Bringing Nagraj to the Midwest: South Asian Comics at Illinois
This presentation is first in a new virtual series hosted by the Friends of the Library and initiated by the Library Board of Advocates to share the wonders of the University Library at Illinois.
In 2012 the University of Illinois announced a new niche collection focusing on South Asian comics. The impetus for building this collection was twofold: The Undergraduate Library had begun work to add more international titles to their established graphic novel collection, and an annual South Asian Cooperative Collection Development workshop had asked participants to develop niche South Asia collections. The goal of the annual cooperative workshop is to help South Asian Studies librarians build a strong national collection of resources that will benefit all South Asian Studies scholars. In just seven years, the South Asian comic collection has grown to include more than 4,000 comics in English and more than 15 vernacular languages of South Asia. It is one of the largest library collections of Indian comics in the world. The presentation will begin with a practical description of the collection and how it has developed over the years including proud achievements, ongoing challenges, and future aspirations. Ultimately the presentation will ask whether the South Asian comic collection at Illinois can serve as a useful model for other libraries with popular culture and/or area studies collections. In particular it will consider how collaborative collection development can be leveraged to help preserve at-risk popular cultural heritage materials and ways to make these collections accessible to scholars all over the world.
Mara Thacker is the South Asian Studies and Global Popular Culture Librarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As an associate professor, she has cultivated a research agenda on trends in area studies librarianship with a focus on distinctive collections, and public engagement. Mara’s work to build and market the one of the largest collections of South Asian comics in a North American research library contributed to her receiving the 2017 Library Journal Movers & Shakers award. Mara also served as the chair on the executive board of the Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD) from 2017-2020.