Assistant Director Amanda Bellis Builds Book Clubs, Community Connections, and Graphic Novel Collection at Nevada Public Library

SLIS alum Amanda Bellis is the Assistant Director of the Nevada Public Library in Central Iowa. Working in a small library system offers Amanda the opportunity to perform several aspects of librarianship including collection development, circulation, reference, managing interlibrary loans, supervising staff, and conducting programming for all ages. Within the Nevada community, book club programs reign supreme. “Our most successful adult programs at the Nevada Public Library are our book clubs, and it has been a joy to build some of them from the ground up.”

For many years, the library had a single book club that would meet on Thursday afternoons within the library. While that program remains, Amanda and the director wanted to expand book club programming to form partnerships within the community and to expand library services beyond the building’s walls. The two decided to offer a morning book club at a local coffee shop and an evening book club at a local bar. The groups regularly see 10-15 attendees, with patrons telling friends and recruiting new people.

As those groups began to garner a following, they also started an evening graphic novel book club. Graphic novels and comics have been a personal and professional interest of Amanda’s for years. Her SLIS poster was dedicated to studying the relationship between comics and public libraries, and she’s excited to be putting her knowledge into practice. The graphic novel book club is the smallest of the book groups, and one of Amanda's goals for 2020 is to grow the club and educate the community about comics and graphic novels.

“My favorite part of running book clubs is how often an attendee tells me that I picked something they’d never have read otherwise, but that they really enjoyed. I like introducing people to new books and broadening their reading horizons, and we’ve had many great discussions as a result.”

Amanda will be working on restructuring the adult graphic novel collection in 2020. Currently graphic novels are housed within fiction, but Amanda hopes to create a new adult graphic novel section, update materials, and market them. “My hope is that growing our adult graphic novel section will go hand-in-hand with growing our graphic novel book club, and that patrons who discover one will then discover the other.” To complement the collection and book club, Amanda has formed a partnership with the local comic shop, Mayhem. Mayhem has been incredibly supportive of libraries, and their goal is to partner with as many libraries as they can to help build collections and to provide support and information throughout the process.

Amanda and her team have started the process of gathering community input about how patrons would like the graphic novel collection to be organized and displayed. Using both a Facebook and paper poll, the results have overwhelmingly suggested a community desire for a separate section for adult graphic novels and an excitement for the future of Nevada Public Library.