Admitting to Burnout, Not Failure

I have a confession to make: I’m not entirely sure I want to be a librarian anymore.

This may be as shocking to you as it was for me to realize. I’ve known I wanted to be an academic reference and instruction librarian since my sophomore year of undergrad. Working in the reference department at the University of Louisville, I discovered my love for teaching and helping students with research. So, I went right into library school at full steam, scouring professional job ads, working multiple jobs on campus to get as much experience as possible, shadowing and team-teaching with instruction librarians, volunteering for outreach events, presenting at conferences…I’m exhausted just running through the list.

And now, going into my second year of the library science program, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that all my momentum has backfired. Instead of doing a few things well, I feel like I’m doing lots of things very poorly. At least in the end I’ll have an impressive CV and maybe even a job offer with a salary and paid time-off and weekends and everything! As I’m frantically juggling classes, a leadership position in the ALA Student Chapter, the instruction and outreach team lead position, a fellowship project in assessment, and managing two small libraries all at once, I’m finding it harder to have patience and empathy for patrons at the reference desk. I no longer get excited when I get an actual reference question or research consultation. Instead of seeing an opportunity to teach, learn, and grow, I feel like their question is just another task on my to-do list. Interacting with patrons is time away from getting something else done instead of, you know, the whole reason why I’m here in the first place–to become a librarian.

Reference librarians sometimes get a bad rap for appearing too busy and unapproachable at the desk. You’ll hear patrons apologize, “I’m sorry to bother you, but…” as you hurriedly close ten tabs to pull up IUCAT. According to the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers, a successful librarian “is poised and ready to engage patrons. The librarian is aware of the need to stop all other activities when a patron approaches and focus attention on the patron’s needs.” This seems like a fair expectation: we’re here to help. We’re expected to not only put aside our homework, but also our subjectivity and identity. This is where it gets complicated, I think, as a student working at the reference desk. It can become taxing, emotional labor to appear friendly, interested, and focused while a million other things are running through your head. This can lead to burnout.

According to Maslach and Jackson, “Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion and cynicism that occurs frequently among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind” (1981, p. 99). Burnout is often a symptom of larger problems. For many instruction librarians it can be caused by their marginal status in academia and the pressure to assess their impact on campus-wide student learning from only one instruction session. It can also stem from the discord between one’s internal emotional state and the external poise and interest one must display when teaching or at a public service desk.

This summer, I interned at IU Southeast as a library instruction assistant with my personal role model and superstar librarian Maria Accardi. I saw a lot of myself in Maria and what I strive to be. She cares fiercely for the souls of her students, but also for herself.

Recently, Maria’s scholarship has diverted slightly from feminist pedagogy and library instruction to include library burnout. She even has a blog dedicated to sharing other librarian’s stories. I had the opportunity to attend the KLA-LIRT conference at the University of Louisville, where I heard Maria speak about her personal experience with burnout. In her keynote speech, she talks openly and honestly about the feeling of exhaustion and cynicism that comes from library work, especially when the professional privileges the personal.

She also suggests ways of preventing and combating burnout–pulling out the weeds as she illustrated with bountiful garden metaphors. Here are my takeaways:

  1. Say no to things that don’t nourish your roots.

This is a big one for a lot of us, I think. As librarians-in-training, we are conditioned to accommodate and please, to be proactive. At least for me, I feel like I can’t say no to opportunities that could get me a job down the road. But cancelling a meeting or turning down a program isn’t going to ruin me.

2. Reject a false balance of work and home life.

The line between work and home life is especially blurred for students who have little consistent off-time. We don’t walk out of the library at 5 o’clock on Friday, we’re here all the time. Prioritize your personal life and well-being. Create boundaries and take time for yourself. Practice self-care. When looking for a job, find a culture and administration that supports this as well.

3. Find a cause you’re passionate about.

For Maria, it’s empowering students in the classroom and approaching her work through intersectional feminism. I’m still searching for my exact calling, but I’ve been invigorated by feminist pedagogy and critical theories.

These things have been especially hard to practice with my current schedule, but I plan to cut back as much as I can next semester. I won’t admit to failure yet, but I will admit to self-inflicted burnout. A big part of my ILS education has been learning about myself and what I really want in life. Maybe I’ll go straight into a library job next year, or maybe I’ll take some time to explore other interests. Be wary of burning out too soon. We have our whole lives and (separate) library careers ahead of us.

–Tessa Withorn

References

Accardi, Maria. “From Cynicism to Empowerment: How Instruction Librarians Can Resist Burnout.” Kentucky Library Association Roundtable Retreat, 15 July 2016, Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY. Keynote address.

Maslach, Christina and Susan E. Jackson. “The Measurement of Experienced Burnout.” Journal of Occupational Behavior, vol. 2, 1981, pp. 99-113.

Reference and User Services Association. “Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers.” Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidelinesbehavioral

On the Process of Becoming a Librarian

Hello and welcome back to the Wells Reference Blog! For those of you just tuning in, this is where the public service assistants of Herman B Wells Library reflect on librarianship and librarian-related topics. In the past, this has often taken the form of highlighting services and resources in the Wells Library. Last year we took a different approach and we reflected on what it means to be a librarian. This semester we’ll be focusing on the process of becoming a librarian and what that means.

How does one become a librarian? What sort of education and training are required? What aspects of the education we receive seem necessary and useful? What are we putting into practice now as we work at Wells Library and what will we put into practice in the future? How does this vary based on the type of library and area of interest? Who are the people instructing and mentoring us? What are some things we wish we could learn more about? These are the type of questions we’ll be asking ourselves this semester.

Having recently started my second year in the library and information science program at Indiana University, when I think about the education I’ve received and am receiving, I think back to where I was when I started the program and started working at the reference desk at Wells Library.

I had a class and a shift on the reference desk on my first day, which also happened to be the first day of classes for the semester. Returning to school after several (and several more) years away, having no previous experience working in a library, I was excited and terrified. Most of my peers were younger than me, seemed sure of their areas of interest in librarianship, and seemed to know exactly what they wanted to get out of the program and their time at Indiana University. I had an idea that librarianship would be a good fit for me based on my strengths and interests, but no concrete proof, and an interest in youth services in public libraries that I was reluctant to admit to anyone, including myself. I was terrified that I didn’t belong and that I was going to be told I was all wrong for librarianship.

My first shift at the reference desk, I kept hearing a dinging noise and finally asked the librarian I was working with what it was, only to be told it was the chat. Then I couldn’t figure out how to get to the window for the chat application. Not a promising start. But I was also excited to learn and work toward a goal that I had enthusiasm for and believed in.

Since that time, the most important thing I’ve learned in the program is that I can be a librarian. Actually, that may be the second most important thing. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I can be myself, as cheesy as that may sound. Last year, I was overwhelmed and terrified working my first shift at the reference desk. This year, I proudly wore a shirt with a detachable cape to my first shift at the reference desk, to the astonishment of several patrons. And while my education isn’t complete yet, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in that time, whatever happens, I know that at the end of this process, I can become a librarian. And I’m hoping I’ll get to become a librarian who wears a cape at least every once in a while.

-Kristin McWilliams

Saying Goodbye

Tracking down full-text online access to the correspondence of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Banging out that 10-page report you saved until the last minute. Putting your jeans on after eating an entire pint of ice cream. Some things in life are just inherently difficult.

Saying goodbye is pretty high up on that list for me. While I’ll admit that not every moment of my time here at IU Bloomington has mirrored the picturesque conclusion of a classic Disney film, the experiences and opportunities this university has afforded — as well as the amazing people I’ve met — have shaped me into the capable, passionate librarian who now faces the prospect of leaving all those things behind.

While I could write endlessly about the creative, intelligent, engaging librarians and library students I’ve had the honor of working and building relationships with while here — and I sincerely hope you all know who you are — I’d like to focus this final Spring 2016 blog post on the privilege it’s been to edit the work of some of those very people.

If you read my first blog post of the school year, you might remember the somewhat grandiose plans we (myself and Nicholae Cline, Scholarly Services Librarian) outlined: To paraphrase, we wanted to create a space where we (the public service assistants of Wells Library) could talk about what being a librarian means to us. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this was going to look like. I listed a few ideas librarians had already posed and hoped that would be enough to get us through the year without too many kinks in the system.

I never could have imagined what this change would actually inspire, the enthusiasm I would see from so many bright young minds. Not only did we share our thoughts on what it means to be a librarian — How far do our duties extend? Have we turned into automatons? How do you measure the value of a library? — we told you about the lessons we’ve learned so far, talked about exciting new innovations in our field, shared our fears about life after IU, recommended some excellent reads (Asian/Pacific American works here, other blogs here, comfort reading here, graphic novels here, queer books here, and short stories here), and wrestled with tough questions about the past as well as the future of librarianship.

What I’m trying to say here is I think somehow, without any real direction, myself and my fellow public service assistants really did what we set out to do. I think this blog became the written embodiment of the passionate, critical, jumbled brains that truly belong only to those people brave enough to call themselves librarians.

-Kaitlin Bonifant

Ephemera and Librarians as Scholars

As I’m sure many of my colleagues remember from my many emails requesting shift coverage, I recently attended a conference. The theme of this year’s Nineteenth Century Studies Association’s conference was “The New and the Novel.” The conference is interdisciplinary and welcomes scholarship that explores all nations. In addition to panels centered around my interest in American and British literature, I learned about French etiquette, Australian brush fires, and American national portraiture.

One of the more interesting presentations I attended engaged my interest in ephemera. A woman was beginning a study on a specific 19th century ballad. She traditionally studied 18th century literature so she was new to navigating the world of ephemeral resources. I use a lot of old newspapers, broadsides, and other ephemeral works in my writing, so I can understand the difficulty she faced as I have had to learn how to find these resources myself. Neither of my departments (English or ILS) has taught me how to locate these materials and I often resort to combing through searches that return thousands of hits.

I have since been in touch with this scholar and she has asked me if I can keep an eye out for ballads and song sheets related to her subject. I would like to, but where do I begin?

This is a different type of request than we usually receive from scholars. It is not a single question, a research consultation, or a request to help navigate a specific database. Library science is a service field and we are more accustomed to helping patrons in this way. How do we then treat these requests from scholars who treat librarianship as a type of scholarship? These requests suggest we establish a more long-term relationship rather than a limited series of exchanges. How long do we stay in contact with these patrons? How much work do we put into assisting them if they are not “our” (i.e. our library’s) patrons? Do we do extra research outside any that we are already doing or do we email whenever we happen to stumble upon something of interest?

This brings up interesting questions, ones I believe some of us will encounter as we attend conferences, work with patrons who are visiting on fellowships, and move from one job to another (hopefully keeping in contact with patrons from our last institution).

On a last note, if anyone knows anything about databases of ephemera, broadside ballads, or songs sheets from the late 18th and 19th centuries, will you let me know?

-Steph Luke

Lessons Learned

The end of the year is upon us, and while the summer is just a short break until next fall for many, some of us will not be returning. (Pause for tears.) I graduate in May along with a number of my peers in the Department of Information and Library Science who worked behind the reference desk with me, and I am given over to reflect on my time working reference and instruction at the Herman B Wells Library. I have learned a lot in my time here. I learned from my instructors, peers, supervisors at various jobs, but I also learned quite a bit from the students and patrons I have served the past two years. I wish to share with you a little bit of what I will take away from my time behind the reference desk.

First, I have had to learn to control my outward show of emotion. I have been told by past supervisors that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I have had to learn to wear a metaphorical jacket to cover those sleeves. This way when a well-meaning patron decides they need to teach me the most ineffective way to search for resources, I can calmly say, “Well, what if we try using this database instead and using this search term and just see what we get,” without any hint of amusement. This also helps on the reverse when I have failed to understand a patron’s needs until well into the conversation and have just wasted their already limited time. Showing frustration or getting upset helps no one and does not solve the problem.

Second, I have learned humility. As a budding “information specialist” I often wanted to believe I could answer all patron questions and help them find the resources they needed. That is until one of the Kelly students or, my favorite, medical science students asks you something using words you have never heard before and you have to repeatedly ask them to spell sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. (I promise, it’s a real thing.) It is at these moments I have learned to swallow my pride and refer them to someone who knows where to find the top five companies worldwide who posted the highest third quarter earnings in 2006. Alas, unlike my wife, I do not know everything. (Just don’t tell her I admitted it.)

Third, I learned procrastination is alive and well. I am not alone in my devotion to it, and it in fact has many adherents whose faith is far greater than my own. I would venture to estimate that 8 out of 10 requests for an article or book are needed for assignments due the next day or, and I have had more of these than I can count, assignments due that very same day. I have therefore had to learn to remain calm and think outside the box a bit. This has meant sending patrons to the Monroe County Public Library or even Barnes and Noble. There are few feelings in life as good as when you have helped save a fellow procrastinator from themselves.

I will end with this. I have learned so many more things in my time working the reference desk here at the Hermie B library than I could mention in a single blog post. I have learned about a plethora of different subjects from so many different fields of study, many of which I know I never would have if not for the patrons seeking help. Most importantly, I learned that working in an academic library is what I want to do with my life, and I have my peers, superiors, instructors, and also the patrons of the library to thank. So, to you all, I say a heart felt thank you.

-David K. Kloster

 

Prepping for the Races

Spring is upon us, and with that comes the stress and busyness the end of the semester brings. To counterbalance this, there are also a slew of lively events happening around campus and the city of Bloomington. Perhaps one of the most popular events that takes place in April every year is the Little 500 bike race.

The race was started in 1951 by the Indiana University Student Foundation. In 1988, a women’s race was also started. Both events raise money for scholarships through IUSF, and to date have raised over one million dollars for working IU students. This year, the races will be held on April 15th and 16th at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The races can also be heard on the radio or watched through a live video stream. More information on that can be found through IUSF

How can the library help you prepare for the races? Here are some ideas:

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Breaking Away: A film released in 1979 that follows a group of four friends who have just graduated high school in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, and end up competing in the Little 500 after clashing repeatedly with Indiana University students. The movie was filmed around campus and Bloomington.  Copies of this film can be found at various libraries around campus. 

 

 

The Little 59780253335739_med00According to the IU Press, this book is “the definitive history of Indiana University’s legendary bike race, The Little 500, a spring tradition since 1951 (and the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Breaking Away). Schwarb goes behind the scenes with winning teams and heartbroken losers, and chronicles the weekend’s effect on a growing campus and ever-changing student body.”

Everything is BicycleThe Lilly library is currently holding an exhibition on bicycles. The exhibition chronicles the history of the bicycle, from its rise to popularity in the 1890’s to the role of the bicycle here at Indiana University and in Bloomington.

Looking for more? Check out the IUSF and IDS twitter feeds to keep you updated on all sorts of Little 500 events leading up to the races. 

-Malissa Renno

Confronting Those “How-Am-I-Going-to-Get-This-All-Done-And-What’s-The-Point-Anyway Blues”

It’s that time of year when the libraries are filling up with students cramming for the end of the semester. [Can you believe that we only have four weeks left? (Why am I reminding myself?)]

Young man having trouble studying, on white background
Look familiar?

While we may feel like chickens with our heads cut off, overt displays of this manic energy are probably less entertaining in real life than as a star performance onstage.* It’s that time of year when we need to be at our calmest, in order to assure students everything’s going to be all right (at least we tell them that), and we can help them find those five sources for the paper they have been putting off all semester. Last semester I had a young man approach the reference desk who was in need of English sources about Korean traffic problems and potential solutions that would support his paper, which happened to be due in only two hours. He was certainly anxious, and added to my own frantic state of mind, our combined anxieties led to a less-than-perfect search. Of course that paper was probably not going to turn out as well as he would have liked, but our interaction might have been better if I was more sensitive in calming him down. We can’t do much to curb our patron’s immediate state of mind other than being calm ourselves (or offering events like De-Sress Fest, which occurred a couple weeks ago). What we can do is focus on limiting our current stress levels and being cognizant of how our interactions are affected by our personal mental states.

We all have our own problems to juggle, with group projects, overloaded work schedules, final papers, job searches, and personal relationships. So I’d like to suggest a few resources I’ve used to help keep me outwardly, and hopefully inwardly, calm and focused in this maelstrom of academic activity. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well, which might improve all our states of mind and relationships with patrons.

Perhaps the most useful resource I’ve used is David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, which was recommended to me by a junior faculty member who lovingly referred to it as GTD. The book focuses on making time for both the things you need to do and things you would like to do, to create a good balance of work and life oriented around priorities. Another suggestion is Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home, which follows along some of the same lines but adds the science of happiness and satisfaction that can improve your work, focus, and personal happiness. 

These readings are for a general audience (they are not in our own collection, though MCPL owns copies of both), but I don’t think we should overlook books of this ilk simply because they seem superficial, hokey, or like just a quick way for the authors to make a buck. I can tell you, while I don’t subscribe to everything these authors suggest, taking a moment and seeing how I can be more productive with less stress has been plenty freeing in the past semester.

Finally, many of us may be struggling with the big questions of why we are in higher education and information fields, and what their broader purpose is. Higher education can serve a very important purpose in our society, which we should really consider in addition to how our own personalities and skills might fit librarianship. Dealing with these questions head-on can provide an ethical component to getting things done and confronting the malaise surrounding the broader purpose of higher education and our positions as public service assistants. I’m personally looking forward to some summer reading of Michael Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters and Helen Smalls’ The Value of the Humanities

I hope by improving our own personal conditions, combating stress, improving productivity, increasing the potential for happiness despite overwhelming activity, and considering our broader purpose as future librarians, we can become an even better (and calming) resource for our students.

-Bret McCandless

*Thus, the reference in the title to Stephen Sondheim’s “God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-I-Oh-You-Do-I’ll-See-You-Later Blues.” 

Fist-bumps for the Fraud and Heretic, or Learning One’s Own Faith

A few weeks ago, a student came to the reference desk for help finding articles on cerebral palsy and education with text-to-speech technologies. I felt as though I had been flailing about in my efforts to assist him, jumping around from database to database–here, in OneSearch, now in ERIC–much like an inexperienced gymnast trying to perform a routine without breaking anyone’s legs. I felt this way, yet the student seemed to find the interaction extremely valuable, thanking me for all my help. Returning to the reference desk after checking out some books, he even gave me my first fist-bump of approval on paid time, a thank-you for flailing. The mismatch between his experience of the interaction and my internal feelings could hardly be more pronounced.

Much has already been said about the spectres of impostor syndrome, the sense that one is faking it and scandalously getting away with it, roaming large in library land. Even before I began my hunt for library jobs and other exotic birds, I’ve often felt like an outsider–not because of any kind of ostracization, of course, but because I end up feeling out of my league, out of my element, or otherwise out of sync with the zeitgeist. Job postings can only exacerbate such feelings, with entry-level positions seeming to require 3-5 years of experience, advanced skills in virtual-reality ninjutsu, and a PhD in Critical Critical Studies all out of the gate.

I don’t have any magic tricks to share for making impostor syndrome disappear, unfortunately, but for my own part, I’ve been learning to take stock of my successes to counteract it. Through my work here as a reference assistant and a student, I’ve also been slowly coming to realize I can do well, and maybe even thrive and excel, as a librarian not in spite of my sense of being an outsider, but perhaps in good part because of it. Indeed, it might be my not feeling quite at home in the world of libraries, of not belonging, that itself becomes the grounds for a sense of belonging and purpose for me as a librarian.

-Dean Ericksen

Recognizing Asian/Pacific American literature

Beginning the last week of March and throughout the month of April, IU is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is observed nationally during the month of May. Because of this, it’s a great time to recognize the Asian and Pacific Islanders who have made significant social and cultural contributions to literature.

So, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and because librarians and library students often love to talk about books), I put together some recommendations of great works by Asian/Pacific Americans. All of these can be found through IU Libraries.

At the drive-in volcano
At the drive-in volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s third collection of poetry, spans geographic continents, from the Philippines to India to New York City, and spans the emotional continents of love found to love lost to love found again. You can read or listen to “First Anniversary, with Monkeys,” one of the poems from the collection, at Poetry Foundation.

My American Kundiman
In My American Kundiman, Patrick Rosal uses the idea of the kundiman, which is a Filipino song about unrequited love, as a source of inspiration for this collection of poetry, which is his love song to America. Learn more here.

Huntress
Huntress, Malinda Lo’s second novel, is a prequel to her debut, Ash, but works as a stand-alone novel as well. While Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, Huntress is a beautifully crafted story influenced by the I Ching that tells the story of the first Huntress in the same world as, although earlier than, Ash. Learn more here.

More recommendations:

Nonfiction

The next American revolution : sustainable activism for the twenty-first century by Grace Lee Boggs

The making of Asian America: a history by Erika Lee

Fiction

Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

The sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Poetry

Gutted by Justin Chin

For more recommendations, check out the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, which is given out by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

-Kristin McWilliams

From Batman to Blankets: There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone

It’s always nice to click with someone at the reference desk over shared interests. Last semester a patron asked where she could find the graphic novel section in Wells and my face lit up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give her the direct answer she was probably looking for since they’re split between the Browsing Collection in the West Tower and the PNs on the 9th floor of the East Tower, not to mentioned scattered across various campus and RPS libraries. I didn’t want to set her loose in the wrong direction, so I asked the perfunctory, “Did you have a specific title in mind?” But like most patrons just looking for something new to read, she asked if I had any suggestions. This girl knew her comics. I went through my short repertoire of big hitters like Maus, Persepolis, and Sandman, but she had read them all. When patrons ask for recommendations for a particular genre or form it helps to have read or at least be familiar with popular titles, but is it really our job as reference librarians?

From a historical perspective of reference services, we’ve been doing what’s called readers’ advisory from the very beginning. In 1876, Samuel Green wrote an article for Library Journal on “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers.” According to Green, every library should be equipped with:

[O]ne of the most accomplished persons in the corps of your assistants–some cultivated woman, for instance, who heartily enjoys works of the imagination, but whose taste is educated….to consult with every person who asks for help in selecting books. This should not be her whole work; for work of this kind is best done when it has the appearance of being performed incidentally. (p. 79, emphasis in original)

While Green makes some antiquated assumptions about gender and class, the scenario he describes is not a far cry from what we experience today. When patrons ask for recommendations, we should still be able to fill their information need. His advice: be well-read and able to recommend things a patron would actually be willing to read.

Many of us are already well-read, but as Sarah pointed out in her recent blog post we as students just don’t have a lot of free time to read for pleasure. Being in grad school and working three jobs, I find myself gravitating toward shorter forms like poetry collections and graphic novels that I can read in a few hours. I’d like to think it’s come in handy for that rare occasion at the desk when someone is willing to take my recommendations. However, it’s not 1876 anymore and I won’t make assumptions of what I think everyone should read. Instead, here’s a short list of graphic novels and the type of person who might be interested in reading them.

Read Batman: The Dark Knight Returns if you like superheroes and villains with a dark twist. Or if you’re planning to see Batman v. Superman (2016). This Frank Miller classic is arguably the best superhero comic of its era.
Read Watchmen if you’re totally over superheroes and question the authority of vigilantes. (But really, who watches the watchmen?) Alan Moore may be a bit of weirdo, but this is another justifiable classic.
Read Understanding Comics if you want to get meta. Scott McCloud explains all things comics and comic theory through the medium itself.
Read Understanding Comics if you want to get meta. Scott McCloud explains all things comics and comic theory through the medium itself.
More attuned to the real world? Read Blankets if you were an artsy/angsty teen just trying to understand your place in a small town and your long-distance relationship.
More attuned to the real world? Read Blankets if you were an artsy/angsty teen just trying to understand your place in a small town and your long-distance relationship.
black hole
Is this world a nightmare? Read Black Hole if you like Cronenbergian body horror, overt Freudian symbolism, and are terrified of STDs. I read this in a class on comics with a guy named Charles Burns, no relation.

 

Read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic if you were an English major. Bonus points if you’ve read Ulysses. Alison Bechdel paved the way for queer comics with Dykes to Watch Out For, but her real success came with this eloquently crafted coming-(out)-of-age memoir.
maus
Read Maus if you’re a history/WWII buff. Another visually moving memoir, Art Spiegelmen records his father’s survivor’s tale of the Holocaust on the page by portraying Nazis as cats and Jews as mice.
persep
There are a lot of great comic-memoirs but this list wouldn’t be complete without Persepolis. Read this book if you were a socially aware child who grew up to speak your mind. Marjane Satrapi illustrates her childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
daytripper
Read Daytripper if you like day-dreaming and magical realism. Brazilian brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá will transport you to a world you can write for yourself.
ghost
Read Ghost World if you’ve ever felt invisible, fell in love at a garage sale, or loved MTV’s Daria. Daniel Clowes’ magnum opus was also an award-winning screen adaptation.
sand
Neil Gaiman is a self-proclaimed master storyteller, but nothing beats Sandman. Read this ten-volume series if you’ve ever seen ancient gods in your dreams or think Death is best personified by a cute goth girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wicked
For something a little more recent and ongoing, read The Wicked + The Divine if you see the gods as British pop stars and would give anything to be one of them.
saga
Or read Saga if you like Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet and wonder what it would be like to have all those genres combined.
lumber
Last but not least, even though I’m still currently finishing it, read Lumberjanes if you loved being a girl scout and believe in “Friendship to the max!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Green, Samuel S. (1876). Personal relations between librarians and readers. Library Journal 1(2/3), 74-81.

-Tessa Withorn