It is true that larger libraries can rely on approval plans and smaller libraries can rely solely on patron requests to build a collection of graphic novels. Why then try to establish a 'core' collection of what will be viewed by some to be recreational reading?
1) A huge percentage of graphic novels in print are series. Having a collection of random volumes on the shelf with no attempt to offer complete series creates frustration for the patron. The ability to have complete sets is an advantage that a library has over a bookstore. Why trade a strength for a weakness?
2) A small percentage of graphic novels are non-fiction. These are the ones that have the greatest potential to support the curriculum (see the examples to the right). So carefully selecting non-fiction helps you create a multi-purpose collection - rather than something that is narrowly for recreation.
3) Patrons who request graphic novels are often enthusiasts who sometimes have a narrow focus on modern superhero titles or particular genres of manga. Their selection decisions won't build a compelling variety of titles that would have the potential to hook readers who are not already enthusiastic about those genres.
In my opinion the greatest obstacle to building a successful graphic novels collection at my library is a:
Criticism: It's trashy popular culture and a waste of library funds.
Response: That's what they said about novels in the Nineteenth Century and short stories well into the Twentieth Century. Do you really think that 100% of them are trashy?
Criticism: They're too visual and don't promote real reading.
Response: They permeate Japanese society, and Japan has a 99% literacy rate. Should the library stop buying DVDs for the same reason?
Criticism: They don't support the curriculum. Spend money only on things that do.
Response: There is a growing number of non-fiction works of a very high caliber. Some of them are even good enough to be cited in students' bibliographies.
In addition to the obvious disciplines of Art and Literature, there are examples listed on this web site of particular titles that support a variety of disciplinary areas.
African American Studies -- Baker, K.: Nat Turner
Biology -- Cannon, Z. ; Schultz, M.: The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA
Classics -- Shanower, E.: Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships
Ecology -- Marder, L.: Beanworld : Wahoolazuma!
History -- Nakazawa, K.: Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon History of Hiroshima
Journalism -- Sacco, J.: The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo
Labor & Industrial Relations -- Ward, L.: Six Novels in Woodcuts
Music -- Russell, P. C. ; Wagner, R.: The Ring of the Nibelung
Military History -- Kubert, J.: Dong Xoai: Vietnam 1965
Religion -- Wolverton, B.: The Wolverton Bible