional resources (many of which are now dead ).

I give this book 3.5/5 because of the currency issue and some of the content issue, but overall this book is stellar for anyone needing a reference title for graphic novel collection development, regardless of library.

Introducing Graphicdemia: Collecting Comics and Graphic Novels in Academia

On March 2, I presented, along with two other colleagues, at the MSU Comics Forum on Golden Age: Comics and Graphic Novel Resources in Libraries. Our schtick, if you will, is to present the collection and outreach methods from three different types of libraries: academic, public, and special; and present specifically at a non-library conference.

In 1974, Will Eisner (yes, that Will Eisner) penned an article in School Library Journal entitled, Comic Books in the Library. For at least 40 years, libraries have been well aware of the importance of collecting comics and graphic novels. Librarians write and present on this topic to other librarians at librarian conferences and publications across the country all day, every day.

But what about interaction with the public, the communities we serve, comic stores, artists, etc? Do they know we’re doing this?

The answer is: Not so much.

My presenting colleagues and I recognized there is a disconnect between what librarians are doing and the community and artists we’re doing it for and this is where our presentation comes in. We’re also going to be doing similar presentations at C2E2 in April and Grand Con in September. The C2E2 presentation is going to be more of a how the collection is promoted and utilized, while the Grand Con presentation will be similar to MSU Comic Forum presentation or a hybrid of the two.

At the MSU Comics Forum, our Q&A after was pretty awesome and we got a lot of great questions. I felt really confident about our work and the audience seemed to really respond well to what we were saying. The confidence/passion of how we feel about our topic is evident, and we had a great rapport with each other to back up the other’s points. I’m excited about our future presentations.

Now, I began collecting graphic novels at GRCC for a couple of reasons. We literally only had a few titles, like Astonishing X-Men Vol 1 and Cartooning for fun and profit (circa 1945), but there was absolutely no cohesion to our collection (series titles were not continued, some of the books were older than dirt, and so forth). In addition, I was told someone local was going to donate a few boxes of graphic novels several years ago but they were all rejected by the librarians at the time as not being relevant to our curriculum. Even despite the fact someone was obviously buying titles since the library already a small growing collection in the stacks. So, no consistency or cohesion to the collection.

The other reasons I wanted to collect graphic novels was the value and diversity they bring to the collection, they would or could be supported across various curriculums and lastly, they could introduce students to new topics or be a bridge to a difficult topic.

I took my proposal to the librarians and my director, and they supported the idea of collecting graphic novels. I worked with our cataloger on how to best catalog our collection. By mid-spring 2012, I started collecting graphic novels and peripheral books.

When you hear librarians talk about collection development, they often mention the core collection. Typically this means titles that should be standard in your stacks, for whatever reason. To bring cohesion to the collection, I needed to find fairly recent core collection lists, websites, and books to start gathering titles as well as start tracking newly published titles to purchase.

This is when I started running into a number of problems.

  1. 90% (if not higher) of professional literature (print and online) on comics/graphic novels is geared for teen, tween, or younger
  2. General core collection books were outdated or the titles recommended would be out of print or geared towards teen and younger
  3. Suggested reading lists from various organizations (library and non-library based) would include out of print or age inappropriate or content inappropriate titles
  4. Review lists from in the profession literature or general newspapers and magazines, concentrate more on teen/youth over adult titles
  5. Academic institutions that carry comic / graphic novel collections either had their collections in special collections (typically non-circulating), focused on a specific type (golden age, silver age, etc), or  the emphasis was on research only
  6. Catalogs by publishers or book distributors concentrate on youth  over adult books. A recent spring catalog by a large distributor was 20+ pages on graphic novels, maybe 3 pages were geared for adult content.

First let me clarify, when I refer to something as being “adult,” I am not referring to something as being racy or pornographic. I am referring to materials that contain situations, language, or ideas appropriate for 18+.   It is generally accepted most weekly comics are rated as such, but per my list above, publishers, reviewers, and such concentrate on the under 18s. Which is maddening!

I am also get that adults will read content geared for the under 18s, which is fine. But my first goal is to support our curriculum so I have to be very specific on what I can and cannot buy. I can also afford to be picky as our local public library is one block away, whereas if it weren’t, my range would be much more diverse.

As I started researching and creating my core list, I was finding a lot of great sites that I thought would be of interest to my students, so I started a graphic novels subject guide. In order to get a better idea of what to put on my guide, I searched for other guides on graphic novels and became disheartened by what I found.

  1. Guides that were obviously templates and could be for any subject, with no relevant information on the specific topic (general database links, general how to pages, etc)
  2. Guides with dead links, broken embeds, out dated information or rarely updated
  3. Guides with mixed messages: Instructions on how to use databases, cite papers, find materials and then provide available books geared for instructors / researchers.
  4. Guides that did not provide additional information outside of their own resources, so no list of blogs, websites, societies, museums, etc for future investigation.

Many guides had one problem, but most had multiple. I imagined myself as a student gettings super frustrated if I was doing homework on the inability to find information.

This is what got me thinking about how graphic novels are perceived in academia, from a student’s point of view and a librarian’s point of view.  And to be honest, it’s a mess.

This is when I sussed out I had numerous goals I wanted to achieve when it came to graphic novels in academic libraries.

  • Present at non-library conferences how libraries of all shapes and sizes are collecting, promoting, and circulating graphic novels
  • Inline with collecting the collection, promote the heck out of it to my patrons and community
  • Keep the subject guide as divergent and current as possible for not only my students, but others as well
  • Start Graphicdemia, and keep it as current and robust as possible as a resources for librarians who are collecting at non-research institutions,  special libraries, adult services public librarians, or something else entirely
  • Perhaps write on this topic for publication

Currently I’m debating on what to put on Graphicdemia vs putting it on the subject guide, so currently my rationale is, “If it helps someone on the development and collection side, that goes on Graphicdemia. If it is of general interest, that goes on the subject guide.”

The response to this has been fantastic so far, and it’s interesting to see how many librarians are struggling with the same problem. This is what makes working at a community college so unique is we fall into that sphere between public and four year academic institutions  and we can pull from both on many things but others, we get lost in the shuffle.

I have a lot of work to do.