Free Comic Book Day has come and gone, but there’s still an easy way for you to get free comics any day of the year: visit your public library. Yes, this post is going to be a bit of a PSA for libraries, but please bear with me.
If I’ve already lost you, here’s the TL;DR version: GO TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. They have free* comics! (*That you eventually have to return.)
Any avid comics reader will tell you that it can be an expensive habit. A trade paperback costs almost the same as the latest Jonathan Franzen novel, but the Franzen novel takes me a month to read and the trade takes a day. The price of single issues keeps going up. If you read comics digitally, ComiXologly runs some pretty good sales, but in general it’s just as costly as reading in print. Then there’s the issue of storage; my house can only hold a finite number of bookshelves.
Enter the public library. Maybe you haven’t visited since your mom took you to storytime when you were a toddler. Maybe the last time you visited was for a history paper you wrote in high school. Maybe you moved and never got a library card in your new city. Clearly, it’s time you reacquainted yourself with your public library.
I’ve relied on my library as my primary source for comics for over five years now, but I have the added benefit of working there and knowing how the system works. Here are some insider tips to get you started:
1. Figure out how your library’s holds (aka request) system works. If you’re short on time (and who isn’t?) go online and request your comics through your library’s website. Many libraries allow you to manage your holds list by suspending and reinstating holds. That way you can make sure that you’re not getting volume 5 of Preacher before volume 1.
2. Befriend your library’s resident comic book nerd. Take a look around. The gal with the Lying Cat and Ms. Marvel buttons on her lanyard? She’s probably a good place to start. Ask her for recommendations. (Remember, it’s our job to recommend books!) If your local library has more than a small handful of employees, I can almost guarantee you that there is at least one comics nerd working there.
3. If your library doesn’t have a stellar comics collection at the moment, you can recommend new titles for them to buy. Tell them what you want! Some libraries allow you to do this through their website, others require you to fill out a slip in person. Generally, libraries are only too happy to accommodate requests for purchase (if their budgets allow). Comics and graphic novels are often one of the highest circulating collections in public libraries; you’re doing your library a favor by recommending new titles.
4. Check out what digital platforms your library subscribes to. The best ones for comics are Hoopla and Comics Plus. In my opinion, Hoopla is the better of the two — it offers titles from Image and DC and its guided reading app is great for reading on your phone or tablet. I still prefer to read in print, but sometimes you just can’t argue against the convenience of digital (e.g. when you’re traveling, carrying a small purse, or attempting to haul around a 1,000+ page Walking Dead compendium).
5. If you find yourself thinking, “Gee, Karen. This all sounds great, but I can afford all the comics I want and I’d rather not short change my awesome local comic shop,” then think of your library as a place to take risks. Go ahead, check out Moby Dick and Sex Criminals at the same time. Try reading that new series that you’ve been hearing a lot about but isn’t in your preferred genre. Try reading some manga. Try reading ALL of Love and Rockets. Read those Fraggle Rock comics you’re embarrassed to have sitting on your bookshelf (but really, don’t be embarrassed about that! There’s no shame in reading kids’ comics!). There is zero risk involved in checking out a comic at your library.
Until next time, find the stories that make you stronger. #WorkOutNerdOut