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‘Superhero’ librarian champions alternative genre

Steven Roman of the DeKalb Public Library was named a “Librarian Superhero” in a national contest. Roman was given a custom lunchbox with a superhero version of himself on it. (Kyle Bursaw –
Steven Roman of the DeKalb Public Library was named a “Librarian Superhero” in a national contest. Roman was given a custom lunchbox with a superhero version of himself on it. (Kyle Bursaw –

DeKALB – As a lifelong fan of comic books, librarian Steven Roman said he is honored to be called a superhero.

Roman, who works at the DeKalb Public Library, was one of four librarians nationwide to receive a Librarian Superhero award from the Gale Carnegie Learning Center during the American Library Association’s annual gathering June 24 in New Orleans.

More than 800 librarians were nominated after more than 5,000 people commented on the organization’s website and Facebook page. From those comments, Gale officials picked four winners, including Roman.

Since joining the DeKalb library staff in March 2003, Roman has hosted numerous teen and adult programs for fans of graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy.

He said he was touched that many of his current and former teen book club participants nominated him on Facebook.

“You do this job and you hope you’re making a difference,” he said. “But it’s very rare to know you’re making a difference.”

Roman said he started reading at an early age, noting he had a birth defect that kept him in the hospital for long stretches of time.

To keep him occupied, his mother brought him comics and he fell in love with sword-and-sorcery stories such as “Conan the Barbarian” and superhero teams such as “X-Men.”

The popular opinion then was that comic books were the reading equivalent of junk food, he said. But recently, libraries have developed special sections for graphic novels and comics to meet demand.

Roman said studies helped show the nutritional value – mentally speaking – of comics as a gateway to other genres of literature.

Now, works from Stephen King to William Shakespeare are being adapted into graphic novels.

Roman’s love of science fiction helped create the foundation for Roman’s contribution to the “Read On” series of books, “Science Fiction: Reading Lists for Every Taste.” Roman described it as a “book of lists” for librarians, teachers and other fans looking to explore the genre.

Copies of the book will be sold Thursday at an open house held in Roman’s honor.

Library Director Dee Coover called the book “the definitive guide for librarians” when it comes to recommending science fiction.

Roman said he hopes the book will connect fans to new titles – especially those who may have come to the genre via popular movies and TV shows.

If you go

What: Open House for Librarian Superhero Steve Roman

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday

DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St.

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