After learning that an adult graphic novel was removed from the shelves of a California public library because it was deemed inappropriate for children, three national organizations are teaming up to create guidelines for librarians on handling the increasing number of graphic novels aimed at an adult audience. The National Coalition Against Censorship has joined with the American Library Association and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to create these guidelines.
In April, the Stockton Public Library pulled A Child's Life by Phoebe Gloeckner (North Atlantic Press), a fictional account of Gloeckner's life, after the city's mayor pushed the city council to debate ways to control certain books and materials on library shelves.
"It became a very political issue," Nicky Stanke, director of Stockton's public library, told PW. Reportedly, a Stockton resident took her 11-year-old son to the library, where he checked out Gloeckner's book, which is a collection of stories about—among other things—childhood sexual abuse. The mother of the child then copied the most graphic pages from the book and leafleted the community, Stanke explained. "This was a sad event for me, because it was a worthy book," Stanke added.
Gloeckner began teaching a course on graphic novels at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this fall. She was notified about the incident when a colleague e-mailed her a link to an article that ran in Stockton's newspaper. In the article, Stockton mayor Gary Podesto is quoted as calling A Child's Life"a how-to book for pedophiles."
"I'm speechless," said Gloeckner, whose work has received generally positive reviews. Gloeckner said Podesto "is implying that it's pornographic. The book is about psychological abuse, and it needs to be read and understood." Podesto could not be reached for comment, but he leaves office in January after losing a run for the state senate.
"It's not just Gloeckner's book," Svetlana Mintcheva, NCAC's arts program director, told PW. "There's confusion because this kind of genre used to be addressed at younger kids. There are a number of graphic novelists who write for adults and older teenagers."
Mintcheva said she is inviting Gloeckner and other graphic novelists to participate in the creation of guidelines for librarians for stocking such books. She said libraries need "a policy so they can have these books and be protected from attacks. If you reduce what is in every library to what a 12-year-old can read, you are also curtailing the rights of adults." Mintcheva hopes the NCAC will have its guidelines available in the spring.