Caitlin Grossman of the Yuma High School Library in Yuma, Ariz., and Valerie Acklin of the Bellmore Memorial Library in Bellmore, N.Y., winners of the fourth annual Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries, were honored over the weekend at the American Library Association Annual Conference, held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
ALA’s Gaming Round Table, and the Graphic Novels & Comics Member Initiative Group, administer the grants, which were established in honor of acclaimed cartoonist Will Eisner (1917–2005). The grants—a combination of cash vouchers and award-winning book collections—are awarded annually to libraries working to promote awareness and literary appreciation of graphic novels and comic books.
The Yuma High School Library received the Graphic Novel Growth Grant, which is awarded to a library that is seeking to expand its graphic novel and comics collection, and the Bellmore Memorial Library received the Graphic Novel Innovation Grant, which supports a library’s graphic novel–related service or program. Both librarians, whose work stood out in a field of more than 150 applicants, work closely with teen patrons: Grossman as Yuma High School’s only librarian and Acklin as Bellmore Memorial Library’s head of teen services.
Grossman’s “Improving Literacy and Enriching Lives” program uses graphic novels and comics for outreach to Yuma High School’s student body, which includes teenagers from low-income households, and those who are learning English. The program has proved immensely popular; though graphic novels account for just under 3% of the library’s collection, they make up nearly 32% of its circulation.
At the Bellmore Memorial Library, Acklin’s project “Picture Yourself: Using Graphic Novels to Explore the People and Perceptions of Bellmore” encouraged patrons to share experiences through sequential art storytelling workshops, and by writing and illustrating their stories.
Will Eisner’s nephew Carl Gropper, and Gropper’s wife Nancy, administrators of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, presented the grants on the Graphic Novel and Gaming Stage. Afterward, Jack Baur of the Berkeley Public Library in California, and Caitlin McGurk of Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, joined Grossman and Acklin on stage for a discussion titled “The Art of Graphic Novel Selection and Acquisition,” moderated by John Shableski of Udon Entertainment.
The two winning librarians will now be able to expand their collections with the $2,000 vouchers that each will receive for orders from Diamond Book Distributors, and $1,000 to organize graphic novel–themed events at their libraries. In addition, each received $1,000 to cover travel costs to the ALA Annual Conference and a set of volumes by and about Will Eisner, as well as a copy of every work nominated for the 2015 Eisner Awards, a collection valued at about $3,000.