Get Inside the Library

Amid this wonderful world’s full panoply of fetishes, there is one that I find particularly fascinating.

…and already, I feel like I’m explaining this wrong. Hang on. Don’t forward this to my parents or childhood pastor until I’ve had a second to start over.

Years ago, I had a very “web 1.0” job in internet marketing; it was my job to search for relevant sites and get them to trade links with our clients. During these years, I coined the term “tweef.” The word is an abbreviation of “the web embraces every fetish”; it’s meant to be used as an interjection when you click on the wrong link and suddenly discover a freckle on humanity’s wan, clammy underbelly that you never knew existed and can never un-see. Let’s say, for example, I have a client with a teddy bear store. I go searching online for teddy bear enthusiast sites, and everything is hugs and Beanie Babies and Geocities until suddenly, click: “Oh, tweef! There are people who get it on with teddy bears!” In fact, that day in 1998 when I discovered what plushies were was the day “tweef” was born.

It’s a great, evocative word. I secretly hoped it might catch on, like Friendster or Hanson, but eleven years on it’s starting to look like that might not happen. Actually, at this point it’s only a matter of time before Twitter appropriates it somehow, probably to mean something that already has a perfectly good name. (Is there a compelling reason why a “tweet” can’t just be called a “post”? Other than to make me feel like a six year old playing Rainbow Brite every time I try to describe Twitter to someone?)

The lexicon still needs the word “tweef” badly, vastly more than it did in 1998, which I would not have imagined possible back then after I found that guy who wished that the Little Mermaid was real. Spend enough time online, and after a while you can’t even make eye contact with people at the grocery store without wondering, “Are you one of those guys who genuinely wants to be a dragon? Have you, unbeknownst to your colleagues and your bowling team, bookmarked the site where the all the ladies in the dirty pictures have been Photoshopped to look like Klingons?” (Not fictional examples!) Spending a year as the link-finder guy does not put a fine polish on humanity for you.

Even as you’re shouting, “Oh, tweef!” though, you can largely understand what happened. You see the 53-year-old guy who goes to work dressed like Peter Pan, and you can fill in some blanks on your own. You take a gander at the plushie site and think, “Well… the guy was just extremely comforted by his Teddy Ruxpin during an especially formative time in his life. These things happen. Way more than I ever could have imagined before the internet.”

Some things, though, have defied my most arduous attempts to connect the dots. A few years ago, for example, I began to read about people getting married to walls and bridges and said, “All right, Web. I see what’s happening now. You’re having a little fun with me, aren’t you? I’ve been taking your word for these things, so now you’re trying to trick me into thinking I live in an Onion article. But I’m onto you! This is not a thing. There are not really people walking around who would marry a building.”

But that was yesterday. That was what I used to think. Now, I understand all too well the reality of the situation. I know what it is to be passionate about a building.

In the last week, I have fallen madly in love with the library.

Our love is real. Our love is deep. Our love has saved me, like, fifty bucks in the last week alone.

Libraries come up a lot on this site in an offhanded way. People will write to us asking a question like, “I’m inexplicably timid about spending $9; how can I try new things without taking a chance in any way?” and amid the answers, someone will add as an afterthought, “Also, there’s always the library.” Or during the semi-annual piracy argument, someone will pipe up and say, “What’s the difference between a piracy site and the library?” (Answer: you’ve been to one, and your taxes paid for the other.) All of these conversations are disrespectful to my new love. If you read comics, you should be writing songs about the library right now. Songs Barry White would sing.

I know what you’re thinking: (holy tap-dancing Buddha, Jim has finally come unstuck, and also) the library is stodgy, stuck-up, and full of dusty encyclopedias. You watch your damn mouth. In fact, librarians are getting increasingly clued in to the fact that graphic novels are pure, uncut gateway drugs for making new reading addicts; you would be amazed at what is sitting on a shelf down the street from your house, waiting for you to read it for free. At least, I was amazed. I haven’t spent much time at all at the ‘brary since my term paper writing days ended, mostly because I worked at a library in high school and the most fun things you could hope to check out from our branch at the time were maybe a Richard Marx cassette or a filmstrip about horses. But when I walked into our local library last weekend, desperate for cheap ways to amuse an 18 month old, the first thing I saw was an entire section devoted to Graphic Literature. My child immediately forgotten, I ran up to the shelves to see a literary smorgasbord laid out in front of me. The entire run of Powers was there. The entire run of Sandman was there. They had Scalped and Whiteout and Green Lantern Showcase. They had a copy of Empowered, crammed haphazardly sideways into a shelf in the most blatant example of “oh crap, Mom’s coming, hide the porno” I have ever seen. I could not think of a book I wanted to read that they did not have.

They had that Christos Gage Union Jack miniseries. I’ve never even seen that in a comic book store. How could I not return to the library with roses and a heart-shaped chocolates box? I am but a man of flesh and bone.

So do not judge me, society, until you have gone back to the stacks and seen for yourself. In these times when the guy in charge of laying you off just got laid off, we need to do a lot more than pay offhanded lip service to a place that lets you walk out with books you didn’t buy. Why spend your life being defensive about piracy when you can be legitimately self-righteous about reading for free? Feast your eyes on your local library. Don’t be afraid to open your heart.

Jim Mroczkowski can end up in a weird area without trying very hard. His e-mail correspondence and Twitter posts are usually relatively lucid.


  1. Actual conversation I was once part of:  Other person — I wish there was something like Netflix for books, where you could just read them and give them back.

    And also, yes — everybody, if you haven’t explored what your library has to offer in graphic novels do it.  If it’s good, let them know you appreciate it, and check those suckers out.  If it’s not great, find a suggestion box or talk to somebody on the staff and let them know you’d be interested.  Donate stuff you’ll never read again or that you’ve replaced with the absolute edition to library sales.

  2. Great idea! As to why the UNION JACK, miniseries was there, well some intrepid comic fan either donated it or requested the library to order it! Ordering  withh libraries is fantasic because they’ll pay for $3000 deluxe variant omnibus edition (with directer’s cut commentary including what the author was plotting when he or she was on the toiliet) and you donn’t have to pay them back! Other people get to read when finished! Amazing.

    Related: I love my college library because of these policies and the attractive work studies who make 7 AM sojoutns to campus a little brighter.

    Excellent Article!

  3. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I…have a library phobia.  The explanation is a little blue for a public forum. 

  4. Paul, we’ve seen your stack.  You could start your own library branch.

  5. @Paul-Take this doll and show me where the library touched you.

    I love the library.  Just about every trade I own now was a book that I checked out of the library beforehand.  More people do indeed need to use those places, and donate those copies of Deadpool that you can’t stand to read anymore.

    And although the graphic literature section has grown and the libraries take it more seriously now, it will always amuse me to see Torso or V for Vendetta sitting next to Bone.  Yes, its all graphic literature, but please seperate the ones with adult content.  Parents will undoubtibly thank you. 🙂

  6. My library has a good amount of trades for people just getting into the industry. Getting back into comics; I found all the Hellboy trades to read, Loeb/Sale’s Batman series, Bendis USM, and a few other stand alone stories. But it totally sucks if you have been into comics longer then like a year. Cause the graphic novel that I found in 2004 are the same that are there today in 2009. They get some new releases every once and a while. But they seem to get more coin collecting books then comics.

    I know that is something I should fix, like recommending stuff to them or donating it to them….But I dont think anyone is really clamoring for Seaguy or Zero Hour at my library.

  7. I read all of Exmachina at the library.  Also dark knight returns.  It is a good place to read stuff you don’t need to buy.


    Also you can check out audio books for free and put them on your ipod to listen to in between ifanboy episodes. 

  8. The library rules. It let me dabble in the Ultimate universe, I got We3 from ’em, and a bunch of other stuff that was freakin’ excellent.

  9. My local library has a not so great selection of trades. However, there is a wonderful thing called inter-library loan, which allowed me to get access to pretty much anything. It’s allowed me to start catching up on Fables, Y The Last Man, Invincible, tons of Essential or Showcase things, and basically whatever else someone happens to rec to me this week.

     And speaking as a library science grad student – thank you for promoting the library.

  10. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, yes please sir!

    I joined my local library when I got back into reading current comics. It’s got tons of TPBs and you can even reserve books online from anywhere in the area.  It’s a great way to catch up on something you missed or want to get into.

  11. I’ve kept up on the Dark Horse Star Wars and Ultimate Spider-Man because of the library.  It’s where I also got to read almost all of Morrison’s JLA run and the classics of the genre (Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, Long Halloween, Arkham Asylum, Azzarello’s ‘Joker’).  In fact, I started collecting JLA, Superman, Batman and Green Lantern because of reading collections of previous works at the Library.  I felt caught up enough to jump in.

    What’s awesome is that even school libraries are getting in on the action.  Ours has mostly manga, but they’ve got some other ones (the Gotham Central where Montoya comes out, Death of Superman, Joker, first two trades of Astonishing X-Men).  

    Good call, Jim! 

  12. Yeah in the past few months I’ve read LOEG, Ghost World, and Tom Strong all at my local library.

  13. Most libraries either have a "Can’t Find It?" function where you can suggest purchases, or, worst case, call them up and ask to speak to their buyer. You’ll also have better luck (if you’re in a large metro area) if you go to the libraries that have the highest tax base. They have to spend that money somewhere, and I always think it’s a nice circle of life for me to suggest, for example, that my library buy Walking Dead or Y The Last Man and it opens up some kid’s eyes to what comic books can be in the right hands. In recent months, I’ve gotten my library to buy the Creepy and Eerie Archives, Warren Ellis’ Freakangels, Captain Britain and MI13, and Punisher: Girls in White Dresses, not to mention entire runs of Y The Last Man, Scalped and DMZ. You paid for it. Use the system.

  14. I’m going to try and spread tweef for you, Sir Jim!

  15. The Seattle Public Library is excellent, and I love them!! (Look at my profile if you don’t believe me.) I love getting trades from the library, and they’re stock is growing by leaps and bounds (which could clear a single building)! They keep up with things well, and I’m always overwhelmed with what they have. 

    WARNING: getting comics from the library can be like a gate way drug…hmmm…actually, its more like a dealer who gives you the first hit for free. I read Hellboy, Ex Machina, and Astro City at the library, and now I buy issues every month (or whenever their published) from my local comic shop. 

    In fact, my local comic shop actually recommends people go to the library to check out comics.  I think they understand that if you end up loving something there’s a better chance you’ll start buying it. (Again, see comment above.

    Thanks for the article,  Jimski!

  16. I go to the library every two or three weeks and check out a stack of books.  I live in the STL (where Jim resides) and the public libraries have a crazy amount of good comic book stuff.  Like all other libraries, they also have just about every book, which is great for trying out things you hear about from the boards and such.

    Also, tweef is a great word, but a terrifying concept.  I’ll have Peter Pan nightmares FOREVER!!

  17. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    As a librarian who reads lots of comics, I love to see people talking about comics in the library.  The library I work at is VERY comic friendly.  In fact, as we speak I’m helping decide what new comics we should get for the library and what we should skip.  The pre-order information for "Kick-Ass" just came across my desk so I’m definitely recommending we pick that one up.

    Thanks for discussing libraries and it’s great to see that so many iFanboy users are also library users!

  18. In Chicago, if your local branch doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can go online and if it’s available anywhere in Chicago they’ll send it to your branch for you to pick it up. or you ask the librarian and they get it for you. Read up through vol. 10 of Fables that way and a good chunk of Walking Dead.

    Good call, Jim! 

  19. At my local library, someone stole the copy of Y The Last Man volume 9.  Oddly, it is the absence of this one volume that made me appreciate the library all the more.  My local has a surprising amount of trades that are not ‘buys’ for me but still interesting.  I have gotten several friends to start reading Walking Dead and Y due to the library’s collection.

  20. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @MisterJ It sucks when that happens.  You’d think that the fact that the stuff is free would make people not steal them, but that’s not always the case.  But, hey, that’s what inter-library loans are for.

  21. Avatar photo JFernandes (@jdfernandes) says:

    My library system is how I read all of Sandman and Y the Last Man, along with a bunch of other great titles.

    I’m the head of circulation at the main library in my city, so I get to decide what trades and GNs to buy. It’s easily the funnest part of my job. There’s a ton of titles I don’t read in issue form, so it makes ordering comics for the library pretty easy.

  22. I regularly recommend the library to fellow comic readers. The Interlibrary Loan program is one of the greatest things ever. I’ve easily read 50+ trades that way that I never would have risked my money on and it’s gotten me to follow series in singles now that I absolutely love. It’s win-win for comic readers and comic companies.

  23. I used to go to the local public library a while back to get actual books. While I was there, I looked at the comics, and the selection was (un)suprisingly small and worthless. They had a few comic strip collections and a copy of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but nothing more.

    The library at the school I attend, however, does a bit better job. It has the Death of Superman, a couple of X-Men trades, and Blankets. That was a nice surprise.

    Instead of going to the library, though, I usually just hang out at the local Books-A-Million for hours on end reading graphic novels and comics (and "real" novels, too). I’m not in a situation where I have all the money to buy those books (high school student, no job), and they’ve got neatly set up "reading stations" with fluffy arm chairs where you can just completely lose track of time and get sucked into the book.

  24. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    (To delineate between comics and other kinds of books, just say ‘prose’.  Comics are ‘actual books’ as well.)  


  25. @chazbot I’m all about some Interlibrary Loan.  For $1 you can basically get any book that’s ever been published.  SO GOOD.

  26. i went to the library all the time time thats how i found my love of reading and comics

     now i volunteer regularly at my local library and read to little kids

  27. Paul – Mocking some of the people who _still_ don’t think they’re a respectable form of literature.

  28. @rayclark, just wanted to say good for you! Thanks for helping out at your library. I’m certain those kids love you reading to them.

    When I was younger I use to volunteer at my public library back in my home town. It was a great experience, and here in Seattle I’m friends with many of the librarians. I go to the branch near my work every single work day.

    Again, @rayclark, you’re doing a great thing!

  29. That’s where I first fell in love woth comics. Found Understanding Comics and Watchmen. There was no turning back. In fact I tried the LCS but couldn’t figure out how to make it work. So I went back to the library. What’s awesome about hte libraries on NB Canada is that they are networked. If they don’t have what you’re looking for here, they’ll order from there. Very cool!

  30. My mom has been a librarian since I was 3 years old and I grew up in the stacks.  So my love of reading and going to the library was engrained very early on.  However I credit the vast selection of graphic novels and TPB’s that a library I lived close to about 5 years ago had as the reason I got back into comics.  Even before I discovered iFanboy early on in 2005 I had gotten sucked back in on reading stuff I didn’t even know about.  I think the library can play a vital role in introducing people to comics.  And you are spot on correct about how libraries are realizing the potential draw for kids. The library my mom still works out, knowing that I am a comic fan, has requested that I submit a list of stuff for them to buy to expand their graphic novel section.  They have devoted a whole wing of their ADULT section to it now.  Very promising thing.  Makes me excited that it is catching on in this way.

     Great article.

  31. Unfortunatly, the New York Public Library doesnt quite have the best selection of graphic novels. And when there is a good one in, its super dilapidated. Oh well…luckily everything else about that library is amazing =)

  32. My library system not only has a healthy graphic novel section, they’ve started carrying single issues. I head there every week before my LCS. Can’t tell you how much I’m saving now. And, for that matter, how much more I’m reading.

  33. Another thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is that most library take part in some form of an inter-library loan system. Where you can borrow copies of books from other libraries in the same region. This is an excellent service and most of the time they have a website where you can login and search and request the titles yourself.  My local library has the ability to request titles by ISBN number.  So a quick search on Amazon gives me that number and I am able to match up exactly the books I want to get. A really great way to get stuff even if your local library doesn’t have it immediately available. So @comicBOOKchris, this would be a great way to get them even somewhere like the NY library. Just a thought.