Use and Users

Wych Park Branch’s Representations of Mental Health in Comics collection was made in light of recent discussions in psychology, popular culture studies, and information science on the popularity of graphic novels and their increasing role as a source of entertainment and information. Due to their form, patrons from a variety of backgrounds and literacy skills read graphic novels and comic books. While we have witnessed this diversity in our work at the Megalopolis Library system, there is work to be done in terms of collecting thorough data on comic reader demographics. Few reader studies have been conducted, though this seems to be improving as the field grows in popularity[1].

Research suggests that the practice of bibliotherapy, or reading books (fiction or nonfiction) for psychological healing, can be effective in times of distress or personal hardship[2]. As a public library special collection, the Representations of Mental Health in Comics Collection aims to provide avenues of support and engagement for community members experiencing the issues in our collection, ranging from eating disorders such as anorexia to depression, post-traumatic stress, and other topics[3].

The collection is intended to be a resource not only for those affected, but also for family members, friends, and other individuals who have been impacted by these issues. Care providers and medical practitioners may find the first-person narrative comics helpful; these works provide another lens through which to view their patients’ experiences and conditions.

We recognize that our patrons find information in a variety of places. Research suggests that users increasingly rely on the internet or personal references for medical and psychological information[4]. In particular, young adults, a group often associated with comic book reading, tend to rely on the internet to avoid the stigmatization associated with mental health issues[5]. Due to the sensitive nature of this collection, we plan to provide outreach resources and medical information in close proximity to the collection. Our staff will be alerted to the potential for this kind of referral and trained to provide patrons with resources in a discreet and professional manner.

[1] Pyles, C. (2013). “It’s No Joke: Comics Collection Development.” Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from

[2] Tukhareli, N. (2011). Bibliotherapy in a Library Setting: Reaching out to Vulnerable Youth. Partnership: The Canadian Journal Of Library & Information Practice & Research, 6(1). Retrieved from:

[3] For more information on the scope of this collection, please refer to the Collections policy.

[4] Powell, J. and Clark, A. (2013). Internet information-seeking in mental health. The British Journal of Psychiatry 189. Retrieved from

[5] Gowen, L.K. (2013). Online Mental Health Information Seeking in Young Adults with Mental Health Challenges. Journal of Technology in Human Services 31(2). Retrieved from

~ Created for LIS 501 ~


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