Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Case Study No. 0039: Randy Scott

Comic Books | MSU Libraries | PBS WKAR
With around a quarter million artifacts, the Comic Book Collection at the MSU Libraries, is the most extensive library collection of comic books in the world. The comics come from all over the world, including the United States, France and Japan. The Comic Books Collection attracts all kinds of researchers, from MSU students to serious researches from abroad.

With comments by Randy Scott, Comic Book Bibliographer.
Tags: Randy Scott Russel B. Nye Comic Books Michigan State University Library Special Collections MSU WKAR PBS
Added: 2 years ago
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[scene opens on the campus of Michigan State University]
RANDY SCOTT: [in voice over] The Russell Nye Collection began in about 1970, based on Russell Nye's writings.
[cut to a shot of Randy being interviewed, with the byline "Comic Art Bibliographer"]
RANDY SCOTT: He was a professor here, and it tries to capture those parts of American culture that were not traditionally part of academic libraries. Textbooks, Sunday school books, fiction in the genres, Westerns, science fiction, and harlequin romances. And of course, comic books, which is my favorite.
[cut to Randy leafing through an old "Batman" comic book]
[cut to more shots of the collection]
RANDY SCOTT: [in voice over] The comic collection is the biggest library collection of comic books in the world, and we have about 240,000 items in our comic book collection. Um, and they come from all around the world, so we have enormous collections of French and Japanese and Mexican comics as well as good samples from 50 or so other countries. As well as 200,000 American comic books, just the regular ones we all know about.
[cut to Randy walking through stacks]
RANDY SCOTT: When I was a kid, Batman was my favorite.
[cut to more shots of the collection]
RANDY SCOTT: [in voice over] The typical user comes from a class where they have an assignment to study some aspect of comics, like women's representations in comics, things like that. Or, from far away. We get users from Europe, Australia, who come to do serious dissertations usually.
[cut to Randy taking one of the comics from off the top shelf]
RANDY SCOTT: Normally, I would take this out to a patron, and the patron would be warned to handle very very carefully, because that's an expensive comic! But we don't know, we don't actually price our comics.
[cut to more shots of the collection]
RANDY SCOTT: Sometimes they come with historical ideas, they want to see how comics have changed over the years. This would be a study of comics as a medium. For the most part, though, people are studying culture through comics.


From msu.edu:

Michigan State University's library is home to the largest publically available comic book collection in the world and it is Randy Scott's job to take care of it.

Scott is the assistant head of Special Collections at MSU Libraries. In the 1970s Scott was working in the library as a typist and learned someone had stolen the first edition of the "Spiderman" comic. As a lover of comics, Scott dedicated his lunch hour to stamping the MSU seal on comics to prevent them from being stolen again. After a while, Scott decided to get a graduate degree to become a cataloger and come back to MSU to take care of the library's comic collection.

The special collections department also is home to rare books that date back to the 1500s and political propaganda from the '70s. Since it contains valuable material, only authorized librarians can access the material or escort the public around the section.

And tucked in the back corner of the special collections department is Scott's office, where comics are piled on shelves and cabinets. A piano stands in the entrance, and a drum set surrounded by jazz fake books sits in the middle of the room. This space is where every Friday, for more than two decades, six librarians meet at noon to play music together for exactly 30 minutes.

The group, which calls itself "Bookman's Holiday," usually plays jazz standards. The instruments played include a guitar, piano, drum set, clarinet, a bass and perhaps an accordion or a saxophone. Scott said he knows five or six instruments and usually plays whatever instruments the others don't know how to play.

"Generally we go through old fake jazz books. We start with A because we're librarians and we proceed through to Z and it takes several months, 30 minutes a week," Scott said.

While on Fridays, the group can jam in the privacy and security of the special collections section of the library, "Bookman's Holiday" also can be heard playing at various events at the library throughout the year.


From msu.edu:

The Comic Art Collection holds over 200,000 items. Most of these items are comic books, but also included are over 1,000 books of collected newspaper comic strips, and several thousand books and periodicals about comics. Although some archival material and a few dozen pieces of original comic book and comic strip art are held, the focus of the collection is on published work, in an effort to present a complete picture of what the audience has seen over the years of the twentieth century. Local students and advanced scholars from around the world find this collection to be the primary library resource for the study of U.S. comic book publications.

The most important categories of material in the Comic Art Collection, based on current completeness and emphasis, are the U.S. comic books, the international comics collection, the newspaper strip books, and the historical and critical materials. Smaller sub-collections include animation-related material, Big Little Books, books illustrated by comic artists or written by comics professionals, propaganda comics, tie-ins to comic-related movies, the Eclipse Comics archive, and clipping and ephemera files.

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