The 2020 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries Recipients Revealed

"Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries" graphic
Credit: Will Eisner

Press Release

The American Library Association’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation are pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries. The grants, funded by the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, are administered by ALA’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT).

The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries consists of three annual grants given in two categories. This year two libraries have been selected to receive the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grants – these provide support to a library that would like to expand its existing graphic novel services and programs. The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant provides support to a library for the initiation of a graphic novel service, program or initiative.

The 2020 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grants are awarded to:

    Ryan LaFerney of the Avon – Washington Township Public Library, Avon, IN. The project “Will Eisner Memorial Comic Book Convention” seeks to grow their adult graphic novel collection to include more diverse, iconic and classic graphic works as well as raise awareness of the importance of graphic literature, sequential art, and comics as a literary medium. They plan to host a one-day comic convention at the library in honor of Will Eisner featuring displays on the history of graphic novels, the educational benefits of the medium, activities, lectures and more.
    Cathy Burwell of the Cape Fear Community College Library, Wilmington, NC.Their existing program, “Get BiblioGRAPHIC with CFCC,” will be expanded by the grant to include librarian led discussions, partner displays and activities with local public libraries, rotating collections of graphic novels to classrooms, and author and illustrator visits to the early college high schools in their area.

The 2020 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant is presented to:

    Deanna Nebenionquit of the Ontario Library Service – North, Sudbury, ON Canada. OLSN’s project, “Northern Ontario First Nation Graphic Novel Collective,” is to engage 29 indigenous communities in Northern Ontario through the First Nations public library system. This engagement effort will include book discussions around a unique collection of graphic novels produced by indigenous authors and artists, storytelling groups, and a plan for a group project. The collective will seek to build community, embrace indigenous heritage, and encourage life-long literacy and creativity. The Ontario Library Service – North is the first Canadian library to be awarded one of the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants since the eligibility was opened to include all of North America in 2019.

Each of these grants awards the winning libraries with a $2,000 voucher to purchase graphic novels from Diamond Book Distributors, the grants’ distributor-partner, as well as $1,000 to host a graphic novel-themed event. Additionally, the recipients will receive the Will Eisner Library (a graphic novel collection of Will Eisner’s in-print work and biographies about the acclaimed writer and artist) and a selection of this year’s Will Eisner Award winning graphic novels. The grant recipients also receive a $1,000 travel stipend to be used for ALA Annual Conference. Due to the cancelation of this year’s ALA Annual Conference, the travel stipend funds will be used for the 2020 grant recipients to attend next year’s 2021 ALA Annual in Chicago.

Nancy and Carl Gropper of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation said, “Since 2014, the Foundation has deeply enjoyed its relationship with the ALA, and more recently with The Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table, in sponsoring the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries. Each year the selected grant winners have exhibited outstanding proposals and accomplishments. Despite horrific conditions, this year was no exception and we understand that as always the judging was difficult.  Our congratulations to Ryan LaFerney, Cathy Burwell, and Deanna Nebenionquit, our 2020 grant recipients. Their projects are enriching, visionary, and champion diversity. Their unique programs center around building graphic novel collections for adult, intergenerational, and indigenous populations while advocating the growth of partnerships for sharing graphic novel material. The professional challenges presented by their proposals, and their plans to meet them, are inspiring. In this, Ryan, Cathy, and Deana will join Will Eisner who loved to meet the professional challenges he faced.”

Deanna Nebenionquit of the Ontario Library Service – North and recipient of the 2020 Eisner Innovation Grant said “We would like to extend a chi-miigwetch to the Will and Anne Eisner Family Foundation, the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table of the American Library Association, and to the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant Jury for selecting the Northern Ontario First Nation Graphic Novel Collective as the first Canadian recipient. Seeing positive Indigenous representation in graphic novels is empowering and long overdue. We would like to acknowledge the many Indigenous storytellers, illustrators, and designers who are contributing to the recent influx of Indigenous graphic novel content. Your work is appreciated, and will now be in the hands of patrons from 29 First Nation Public Libraries in Northern Ontario who will use your work as content for book clubs, and sparking inspiration before embarking on their own photography-based graphic novel projects.”

More information on the grant and the application process can be found on the Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table website.

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