ALA Editions is proud to publish Complete Copyright for K–12 Librarians and Educators by Carrie Russell of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, with illustrations by Jessica Abel. Here Abel offers some comments on her working process and what goes in to illustrating the ins and outs of copyright issues!
I’m a cartoonist and a comics educator. But sometimes, I’m also an illustrator. It was in that capacity that, back in—what was it, 2005? I got a call from a design agency called Design Farm to work on a book about copyright law aimed at librarians (Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide For Librarians). They wanted to use my skills as a cartoonist to develop a set of characters who would be able to act out various challenging scenarios familiar to librarians in a way that was both fun and clear.
I’d long had dealings with great comics-friendly librarians (especially via my comics intro to the idea of graphic novels “What is a Graphic Novel?”), so I knew it was the right approach to take.
It was a great project! The design director, Jodi Bloom, and especially the writer, Carrie Russell, were fantastic creative partners: always interested in what I had to offer, flexible, and fun. And it was a great bonus for me as a cartoonist, and thus a creator of lots of copyrighted content, to get the chance to understand copyright a bit better myself.
Fast forward to 2008, and I got another call from Carrie, now working on a second volume of this series, aimed at school librarians.
I signed up immediately, and since in this case there is no design firm involved, I was able to have a bit more say in how the illustrations would work. Consistent with my background as a narrative cartoonist, I suggested that the characters not simply appear randomly to illustrate one concept or another, but that the book as a whole have a kind of storyline to it.
Well, it’s loose, but there is a story, and that made the project very satisfying. It’s a silly little tale of Goofus and Gallant-like librarians struggling with copyright issues in their daily routine, but even so, I got to really have a soft spot for that uptight Lindsey Eagan...
And Carrie, if you're reading this, I'm all geared up for volume 3!
Here’s the fronticepiece of the book in development: it’s a bit more complex than most of the drawings, so there is more prep that goes into it, but the basic idea is the same throughout.