A new craze has hit the Putnam County Library.
Members of the library board learned during their recent meeting that local enthusiasm has begun to grow over Japanese graphic novels, or extended comic books.
Library staffers Lynne Tweedie and Margot Payne, along with Payne's daughter Rene, presented the board with information about these books.
The library's graphic novel collection was started by DePauw University students in 2001 and it hasn't stopped.
"It's just been going gang-busters ever since," said Tweedie.
Tweedie explained that a graphic novel is something that is written and illustrated in comic book style, but it is longer than a traditional comic book. She also said that the stories are all original, and have never been published in any form.
"Having a graphic novel collection has had the effect of attracting new readers," said Tweedie.
Tweedie explained that the collection brings a wide attraction of new readers. At the time of the meeting, a child had spent two hours in the area of the graphic novels, either standing or sitting on the floor. The novels are also increasing the circulation.
Tweedie said the novels help with reading comprehension.
"This format, the reader has to fill in between frames -- so it strengthens their reading comprehension skills."
So what's inside a graphic novel?
They cover a wide range of genres and are suitable for children and adults. They also attracts those who have an interest in drawing pictures.
Tweedie believes that some graphic novels are better than an ordinary book because they are of a different format and a different art form.
Rene is a sophomore at Greencastle High School and also in her second year of Japanese honors classes conducted at DePauw. She said she and her brother became interested in graphic novels after watching Cartoon Network's Toonami in the afternoons when they were young.
Rene explained that the books are read back to front, unlike traditional books. If the books are read front to back, Rene said, "It reflects the way the artist originally drew it, so it can mess up the way the image looks."
She also said that if the reader opens the novel from the front, the artists have provided information as to how the novel should be read.
The novels provide an age rating making it easier for the librarians to decide where to put the material. Tweedie also said that they read the reviews on the novels to decide what age it is best suited for.
According to Rene, manga and anime are a huge part of Japan's culture. People dress up as their favorite characters.
"I read that half the books they (the Japanese) sell, three billion a year I guess, half of them are manga." said Rene.
Tweedie said that many graphic novel readers are telling the librarians that they need to get the entire series. The novels are divided up into sections with climaxes at the end, causing the readers to want to read more.
Tweedie also said that two weeks ago, a group of high school students reserved a room at the library to start an anime club. According to Tweedie, the group is meeting again this month.
Board member Bonnie Nealon said "This is fascinating. I would not have known anything about this."
President Dorothy Lukenbill said, "You have really captivated us."
The next library board meeting is 6 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Kiwanis Room of the library.