For Ada Community librarian Diane Rice, love of the graphic novel began with a love of images in general.
Rice studied archaeology, including ancient petroglyphs imagery carved in rock: the marks left behind to represent thoughts and ideas, she said.
She sees that thread in graphic novels, where image is a universal language. Graphic novels are related to comics but are typically bound book-style with content far beyond newsstand comics.
Everyone needs heroes. You can find them in graphic novels, said Rice. On the other hand, you can find stories about Average Joes, too.
She pulls a book from a shelf, Too Cool to be Forgotten, a graphic novel by Alex Robinson about a 40-year-old mans struggle to give up cigarettes.
Thanks to her efforts, the librarys collection of adult fiction and nonfiction graphic novels has expanded from about 50 scattered throughout the library a few years ago to more than 1,000.
Boise Public Library staffers also have seen a growing interest in the adult graphic novel. The library has more than 2,500 titles in its collection. In 2012, adult graphic titles were checked out nearly 10 percent more than in 2011.
In recognition of the genres popularity, the main branch is moving its collection to a more prominent spot on the first floor this fall, said librarian Tully Gerlach.
Theres definitely a demand. As the collection grows, the use grows with it, he said.
We have difficulty weeding the collection because titles dont sit around. Were more likely to replace copies than take titles out of circulation.
Gerlach said the rise of the Internet has grown the adult graphic novel audience. Its easier to get the word out about publications. Graphic novel creators have also used online fundraising sites like Kickstarter to pay for their projects and get them into circulation.
Theres a certain power in the graphic medium that doesnt exist in other forms, he said.
Graphic novels offer a unified world created by one artist, he said.
Graphic novelists were in the cultural vanguard blurring genres like horror with romance, hardboiled private investigation with fantasy long before television and movies like Twilight or The X Files did, he said.
MISPERCEPTIONS LIVE ON
In addition to growing the graphic novel collection at Ada Community Library, Rice has spoken to library audiences across southern Idaho.
The library hosted Modern Marvels: Jewish Adventures in the Graphic Novel in 2008. Readers from their 20s to their 80s read titles like The Rabbis Cat by Joan Sfar, about a philosophizing cat, and The Complete Maus: A Survivors Tale by Art Spiegleman.
Spieglemans best-seller about the Holocaust brought a whole new audience to adult graphic novels when it came out in the early 1990s. It won a Pulitzer prize and legitimized the form for many skeptics.
But adult graphic novels still need advocates, said Rice. People sometimes think the phrase adult graphic is synonymous with sexual content. Some think graphic novels are for struggling readers.
They can be. School libraries are some of the biggest graphic novel customers at Rediscovered Books in Downtown Boise, said bookseller Wally Johnston.
Johnston has lectured to prospective teachers at Boise State about the usefulness of graphic novels in the classroom. But graphic novels are far more than reading aids, said Johnston.
In a culture where so much of what we ingest is visual, learning to read a graphic novel as critically as you would a text makes you more literate when you interact with our world, said Johnston.
NOT FOR EASY READERS
Graphic novels tackle hard news, Johnston said, noting The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert. Photos and drawings mesh to tell a story neither could do as well alone.
Theres even a graphic novel version of the most infamous terrorist attack on American soil, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.
But to this day, theres a huge stigma about graphic novels, said Johnston.
Parents in the store will say to their children who want them, No, I want you to get a real book. We have a graphic version of Shakespeare and a 10-volume story about the life of the Buddha in graphic form. But you still hear that.
Anna Webb: 377-6431