Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Case Study No. 1833: Staff of Miller Library at McPherson College

"Library of the Living Dead" graphic novel
Used without permission. Taken from the indicia:

LIBRARY OF THE LIVING DEAD #1. Copyright (c) 2011, C. Michael Hall and Matt Upson. All rights reserved; no unauthorized use permitted. With the exception of brief passages for review purposes, this work may not be reproduced without prior written consent of the author. Not to be taken internally. Void where prohibited by law. May cause dizziness, headache, and/or spontaneous human combustion. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this book. Published by Atomic Raygun Comics (www dot cmichaelhall dot com) on behalf of Miller Library at McPherson College (blogs dot mcpherson dot edu slash library). Printed by ComixPress (www dot comixpress dot com). And always remember: "They're coming to get you, Barbara."

C. Michael Hall - writer/artist
Matt Upson - writer
Dustin Evans - colorist
Tags: library of the living dead comic book zombies academic libraries killer librarians
Added: 1 year ago
From: ComixLibrary
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Library of the Living Dead
Your Guide to Miller Library at McPherson College

[the first panel shows two students running across the campus of McPherson College, surrounded by purple-skinned zombies]
MALE STUDENT: This campus sucks! Nobody said anything about zombies during Orientation Weekend!
FEMALE STUDENT: They're all over!
[the second panel shows a snarling zombie about to lunge at the two students]
ZOMBIE: Graaahh!
MALE STUDENT: We're totally dead.
FEMALE STUDENT: There has to be someplace we can hide!
[the third panel shows the male student wrestling with the zombie, as the female student brandishes a crowbar]
LIBRARIAN: [from off camera] Over here, you two!
[the fourth panel shows a young male librarian (black hair, beard, blue collared shirt, green tie) waving at the two from the library's entrance]
LIBRARIAN: Come on ... The library is open!
[the fifth panel shows the librarian kicking the face of a zombie dressed in prison garb (causing one of its eyes to pop out) as the two students run into the library]
MALE STUDENT: Thanks! They just about had us.
LIBRARIAN: You'll be safe now ...
[the sixth panel shows the librarian locking the door, as the zombies crowd around outside and push up against the glass]
LIBRARIAN: You're in the library!
MALE STUDENT: This campus is crawling with zombies! How are we "safe?"
FEMALE STUDENT: [whispering] Still better than state college ...
LIBRARIAN: Oh, you silly kids ... the library contains everything you need to know to survive a zombie apocalypse!
[the seventh panel shows of a closeup of the students' smiling faces (while the zombies outside can still be seen in the background)]
MALE STUDENT: Really? Tell us more!
FEMALE STUDENT: Who knew the library could be so exciting?
[the eighth panel shows the librarian talking to the students, as a male student worker (tall, bald, very muscular) and a female student worker (short, straight blonde hair, white McPherson College t-shirt) stand behind the front desk]
LIBRARIAN: The library stuff is here to serve all your educational needs, including repelling the zombie attacks plaguing college campuses these days. We're ready to help ... Hey guys, reinforce the front door while I show these two around.
[the ninth panel shows the female student worker pick up a baseball bat]
[the tenth panel shows the female student worker running off camera (while the male student worker stands there with a confused look on his face)]
[the eleventh panel shows the female student worker returning and grabbing the male student worker by his t-shirt]
FEMALE STUDENT WORKER: Come on, y'big baby.
[the twelfth panel shows the librarian continuing his talk with the two students, as the head of a zombie (must likely having just met the business end of the student worker's baseball bat) goes sailing across the background]
LIBRARIAN: Don't worry about her. She's tougher than she looks. Now, let's unleash the power of the library to beat these zombies, shall we?
FEMALE STUDENT WORKER: [from off camera] And stay out!
[the thirteenth panel shows the librarian holding a copy of the magazine "Time for Zombies!!"]
LIBRARIAN: We'll start in current periodicals! Here we'll find numerous popular publications and academic journals, as well as newspapers which might help us survive the first stage of the outbreak.
[the fourteenth panel shows the librarian reaching for one of the shelves in the periodicals section]
LIBRARIAN: If you lift these shelves, you'll find back issues, so you aren't limited to just the latest stuff.
[the fifteenth panel shows the librarian (still holding the shelf open with one hand) grabbing a zombie behind him]
LIBRARIAN: Plus, in a pinch ...
[the sixteenth panel shows the librarian shoving the zombie's head inside the open shelf]
NARRATOR: Little known fact ... Zombies eat brains because they crave knowledge!
TEENAGE ZOMBIE: Mmm ... Journal of American History ...
[the seventeenth panel shows the two students being hit with drops of green blood, as a loud "Slam!" comes from off panel]
LIBRARIAN: [from off camera] You can use the shelves to decapitate any roving zombies!
[the eighteenth panel shows the librarian (with splotches of green blood on his face) waving the students over to another section of the library]
LIBRARIAN: We need a plan of action. Let's start in the 000 section. We have two general reference sections, one upstairs and one here on the main floor.
[the nineteenth panel show the librarian and the two students standing in front of a bookshelf]
NARRATOR: Dewey Decimal fact ... The 000 section also contains books on computer science!
LIBRARIAN: You can often start your research with the encyclopedias, dictionaries, and atlases you'll find here. Give it a try ... Look up zombies.
[the twentieth panel shows the two students looking at a book]
MALE STUDENT: It says zombies originated in Haitian folklore!
LIBRARIAN: Now we have something to work with! Maybe if we research voodoo, we can figure out how to stop the zombies.
[the twenty first panel shows the librarian walking up a flight of stairs]
LIBRARIAN: Time to find some books! Our general collection is upstairs, in the stacks. Come on, gang ... Let's explore the Dewey Decimal System! Besides, I think the zombies will break through those doors any second now.
MALE STUDENT: What about your student workers?
LIBRARIAN: Meh ... probably eaten defending the library. Now let's go look for books on voodoo!
FEMALE STUDENT: Sure! Heading upstairs during a zombie attack never works in the movies. But what the heck ... Let's do it!
[the twenty second panel shows the group talking to a young female librarian (brown hair, red sweater, lanyard around her neck, blue jeans with a tear in the left knee, pink sneakers) sitting calmly behind the desk]
LIBRARIAN: This is our reference desk. If you're not sure where to find something in the stacks, just ask for help!
MALE STUDENT: We need books on voodoo.
REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: Voodoo as a religion, as a sociological phenomenon, or its contributing role to the Haitian Revolution of 1791?
MALE STUDENT: Uh, we're studying zombies?
[the twenty third panel shows a closeup of the reference librarian's face]
REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: I see. Religion ... The 200s. Follow me.
FEMALE STUDENT: Wow, she's good!
REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: Bring me a challenge next time ...
[the twenty fourth panel shows the reference librarian pulling some books from the shelf]
LIBRARIAN: Now remember, your first research idea isn't always going to pan out. You will often find facts which lead you down a different path. That's half the fun of library research!
[the twenty fifth panel shows the librarian holding a book open, as the others look over his shoulder to read (and the silhouette of two zombies can be seen in the background)]
MALE STUDENT: It says "The modern zombie bears virtually no resemblance to the zombie of Haitian myth."
FEMALE STUDENT: So what now?
[the twenty sixth panel shows a pair of zombie hands reaching towards the group from behind]
REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: You guys should check the science section ... The 500s. The zombie plague is a virus, right? Everybody knows that!
ZOMBIE: Mmm ... Librarian brains ...
[the twenty seventh panel shows the two zombies grabbing the reference librarian from behind, as the others make a run for it]
REFERENCE LIBRARIAN: Run! Head for the science section!
ZOMBIE: Graahr!
[the twenty eight panel shows the group stopping behind a bookshelf]
FEMALE STUDENT: [whispering] Still better than state college ...
MALE STUDENT: Um, why'd we stop running?
LIBRARIAN: Unless they're right on top of you, zombies are really really slow. Besides, doing thorough research means taking your time!
[the twenty ninth panel shows the librarian pulling a book from the shelf]
NARRATOR: Soon ...
MALE STUDENT: Hey, there are numbers on all these books!
FEMALE STUDENT: You might be the only living person whose I.Q. wouldn't be lowered by becoming a zombie, dude.
LIBRARIAN: Hmm ... Maybe life science isn't the place to research the zombie virus. Diseases are in the 600s. Let's head that way!
[the thirtieth panel shows the librarian walking past boxes full of vinyl records]
LIBRARIAN: We can cut through the music room. In ancient times, primitive humans preserved music on vinyl discs called "records." We have a veritable trove of musical treasures just awaiting discovery!
[the thirty first panel shows a group of three zombies walking up behind the librarian]
LIBRARIAN: And like a lot of stuff around here ...
[the thirty second panel shows the librarian throwing records at the zombies (decapitating two and embedding one in the skull of the other]
LIBRARIAN: Records are great for killing zombies!
[the thirty third panel shows the librarian holding a broken record in his hand]
LIBRARIAN: And on to the 600s we go! Wait ... I'm having a moment of inspiration! You two hold them off, stay here until I get back!
MALE STUDENT: Did you just say "Hold them off?"
FEMALE STUDENT: More importantly, did you mean you want the two of us to "hold them off?"
[the thirty fourth panel shows the two students looking down the stairwell at a herd of zombies gathering]
MALE STUDENT: We can totally do this. Dude's a librarian. How tough can he really be, right?
FEMALE STUDENT: There is an army of zombies down there. We will be overrun in minutes.
MALE STUDENT: C'mon, babe ... You gotta think positive.
[the thirty fifth panel shows the two covered in green blood, as the female student holds off the zombies with her crowbar while the male student smashes them over the head with a pair of atlases]
NARRATOR: Soon ...
FEMALE STUDENT: We're being overrun!
MALE STUDENT: I said think positive!
[the thirty sixth panel shows the librarian with a large flamethrower, pointing it down the stairwell and engulfing the zombies with a loud "Fwoosh!"]
LIBRARIAN: Relax, guys! I'm back, and I brought some firepower ... literally! You see, the 600s are applied science and technology! So I scrounged up a schematic, and voila! Instant mayhem!
NARRATOR: The construction and use of flamethrowers on-campus is strictly prohibited. McPherson College takes flamethrowers very seriously.
[the thirty seventh panel shows a group of zombie students approaching]
LIBRARIAN: [from off camera] More of them ... They just keep on coming!
[the thirty eighth panel shows the librarian and the students running away]
LIBRARIAN: And my flamethrower is out of fuel! Follow me, we'll head for ...
[the thirty ninth panel shows the librarian emerging from a door on the roof of the library, with a sign reading "Reality Check, No Roof Access (for obvious reasons), Thank You For Your Cooperation"]
LIBRARIAN: The roof!
[the fortieth panel shows the librarian and the students standing on the roof]
LIBRARIAN: Well ... Here we are, safe and--
[the forty first panel shows a zombie hand reaching into the frame]
[the forty second panel shows a large group of zombies surrounding the group]
LIBRARIAN: Aw, crap.
[the forty third panel shows a closeup of the librarian and the students]
LIBRARIAN: Wow. How did they get up here?
FEMALE STUDENT: I knew this was a terrible idea. I said so on page 5 ... These rooftop escape plans never work!
[the forty fourth panel shows a bright glowing object in the sky above the group]
LIBRARIAN: Things look bad, sure, but there's no need to panic. There's something these zombies don't know ...
[the forty fifth panel shows the librarian with a wicked grin on his face, as the glowing object gets closer (seemingly at an accelerated rate of speed)]
LIBRARIAN: This is not the only library on campus.
[the forty sixth panel shows that the object is a giant glowing "spaceship", with another male librarian driving and shooting a laser pointer at the zombies (disintegrating them instantly), while our hero raises his fist in triumph]
LIBRARIAN: The other one is in the science building!
NARRATOR: Fact ... The Science and Religion Collection is housed on the second floor of Melhorn Science Hall!
[the forty seventh panel shows the science librarian descending from the spaceship on a cable, as the ship's computer says "Auto-pilot engaged."]
SCIENCE LIBRARIAN: That was a lot of zombies! You three okay?
LIBRARIAN: We are now! Thanks for the rescue!
[the forty eighth panel shows the science librarian examining the piles of dust that used to be the zombies]
SCIENCE LIBRARIAN: It was my pleasure! You know, incinerating a zombie destroys the reanimation virus and leaves behind an organic fertilizer rich in nitrates and numerous essential micro-nutrients! I use a lot of this stuff in my garden, mind if I take some?
NARRATOR: Recycling ... It's the key to sustainable living!
[the forty ninth panel shows the librarian smiling]
LIBRARIAN: Time to get the book back to its original goal ...
MALE STUDENT: [whispering] They both have beards. What does that mean?
[the fiftieth panel shows the librarian pointing at a copy of the comic book, as the sun shines brightly and birds soar overhead in the background]
LIBRARIAN: Fighting zombies is fun, and we had a lot of fun today, but what really matters is that you, the student, understand the vital role the library plays in your college education! And now that we've got your attention, the next several pages feature step-by-step instructions on how to put our library resources to use! Hang on to this book and refer to it as often as needed. Thanks for letting us entertain you. Enjoy your time at McPherson College and Miller Library! Good luck, and remember ... Study hard, and the sky's the limit!


From mcpherson.edu:

Even small academic libraries can be confusing for students. Miller Library developed this graphic novel guide to our library resources in an effort to connect with students in an interesting and unique way. Sure, lectures on databases and interlibrary loan are important and can provide in-depth information. But let's face it; we all have tons of information shooting at us from all directions, all the time. Why pay attention to what the librarian is saying when you can just Google something?

Well, because Googling something only scratches the surface. Understanding how to best sift through and use the massive amounts of information that bombard us is what librarians do.

Librarians know how to find stuff. Important stuff. We are what you call information literate, and you can be too. Information literacy/library instruction at McPherson College is very important. We want you to know how to use the library's resources for your coursework and for your future careers.

Most importantly, we want you to enjoy the library. We don't want to just give you a tour of the place and call it quits. We want you to view the library in a different way. It's not just a building full of books (although that seems incredible enough to some of us). It is a place that can literally save your day, whether you need to find that oen bit of crucial for your research or you find yourself trapped by a horde of flesh-eating zombies.

We want you to view the library and those who work here as being dedicated to your academic survival and success. And in the case of the story that follows, we just want to keep you alive. We hope you enjoy this guide as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

- The Staff of Miller Library

Special thanks go out to the students, staff, and faculty who graciously lent me their likenesses, thus giving this absurd little zombie drama a much-needed air of authenticity (there's a sentence never before written in the history of the English language). They are, in order of appearance:
Torey Fry, Kyle Smith, Audrey McTaggart, Fred Miller, Casey Maxon, contest winners Dale Schwartz and Aspen Frey, Brandon Berry, Kelsey Stucky, Irene Upson, Adam James, Adriana Dreier, and last but not least, Dr. Jonathan Frye, who for some odd reason just keeps popping up in the comics I draw.

- C. Michael Hall

Story by C. Michael Hall and Matt Upson
Written and drawn by C. Michael Hall
Colors by Dustin Evans
Instructional Text Pages by Matt Upson


From acrl.org:

Zombie attacks
How they can contribute to the success of your library

Matt Upson and
C. Michael Hall

Wow! The viral explosion of our Library of the Living Dead comic was totally unexpected by any of us at McPherson College. Mike Hall and I had a great time creating it, and we had some fantastic support from our campus community, but we had no idea that it would be viewed more than 1.3 million times in less than two months. I think this speaks to the utility of creativity and innovation in librarianship. And the great thing is... anyone can do this. Anyone can generate interest in his or her library. It doesn't have to be a graphic novel. It just has to hit people in a different spot than they are used to. It has to grab their attention and be a little (or a lot) quirky. But here's the bottom line: it has to be fun. It has to be fun for the team of librarians as they create, and it has to be fun for the intended audience.

Why a comic?

There have been resources that I created for undergrads that were dumped in the trash the second I finished my lecture. Why? They were informative. They were accurate. They were definitely relevant (assuming the student wanted a good grade on his or her research paper). So, why did my handout end up being discarded so often? I have to believe that it was because I just wasn't having fun with it. And neither were the students.

I know there are a lot of people who argue that we shouldn't coax or trick students into the library with gimmicks. When I started at McPherson College, I felt the same way. I wanted students to come in on their own initiative. Sure, I'd advertise our services, but ultimately I believed that the inherent educational appeal of the traditional library would draw students in. But I was wrong. College students are a tough crowd. They're loud. They're scared. They're uncomfortable. They're busy. They're bored.

We had parties. We invited other campus groups to come in and hold their events in the library. It got pretty raucous at times, and we ended up with a lot of spilled drinks and overflowing trash cans. But any frustration over the messiness and "misuse" of the library were assuaged by the success we had in drawing the students in and making them comfortable with the space. We added popular leisure books and graphic novels. We shifted some furniture around and bought a couple cozy chairs for our stacks. We asked art classes to create unique works that could be installed in the library. Students filled out surveys at a holiday party for a chance to win a Kindle. The comic guide was merely the culmination of a concerted effort to make the library a more hospitable and inviting place for students.

How we did it

We were making progress. Students were warming to the library as a social gathering place, but they weren't truly diving into the resources just yet. We still needed a unique and interesting way to teach information literacy. I was the only professional librarian and non-student staff member, so I handled a large load of reference questions and performed one-shot library instruction sessions.

We all know that undergraduates are entering college with few information literacy skills and little understanding of the purpose or function of a library. Despite the valiant efforts of school librarians, many students leave high school without ever really using library resources to conduct research.

We have all encountered similar issues at our reference desks. Students have no idea what a peer-reviewed journal is or why Wikipedia/Google can't suffice for their research. They don't know how to use a catalog or realize that they can borrow resources from other libraries for free. We (and more than a few of you) simply do not have the staff to address these questions at a broad fundamental level and in an immediate way (as opposed to the time-consuming and arduous process of officially adding information literacy standards to the curriculum). Therein lay the spark for the zombie guide.

Initially we considered making a series of short instructional films lampooning the "zombie apocalypse" genre, but being closet film-geeks, we wanted to make bigger, better movies than our microscopic budget would allow. Luckily, we had Mike Hall, a nontraditional student with a professional background in comic books and cartooning, and virtually no life to speak of (which gave him time to draw all kinds of ridiculous stuff). In comic books, the action isn't restrained by a budget. The shift from film-to-comic unleashed us to do whatever we wanted—which, as it turned out, was zombify the entire staff, kill them off in hilariously inventive and educational ways, and wrap things up with a flamethrower and a hovercraft. Almost as soon as we announced the project, students and faculty expressed excitement, but once we released the finished cover art as a sort of "teaser," seemingly everyone on campus was on the edge of their seats waiting for the book to be wrapped up and released.

The production process was fairly straightforward, beginning with a series of collaborative brainstorming sessions to work out a "mission plan" and a loose story, which Mike then turned into a script. Mike drew each page in pencil, inked it, then scanned it and added the dialogue to each page digitally. After sending the pages to a Dustin Evans—a frequent collaborator of Mike's from his days in the comics biz—for digital coloring, Mike assembled the book and hired a print-on-demand printer he had used on previous projects to produce the finished product.

There were some creative challenges along the way, of course: capturing the architecture of the building, incorporating likenesses of students and student workers into the action, pausing to handle research questions in the middle of drawing a page...but it all came together over the span of a few months, and for a very small sum of money.

Of course, the most obvious elements of the comic are the fantastic illustrations that Mike created. But the intellectual heft (sorry Mike) and primary purpose of the resource can be found at the back of the book. I created tutorials on Dewey, catalog searching, scholarly journals, interlibrary loan, and a basic research flowchart. You'll notice that though I tend to be wordy, I tried to keep the style and language informal so the students wouldn't be thrown off by the already unfamiliar material.

Additionally, Mike livened up the pages by including graphics from the comic as the background for the "boring" stuff. And, yes, I made a mistake on one of the Boolean Venn diagrams...but we can easily correct that in the master file and print off corrected copies, if needed. The same goes for the actual illustrations. If the physical organization of the library changes and the comic panels no longer make spatial sense, a new panel can be drawn to replace the outdated one. The comic is very adaptable and can be used even if major changes occur at the library.

The comic was created out of necessity. We simply saw an immediate need, recognized our ability to create a fun and unique resource at low cost, and moved forward. McPherson College's library is not equipped to perform the kind of formal assessment that is ideal in an academic library. Still, I consulted the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards prior to and during the creation of the resource.

We feel that the comic addresses Standard Two, which states that "the information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently." Performance indicators 1 through 4 under that standard discuss search and retrieval methods and strategies, as well as the refining of those behaviors. In our opinion, the comic is a direct attempt to inform and enable an information literate student. Of course, the formal assessment of those standards may never occur, but we can note shifts in the attitudes of students and other campus community members.

The fact that 40 students (on a 600-student campus) showed up to our release party to get their own copies of the guide reveals a lot. Seeing them lounge around the library reading an instructional resource on their own time with no prodding tells me we did something right. We were somehow able to get a load of undergraduates to be interested in the library for at least a short period of time, and that just feels great. Perhaps the gut feeling has no place in an academic library, but I would argue that following one's instincts as a librarian can lead to an increased impact and relevance in the lives of students.

An unintended result

There was no way that we could foresee the huge amount of hits the resource would have in such a short amount of time. For a small college like McPherson, that kind of publicity is unheard of. Although we do not know how the unintentional advertising will work out for the school, we know that there are possibilities. ACRL's recent Value of Academic Libraries report highlights the importance of the academic library in recruiting and retaining students and faculty. Innovative, tailored, unique resources can promote the vitality of an institution and encourage high quality prospective students and staff to seek out that place for their education or a potential job. We created the comic to appeal to our current students and did not anticipate the possibilities for promoting the institution as a whole.


The goal of all of our experiments, including the comic, was to give students ownership of the library, to instill a sense of pride and participation. We wanted them to gain a feeling of reciprocity or even symbiosis with the library: neither of us can truly thrive without the other. I think the comic really drives this point home. As I mentioned in the introduction to the comic, the library is a place that can save your day. The storyline exaggerates this point by placing the students in a hypothetical (but very possible, right?) zombie attack and relying on the library and librarian to find a solution together. That interdependence is the essence of all our efforts.

I hope that our guide has inspired other librarians to move forward on their own creative ideas, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Find those on your staff or in your community who could use their talents to fuel an innovative, fun, and probably inexpensive project. If you can locate and harness the enthusiasm of those around you, the task of creating a vibrant library becomes much easier. My student librarian loved to draw comics and was good at it. I gave him the opportunity to run with it. That's what worked for us. Find what can work with your library. Ask your peers and patrons what they would do to make the library their own, and give them ways to do it. Tell them what they can do instead of what they can't, and you will find that your library has more life in it than you thought. Even if most of the patrons are zombies.

P.S. I cannot believe I got to shoot a flamethrower in the library! Of course, it was just my comic "self" doing the damage, albeit a significantly fitter version of me, but still...

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