The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 8, 2013

Danya Walker: Comic strip artists featured at library

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Public Library is lucky enough to host a program Saturday by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum on graphic novels. These two are the creators of what has to be the best online, library-based comic strip: "Unshelved."

When I first started working at the Joplin Public Library, I was sure it would be a book lover's nirvana. After all, the people who came to a library were all readers, and a library would be a quiet place with little uproar and excitement.

Looking back, I just laugh. People would sometimes be shocked by the odd and unusual events that have happened in the stacks of the Joplin Public Library.

Barnes and Ambaum started their strip in 2002 and have been sharing the ups and downs of Mallville Public Library ever since. The employees consist of the library manager Mel, who prides herself on her efficiency and work ethic; Colleen, who works the reference desk and believes computers are an evil ploy to get rid of her reference books; Tamara, the over-the-top, always happy children's librarian; Buddy the Book Beaver, the summer reading mascot who never left; and Dewey, the sarcastic, not-so-hard working, young-adult librarian.

The daily strips cover budget woes, book talks, patron interactions, and all the comical times galore encountered at a public library, and are fun for library staff and civilians alike.

When I first discovered this strip at www.unshelved.com, I went slightly overboard reading all the back ones, catching up on all the editions I'd missed. I drove my husband crazy by pulling him over to the computer, making him read a strip, and saying, "That just happened at our library!" As a subscriber to the strip's daily feed, I now don't miss a single one.

I was delighted to discover that I could buy books that carried the comic strips in various collections, and ecstatic when the Joplin Public Library bought "Book Club," containing many of the strips. Just like Fight Club, the first rule of Book Club is that you don't talk about Book Club.

"Book Club" will entertain readers with its humorous look at library life. Along with strips showcasing Mallville's own library superhero The Shusher, the trials of a vegetarian library staff person, the fun of running a summer reading program and the joys of computer use, "Book Club" also features 30 pages of The Unshelved Book Club.

Each day showcases a different book, telling just enough about the plot to intrigue and interest readers. There have been many weeks that I've immediately logged into our catalog to put the book on hold because it caught my attention.

While many people consider graphic novels just for kids, some have been banned for the messages they contain, and others have won prizes for their artwork and storylines. The Joplin Public Library's collection contains graphic novels in not only the children's and teen departments, but also houses quite a few in the adult section.

The program, which starts at 2:30 p.m., will cover why Barnes and Ambaum love comics so much and feature moments in graphic novels that demonstrate the unique power of this amazing medium.

There will be adult content in the program, so it may not be appropriate for the young, but it promises to be entertaining and educational. They will also have copies of their books available for purchase and will have a book signing after the program.

 

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