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Rotterdam Public Library: Building a community collection with Comics Plus
Rotterdam Library prides itself on building collections in collaboration with its community. They were seeking a way to meet surging demand for manga while remaining within budget.
The library decided to become the first in the Netherlands to pilot Comics Plus, a digital collection of 20,000+ graphic novels, comics, and manga available to readers for unlimited, simultaneous use.
Within just a couple months of launch, Rotterdam’s patrons have read nearly 900 Comics Plus titles. The library has been able to stay within budget while vastly increasing the number of manga titles it offers patrons.

Rotterdam, in the province of South Holland, is the second-largest city in the Netherlands. Home to Europe’s largest port and almost 664,000 residents, the city’s library members are served by 21 neighborhood branches and the large Rotterdam Central Library.

Rotterdam Central Library hosts 2,500 events a year and functions as a community hub for members to socialize, study, learn, and pursue their passions. An important part of the library’s community building is its collection development.

“At Rotterdam Library, we build the collection with our community,” says Aarti Bajnath, Digital Collections Specialist at the Library of Rotterdam. “We solicit recommendations from members, and if there is a demand for a title or a particular kind of content, we try to meet that demand.”

A surge in manga popularity

Though Rotterdam Library patrons frequently suggest titles for purchase, a couple of years ago, the library noticed a new trend – a surge in demand for manga titles.

“After the pandemic we had a lot of customers coming in looking for manga in the library,” says Bajnath. As a library, we think it’s important to read no matter what you read. So, we became one of the first libraries in Holland to build a physical manga collection.”

Indeed, manga, Japanese comics intended for a Japanese audience, has become globally popular in recent years. There are manga series for readers of all ages and interests, and maintaining a collection that meets demand can be challenging.

“There are many volumes in each manga series,” says Bajnath. “They need to be read in order, so when someone borrows a volume, everyone else reading that series may have to wait weeks to continue. And though our patrons were impressed with our collection, we could not offer all the series they wanted to read.”

A digital solution

As a Digital Collections Specialist, Bajnath went looking for a digital solution. Like all libraries in Holland, Rotterdam’s eBook and eAudiobook collection is provided by The Royal Library of the Netherlands. Graphic novels and manga aren’t available through the Royal Library, but Bajnath had a budget she could use to fill the gap. She’d seen promotions for Comics Plus, a digital comics platform, and been impressed with their partnership with Bibliotheca.

“I’ve had problems in the past with other vendors who offer digital content but don’t specialize in libraries. Making digital content available in libraries through a company that has no library experience is very difficult. You want to make it really easy for patrons to access what they want only with a membership card,” she says. “Since Comics Plus was offered by Bibliotheca, a company specializing in libraries, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.”

With a Comics Plus subscription, libraries can offer readers unlimited, simultaneous access to 20,000+ digital comics, graphic novels, and manga. The constantly growing catalogue offers something for readers of every age and eliminates hold lists, waiting time, and budgetary surprises.

Though Dutch is the national language of The Netherlands, ninety percent of the population is proficient in English, making Comics Plus’s primarily English-language collection a good fit for Rotterdam. However, as the library was the first in the region to implement the solution, there were initial challenges with GDPR. Working in close partnership with Bibliotheca, the library was able to find a solution – ensuring that Comics Plus can meet GDRP regulations going forward.

Rotterdam Library rolled out Comics Plus slowly. They began with a soft launch in the first months of 2023 and officially introduced the collection in May. Since the launch, patrons have already read nearly 900 books. Bajnath expects that number to grow substantially as the library increases marketing and works with local manga enthusiasts to spread the word about Comics Plus.

“We plan to maintain our physical collection because it shows our patrons that we are answering their call for a manga collection,” says Bajnath. “But we also use the physical collection to guide readers to Comics Plus. We have a sign there in the library by the manga collection that says if you want to find more manga and graphic novels, you can scan this QR code and then be able to use Comics Plus.”

“The combination of physical and digital manga is really good,” she says. “We were excited to try Comics Plus, experience it ourselves, and see if it met demand, and I’m so glad it’s worked out.”

About Bibliotheca

Bibliotheca is dedicated to the development of innovative technologies and library management solutions that help sustain and grow libraries around the world. Bibliotheca reimagines how libraries function, using integrated technology  to inspire and delight all kinds of people, wherever they are: at home, on the move, or within the library walls.

Bibliotheca employs 400 people across 21 countries, partnering with 30,000 libraries to make the library experience—physical and digital—seamless, intuitive, and inclusive.

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