How Does a Comic Book Librarian Work?

Caitlin McGurk talks about collection development and exhibition curation at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Caitlin McGurk

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Erik Pepple.

“Comics will break your heart,” the artist Jack Kirby once said. That may be true, but sometimes, as we’ve seen over the course of this season of Working, if you love them, the medium will love you back.

In our past seven episodes, we’ve been talking with people who make and sell comics. For our final installment of the series, which you can listen to via the player above, we wanted to sit down with someone who’s thinking about the medium’s history. To that end, our guest this week is Caitlin McGurk, an assistant professor and associate curator at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.


McGurk leads us through the various activities that consume her time: She plays an important role in collection development, talking to cartoonists and fans of the medium about donating their own holdings to the library. As a tenure-track professor, she also conducts research of her own, much of it about largely forgotten comics by female artists. She also curates shows for the museum, a process that she explores in detail. She teaches about comics, as well, often in ways that are designed to complement the curricula of other professors at Ohio State University.

Then, in a Slate Plus extra, McGurk talks about the comics she used to make, tells us why she doesn’t make them anymore, and explains what it’s like to come across her own juvenilia in the Billy Ireland collection’s holdings. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at