Social Justice in Graphic Novels

RCLC Albers Fellow Shares Research on Social Justice in Graphic Novels

by Kayla Hlad, MLIS Graduate Student, Kent State University iSchool

In 2018, Dr. Karen W. Gavigan of the University of South Carolina was awarded the Jacqueline Albers Guest Scholar in Children’s Literature Fellowship. The fellowship, one of two offered annually by the Reinberger Children’s Library Center (RCLC), awarded Gavigan $1,500 to support her research exploring social justice themes in young adult graphic novels.

Gavigan says “research at the Reinberger Library was a gift that keeps on giving.”

After her visit, Gavigan added to her findings, studying collections at seven other institutions across the US and Australia. Now, Gavigan is collaborating with Dr. Kasey Garrison of Charles Sturt University to share that research.

Thanks to a Carnegie Whitney grant from the American Library Association, they have created a website that offers support to teachers, educators, and librarians looking to use graphic novels as a means of fostering meaningful discussion on social justice issues with young adults.

Visitors can browse recommendations by topic including addiction, gender/LGBTQIA, immigration, race, sexual abuse/rape, and more. For further support, Gavigan and Garrison provide visitors with an invaluable list of related resources including lesson plans.

The pair have presented their work at multiple state and national professional conferences. You can read about some of their findings in School Library Connection (Jan. 2021) and The Conversation (read here).

And the two researchers are not stopping there. Gavigan and Garrison will be presenting at the International Association of School Librarianship 49th Annual Conference (July 2021) and are currently writing an invited chapter for a book as well as another article.

You can find their annotated bibliographies, recommendations, and toolkit of resources at

The Albers Guest Scholar in Children’s Literature Fellowship was endowed by iSchool alumna Jacqueline M. Albers to support a visiting scholar’s use of the collections in the Reinberger Children’s Library Center for research in children’s literature. 

For more information about research fellowships with the Reinberger Children’s Library Center visit


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