The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants Reception was held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on June 24th during the 2017 ALA Annual Conference. The evening was a celebration of graphic novels and the numerous possibilities they offer for education and pure enjoyment. The reception brings together librarians, creators, publishers, and graphic novel enthusiasts to mingle and hear from each other. In attendance were Nancy and Carl Gropper of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation as well as the sponsors Dark Horse Comics, Diamond Book Distributors, Drawn & Quarterly, UDON Entertainment, W.W. Norton, Zuiker Press, and Will Eisner Studios.
A highlight of the reception was hearing from the recipients of the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries. Presented annually, the two grants are the Growth Grant and the Innovation Grant. The recipient of the 2017 Growth Grant was the Institutional Library Development team at the Colorado State Library, with Erin Boyington, Adult Institutions Senior Consultant, accepting the grant. The library partnered with the Colorado Department of Corrections to provide services to The Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling, CO. In her thank you speech, Boyington said, “I really believe that prison libraries give their patrons a chance to learn and grow as people. And the resources that this grant provides for the Sterling Libraries is going to open new gateways for those offenders who take part as students in the LEAD program.” 1 The LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) program is offered by Pop Culture Classroom. “The LEAD With Comics program at SCF [Sterling Correctional Facility] will use the Eisner Growth Grant funds to allow a new teacher to travel to Sterling, Colorado, and to enrich LEAD curriculum and the libraries’ collections with new graphic novels.”2
The 2017 Innovation Grant was awarded to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jessica Mlotkowski, Librarian, Public Services and Cataloging, submitted the grant with assistance from students and faculty. She began by thanking Dakota Yazzie who is an Indigenous Liberal Studies major at IAIA and a former library student worker. “He inspired me to go to my computer one day and google ‘libraries graphic novel grant’”, Mlotkowski said during her acceptance speech at the reception.3 The grant will be used in a few ways – for both programming and library materials. Mlotkowski wrote in an email how they plan on using the grant, and some funds will be given:
…directly to our students, allowing them an opportunity they might not be able to pursue without those funds and without a structured graphic novel program. For the program itself, the library will be holding a graphic novel contest in which students participate to create a short graphic novel (less than 10 pages in length). The library will also hold several graphic novel get-togethers and workshops throughout the process, in which students will learn techniques and approaches to graphic novel creation. I am inviting faculty at IAIA who work with graphic novels in the classroom to help offer art and narrative tips and tricks through these workshops. Students will also have a place to share what they are working on and receive feedback and inspiration from one another. Those participating will have a little more than a semester to work on their graphic novels. Then we will hold an awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the students’ creative efforts. The three best submissions will receive booths at Indigenous Comic Con, which will offer them the opportunity to get their name, artwork, and their graphic novel out into the industry, making important connections. The other participants will receive gift cards for art supplies that they can use in their IAIA coursework.4
The keynote speaker for the evening was Lynda Barry, cartoonist, author, and professor. Barry took to the stage and sang an adapted Tanya Tucker song for the audience, “When I die, I may not go to heaven, because I don’t know if they let cartoonists in. If they don’t, then bury me in the library. Because the library is as close to heaven as I’ve been”.5 The crowd cheered at this rendition and was followed by her group activity of shouting out the names of the people and libraries that have meant the most. Her speech touched on her career and influences and connected graphic novels/comics to libraries:
And one of the things that including graphic work, comics, at the library does, is not only are you letting people read it, you’re showing them that there’s this other language. This other language that actually can change your life. And I feel like the whole reason I’m standing here right now is because I drew a picture, right? And the whole reason you are all here, your whole bodies, is because of something to do with books. 5
Any library is open to submit proposals for the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries opportunities. To learn more about the grants visit: http://www.ala.org/gamert/will-eisner-graphic-novel-grants-libraries
1 Erin Boyington, Acceptance Speech (ALA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, June 24, 2017).
2 American Library Association. (n.d.). Eisner Graphic Novel Grant for Libraries – Growth Grant. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/eisner-graphic-novel-grant-libraries-growth-grant
3 Jessica Mlotkowski, Acceptance Speech (ALA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, June 24, 2017).
4J. Mlotkowski, personal communication, June 30, 2017.
5 Lynda Barry, Key Note Speech (ALA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, June 24, 2017).