2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries Recipients Announced

For Immediate Release
Fri, 04/23/2021


Tina Coleman

Staff Liaison

Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table

American Library Association



The American Library Association’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation are pleased to announce the 2021 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: two Growth Grants and one Innovation Grant. The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grants provide support to libraries that would like to expand their existing graphic novel services and programs. The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant provides support to a library to initiate a graphic novel service, program or initiative.

The 2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grants are awarded to:

  • Samantha Edwards of Kansas City Public Library North-East Branch, Kansas City, MO  - the project “Library ComicThon: A Comic-Drawing Workshop to Enrich Northeast Youth” seeks to teach youth to create their own comics projects as well as to enhance and diversify the libraries graphic novel collection. Participants will have the chance to be published in the local newspaper and to have their work included in a library collection of kid-made comics.
  • Jennifer Bowers of University of Denver Libraries – their project “Building Past to Present: Developing a Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous Graphic Novels Collection” seeks to develop their nascent collection of 23 Indigenous-created graphic novels in order to “address our legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre, and align with the Task Force on Native American Inclusivity and the Libraries’ goals to diversify our collections, specifically of Native American authors.”

The 2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant is presented to:

  • James Thomas of University of Southern Mississippi – the project “Graphic Novels in the University Curriculum: Intersectionality in Social Justice Across Disciplines” aims to facilitate the use of graphic novels into rich conversations in higher education and learning, and they add graphic novels to their library social justice and interdisciplinary studies collections. They plan to expand the conversation by incorporating graphic novels and narratives into multiple curricula, as primary and secondary resources, and offering these to the Gulf Coast public community.

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. While normally the grant includes an additional $1,000 travel stipend for the recipients to attend ALA Annual Conference, due to the pandemic and ALA Annual Conference being hosted virtually this year, the recipients have been instructed to use those funds for professional development around comics librarianship, including attending ALA Annual virtually. The GNCRT is working with the grant recipients and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation to host a session during ALA Annual to showcase and celebrate these libraries and their winning projects.

 Nancy and Carl Gropper of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation said, “Revered writer and artist Will Eisner considered his medium as a powerful one for storytelling and one with literary merit. When the Foundation began our partnership with the American Library Association in 2014, the recognition of graphic novels and comics was just in the beginning stages. Graphic novels were starting to appear on library shelves, and comics were made more available. Today, so many librarians regard sequential art as a valid, legitimate medium and one with unparalleled popularity. Through these annual grants, we hope to help libraries build on Will Eisner’s legacy by increasing the public’s awareness of graphic novels and promoting graphic novel collections, services and programs. Our heartiest congratulations to this year’s grant recipients, Samantha Edwards, Jennifer Bowers, and James Thomas. Their programs are creative and unique, diverse and inclusive in expanding their graphic novel collections. We know Will Eisner would be so pleased with their imaginative and insightful work. Congratulations!”

William Jacobs, chair of the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries juries said, “While there were a range of worthy applicants this year, the winning projects stood out to the juries as highlighting the unique role comics can play in conversations about social justice and equity. We are pleased to be able to enable these projects and look forward to seeing the lasting effects they will have on their communities.”

More information on the grant and the application process can be found at http://www.ala.org/rt/gncrt/eisner

About The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation

The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation fosters innovation and creativity in graphic literature, sequential art and comics. It encourages others to continue and build upon the legacy of Will Eisner, who broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics. Will Eisner is best known for being the creator of The Spirit comic, for developing comics for education and training, and for writing the first modern graphic novel. For more information about Will Eisner visit www.willeisner.com.

About the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table

The Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table of the American Library Association is dedicated to supporting library staff in all aspects of engaging with graphic novels and comics, including collection development, programming, and advocacy. For more information connect with GNCRT on Facebook: ALA Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table; Twitter: @libcomix; Instagram: @libcomix; or the GNCRT ALA Connect page.

About ALA

Established in 1876, the American Library Association (ALA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.