Will Eisner Graphic Novel Library Grant Winners Announced

The two winners of the Will Eisner Graphic Novels Grants for Libraries have been announced and will be awarded during the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. Funded by the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and administered by ALA's Games and Gaming Round Table and the Graphic Novels & Comics in Libraries Member Initiative Group, the awards feature two annual grants: the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant which is provided to support a library that would like to expand its existing graphic novels services and programs, and the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant which provides support to a library for the initiation of a graphic novel service, program, or initiative.

The 2017 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant was awarded to the Colorado State Library of Denver, Colorado. To support their project "Where There is Art, There Is Hope: Graphic Novels and Literacy at the Sterling Correctional Facilities Libraries," the Colorado State Library plans to allow a new teacher to travel to Sterling, Colorado to enrich their LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) with comics curriculum at the Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF) Libraries, encouraging literacy and reducing recidivism.

The Colorado State Library began their LEAD with Comics program as a special ongoing project in jail systems and detention centers across Colorado. This six week course for incarcerated adults was created with the goal of improving literacy and art skills using comics and graphic novels. The Colorado State Library's Institutional Library Development unit currently serves over 15,000 adult offenders in 20 Department of Corrections facilities statewide as well as 900 residents in 10 Division of Youth Corrections facilities statewide.

Institute for American Indian Arts
Photo by Daniel Wall

The 2017 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant is presented to the Institute of American Indian Arts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their project "Giving Voices to Our Stories: Fostering the Growth of Future Indigenous Graphic Novelists" aims to foster the growth of future indigenous graphic novel creators and further diversify the voices represented in visual narrative through development.

The Institute of American Indian Arts Library's mission is to foster creative discovery, lifelong learning and cultural enrichment by advancing understanding and preservation of American Indian and Alaska Native cultures by facilitating access to information resources. They provide a welcoming space for intellectual exploration, and their project aims to continue growing their mission through the visual narrative.

Each grant awards their respective libraries with a $2,000 voucher to purchase graphic novels from grant sponsor, Diamond Book Distributors, as well as $1,000 to host a  graphic novel-themed event and an additional $1,000 travel stipend to attend the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. The winners also receive the Will Eisner Library (a graphic novel collection of Will Eisner’s work and biographies about the acclaimed writer and artist) and copies of the graphic novels nominated for this year’s Will Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con.

In the official statement from ALA, T.J. Lamanna of Cherry Hill Public Library and a member of the 2017 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant jury said, “Library funding is always a difficult issue to manage and these grants not only allow libraries and librarians to extend the services to more patrons in new and unique ways, but also validate the funding already received. It shows the communities their libraries are recognized and innovative and helps solidify that vital relationship they have with their patrons.”

Nancy and Carl Gropper of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation added: “Throughout his career, Will Eisner generously gave of himself to budding comics artists and writers, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and to strive towards excellence. In his work, he relentlessly pushed the limits of what comics could accomplish, resulting in the creation of the literary graphic novel. On behalf of his legacy, it is an honor to provide funding support to this year’s two grant winners. Each, in distinctive and exceptional ways, is expanding and diversifying the inspiring roles libraries can fulfill with vision and creativity in the use of graphic literature. Our hearty congratulations to the 2017 grant recipients, and the winning librarians Erin Boyington and Jessica Mlotkowski for their outstanding work.”

The grant winners will be honored at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago during June 22-27th.

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