MSU Libraries Resident Comic Enthusiast Oversees World’s Largest Library Comic Collection

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MSU Randy Scott Libraries Comic Art Collection.jpg

Randy Scott shows off a comic book in his basement office where the Michigan State University Libraries Comic Collection is stored, the largest collection of comic book libraries in the world.

(Photo by Marina Csomor | For MLive.com)

EAST LANSING, MI – Randy Scott has read his fair share of chapter books and still loves literature without pages filled with pictures.

But growing up he was a comic book kid.

“I read comics all the time,” Scott said. “I was probably one of those people who can say I learned to read from comics, and I learned a lot of things I think I know from comics – you know, ‘Batman me’ said that, it must be true. ‘”

Today Scott is responsible for the Michigan State University Libraries Comic Collection. With approximately 250,000 items, it is the largest collection of library comics in the world.

The comic book collection is housed on shelves and in boxes in the basement of MSU’s Main Library, 366 W. Circle Drive in East Lansing, along with the other special library collections. Her colorful comics can only be read in the Special Collections Reading Room, which consists of just 18 chairs that those interested can occupy.

While the comic book collection is a researchers’ delight, many local comic book fans don’t realize this treasure exists, said Ray Walsh, owner of Curious Book Shop, 307 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing.

“I think that’s sort of Michigan State University’s best kept secret,” Walsh said.

Most of the people who visit the Comic Art Collection are serious academics from all over the world working on comic-related books, essays, or memoirs. But some recreational readers, including Laingsburg resident Ed Gildner, an MSU Libraries employee who also volunteers in the comic book collection, appreciate the diverse selection of comics the university has to offer.

“I would stay right after work and read comics,” Gildner said. “I would work as a whole group. I read a whole thing from ‘(The Adventures of) Tintin’. It’s the Belgian comic strip. So I read all of this over the course of a few weeks – just stuff I wouldn’t have been able to get my hands on otherwise. “

As Deputy Head of Libraries’ Special Collections, Scott oversees more than the comic book collection. But his favorite part of the job is to act as the libraries’ resident comic book bibliographer, spending time cataloging and acquiring comics for the collection – around 90 percent of the collection is donated, but he gets each year a small budget to use to buy more comics.

Scott strives to get everything from the most popular comics chronicling the lives of famous superheroes to obscure comics produced in limited numbers by small publishers just on Xerox machines.

MSU’s material collection has the broadest reach. His comics come not only from the United States, but also from countries as far away as France, Argentina and India.

“I want to cover it all,” Scott said. “I want people who study comics to have no excuse for missing something. I want to be able to say, “Well, you missed that, and here it is. “

Walsh from Curious Book Shop hired Scott as his first employee, before Scott began working in the university libraries. Walsh said Scott is too humble to admit his own accolades, but he is a comic book scholar.

“He knows the material so well and it’s easy to get along with him,” Walsh said. “He knows more about the comics and their publication than probably anyone else in the country, but I would say it didn’t go to his head.”

The comic book collection has grown since its inception in 1970 by Professor Russel Nye of MSU, who at the time was interested in the study of popular culture. Scott started working at MSU Libraries as a preorder typist in 1971 and in 1974 he volunteered to help catalog the comic book collection in his spare time. Eventually Scott was appointed to a permanent position working with this special collection of comics.

For Scott, working with comics every day is a dream job he never imagined having.

“I have that nostalgic thing,” Scott said. “It’s a literary form that I grew up with and always enjoyed, and when I realized after becoming a student that not everyone felt that way, I realized, ‘Well, why not ? Then I realized the libraries don’t have one – “Well, why not?” And I thought, ‘There is a cause!’ Something where maybe I can make a difference. And so I just decided, ‘Hey, comics are my thing.’ “

Follow Marina Csomor on Twitter: @MarinaCsomor. Email him at [email protected]



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