Starting a Collection or Program

The continuing adventures of incorporating graphic medicine into the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Library:  last time I described how I got enough buy-in the create a small collection. Then I began by listing all the departments of the medical school and taking note of the library’s regular patrons. At the time, I didn’t have the ability to get an extensive view of what the audience most wanted. I matched the topics of graphic medicine titles with the departments and regular patrons of the UAMS Library. Then I carefully selected 25 books for purchase. Twenty-four made it to a special section of the library. Unfortunately one was not available. I set up a display for the titles, which got regularly circulated between those on display and those on the shelves. I put up sign and a sheet inviting feedback. Since I didn’t have as much available to me, I had to make do. I took careful notes of when people looked at the books, the comments people left, and how many were getting checked out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the ability to market much beyond a few social media posts and flyers. This sort of bootstrap approach will likely be necessary in the early stages.

Now that you have gotten some buy-in from decision makers (Testing the Waters and Advocacy Toolkit), where should you begin? It is important to start small and ramp up from there. Use this as an opportunity for a pilot. Look for examples of how other institutions like yours have approached this. Make sure to get the input of your audience. Collecting information about how it went is key. 

First, determine your audience. Who will be reading/creating the graphic medicine? What is important to them? The easiest approach here is simple: ask them! Individual feedback is often easier to obtain. This doesn’t need to be a large scale polling endeavor. If you need more response data, a quick poll on social media can be a simple task. The purpose of this is not to obtain a statistically significant finding from a robust set of data, but to get a general feel for what is out there. Of course, the more feedback you can obtain, the more accurate your decisions based on the information are going to be. The attempt should be within reasonable parameters. 

Remember that you are not a lone pioneer in uncharted territory. Look at what other institutions similar to yours are doing. If you are the first of your kind in your field, look at other types of workplaces and see if you can tweak things to fit yours. Below you can find some examples of institutions that have successfully integrated graphic medicine:

Public Library: Ypsilanti District Library

Medical Libraries: Harvard Countway Library, University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library, and University of Las Vegas Nevada Health Sciences Library

Medical School: Penn State University Medical School

Public Health Department: Public Health Department of Seattle and King County


If a collection is where you are beginning, here are some tips. Compared to academic textbooks, these books are much less expensive.  Here is a plug for the spreadsheet of graphic medicine titles I have collected. I provide this list to get you started.

List of 10 Good Starter Graphic Medicine Titles:

These are considered necessary titles in the graphic medicine community and are all great examples of what graphic medicine can do. This list is curated for the best art, iconography, writing, and impact. If you would like to hear more about why I chose these ten, feel free to contact me. For additional titles, check out my Patreon for a patron exclusive list coming soon. Also will feature an annotated bibliography highlighting great titles to begin or grow a collection. Matthew Noe (of and I are hard at work finishing up this list.  


There are many activities using graphic medicine you can introduce to your institution: bookclub, Jam comics (collaborative comics that are created with each person drawing the next panel), workshops on creating a comic, inviting a local cartoonist, and more.  For ideas on workshops, check out Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, Lynda Barry’s Making Comics, and

  • Decide where it will be. If this needs an appointment, set it up. 
  • Decide who will be involved.
  • Decide the equipment you will need. 

Once you have set a date and know what you will be doing, make sure you market it! When you start out, it is best to use a blanket approach. Try as many marketing techniques as you can. Social media, flyers, emails, and announcements in a newsletter are all good choices. As the campaign goes on, see what gets the most interest. Do people stop and look at the flyers? Did people respond to your social media posts? Did people respond to the emails? 

Before you display your collection or conduct your program, it is important to set up ways to gather feedback about what you are doing. Evaluations don’t have to be incredibly complicated. This may even be as simple as listening to people discuss the activity or asking them directly what they think/thought. Do as much or as little as makes sense for you, but you make sure to do something. This is invaluable when figuring out what to do next. Treat this like a pilot. 

Make sure you keep a record of both what people say and what they do. If you have a collection, keep track of how many times each book gets checked out or used. Provide a system for people to leave comments about the collection. If you can, solicit book reviews. If you have a group, such as a book club or workshop, keep track of how many people come and ask people how they liked it. 

If you are looking for more concrete data, participants can fill out an evaluation. If you have a form, it is good to have both qualitative and quantitative options. You can use a Likert scale to ask questions in a quantitative way. 

Hopefully this was useful in getting you started. Let me know if there is a program you would like tips on! 

Next I will be walking you through what to do with the evaluation data you obtained.  Let me know what you think! Comment or get in touch with me on Twitter @AJaggers324 or Instagram @AJaggers324, like and subscribe. Also if you would like to support me financially, you can go to Thank you!

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