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Comic Books, Special Collections and the Academic Library

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Book Chapter

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Academic libraries -- Relations with faculty and curriculum, Comics (Graphic works) -- Social aspects, Libraries -- Special collections


A familiar staple of entertainment for a wide variety of readers, the comic book has not always held a regular place in the academic library. Concerning themselves with collecting more traditional expressions of scholarship, libraries have not historically dedicated much of their acquisitions budgets to this area. Therefore, the comic book or graphic novel was largely relegated to someone’s personal collection and would more likely be found on the shelves of a comic book store than the shelves of a university library.

Fast-forward to the present day, where library collections more commonly provide access to comic books, either in regular story-arc paperbacks or deluxe full hardcover omnibuses. Some are privileged to host special archival collections for a new generation of readers as well as a new breed of academics: comics studies scholars. Portland State University (PSU) Library is the repository for Dark Horse Comics (DHC), housing all the physical content produced by America’s third-largest comics company.1 The library is in a unique position to support teaching, learning, and research in the field of comics studies, related fields, and language instruction.

The following chapter explores the use of the PSU Library’s DHC collection to support teaching in the World Languages and Literatures department, considering the benefits and limitations of its print copies. In it, we discuss the example of teaching Japanese comics (manga), a successful branch for DHC, and consider how manga are important resources in foreign-language or world culture courses. The collection and cataloging of this material are of particular importance in the academic library, warranting substantial interdepartmental collaboration. This chapter also investigates the processing and technical services aspects of housing this material. We also include reflections from professionals associated with the archive as PSU enters its fifteenth year stewarding this repository.


Book chapter accepted for publication in Comic Books, Special Collections, and Academic Libraries (ACRL).

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