"Gene and Bill are as funny in person as they are in their comic strip. They'll tell you important things as they keep you laughing nonstop with their unique perspectives on libraries, books, customer service, or whatever else you can convince them to talk about."
-- Nancy Pearl

"Bill Barnes was a smash hit at the Florida Library Association 2013 conference! He kept us laughing while reminding us of our (and our customers') foibles. Learning how he and his partner develop their comic strips was interesting and seeing it in action as he created a strip from one of our attendees “worst library story” was outstanding."
-- Ruth O'Donnell, Conference Coordinator

“The Unshelved keynote was the perfect wrap-up for our conference. Our attendees stated over and over how much they loved finishing with a humorous presentation that sent us back to our libraries recharged with energy and enthusiasm.”
-- Rita Ennen, 2012 North Dakota Library Association Conference Chair

"Your keynote address was the highest ranked keynote we’ve had in my three years at ILF. Of those who took our conference survey, 97% rated your keynote session as “excellent” or “good” – with the vast majority rating it as 'excellent.'"
-- AnneMarie Chambers, Conference Manager, 2011 Indiana Library Federation

"The Unshelved keynote was the best session/speaker we've had since I've been at MCPL. Funny and relevant."
-- Attendee, 2011 Monroe County Public Library Staff Development Day

"This was the best presentation, not just from this Staff Training Day, but from all of them that I've attended. It let us laugh at ourselves, our co-workers, and our patrons, but was ultimately affirming of our profession."
-- Attendee, 2011 LA County Public Library Staff Training Day

"The Dayton Metro Library staff absolutely loved the Unshelved programs at our 2011 Staff Development Day! In fact, our attendees ranked their talks higher than any other program in my 10 years coordinating this event. Gene and Bill were so easy to work with and two of the nicest, funniest guys I have had the pleasure of hiring."
-- Jennifer Kadel, Training Specialist, Dayton Metro Library

We love making people laugh on the web and in person. We've delivered professional keynotes to conferences, universities, library systems, and corporate gatherings in over 40 states and internationally*. Our peculiar insights into librarianship and customer service leave attendees smiling and talking among themselves. They depart energized, validated, and uplifted. We’d love to speak to you and your group, wherever you are.

With each keynote we offer a breakout session. We also have a new workshop perfect for libraries. Here's how to hire us.

Keynotes for Professionals

We've got three, going on four, great keynotes for professional gatherings.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Library

If you work in libraries you know that sometimes you have to laugh or else you'll cry. In this 50 minute keynote we deliver the laughs as we take you on a tour of the world's only library comic strip. The staff and patrons of the Mallville Public Library are instantly recognizable, and give your audience a unique opportunity to gently laugh at themselves and the people they work with on both sides of the desk. We deconstruct some of our greatest hits, and Gene tells some of the true-life stories that inspired them, as well as a few he had to leave out.

This keynote has garnered standing ovations at dozens of state and regional library conferences, library schools, library staff development days, and corporate customer meetings. It is appropriate for all kinds of librarians: public, school, academic, and special**.

Here's a video clip of our opening skit, the Unshelved Library Simulator.

Surviving The Public

Tough customers got you down? Let us teach you how to stop worrying and learn to enjoy difficult people! In this 50 minute keynote we focus on the Unshelved approach to customer service: the customer is seldom right. Most customer service interactions can be enjoyable if you have the right frame of mind. Or, failing that, at least you can have the last laugh.

This keynote goes beyond libraries, and is suitable for any audience that deals with the public. It's also a great choice for groups that have hired us to speak once and want to hear something new!

How to Ban a Book

We imagine that you have invited us to teach your group how to do a better job banning books from libraries. We give a thorough, detailed, and helpful training. We'll tell you why to ban books, which books to challenge, who at the library to work with, what kind of approach you should take, and how to anticipate (and work around) a library's standard response. We'll also teach you the different types of secret censorship and how to use the library's collection development policy to your advantage.

We are longtime opponents of censorship, and in this talk you will gain a deeper understanding of who you're up against in the fight for intellectual freedom.

Too Much Information

The world is changing. People are trying to make sense of daunting amounts of information. How can anyone find what they need to know? Why shouldn’t everyone share everything, from overly-detailed selfies to Scrabble® scores to what they ate for dinner (and how well it was digested)? The Unshelved guys demonstrate that libraries are part of the problem but also, perhaps, part of the solution.

This keynote is currently in beta. We'd be happy to do it as a breakout session accompanying any of our other three keynotes.

Breakout Sessions

If you've already hired us to do a keynote we're happy to throw in one of these for free if it doesn't add to our travel time:

Graphic Novels from the Inside

Gene and Bill love comics, and in this program they show you some of the reasons why, with moments that demonstrate the unique power of this amazing medium.

See You In The Funny Pages

Before your event, attendees submit their best work stories. Bill and Gene pick one and write and draw an Unshelved comic strip on actual paper. At the event we'll share the runners up, with some insight into why some were better suited for comic strips than others, then unveil the winner and the resultant comic strip. The original art is given as a gift, to be displayed at the winner's library.

Workshops for the Public

Cartooning in the Digital Age

Bill Sketching

Bill Barnes presents a two-part tutorial based on his experience drawing Unshelved for twelve years and writing Not Invented Here for four years. The first hour is called The Basics of Cartooning, a fast and fun workshop for aspiring artists of all ages, covering every step in creating a comic strip: creating memorable characters, writing dialog, lettering, pencilling, inking, and coloring. The second hour is called The Technology and Business of Cartooning, and is oriented towards teens and adults. Bill demonstrates how to use computers to create and publish comic strips to the Internet, and how to make money doing it.

Bill and his family are taking a year-long roadtrip around the USA. If he will already be in your area the cost is just $500, otherwise there may be additional expenses. Email Bill for more information, and to say why your town would be a great stop on his family's homeschool adventure!

How to Hire Us

For keynotes at professional gatherings such as staff days and conferences, we charge a speaking fee that varies with distance and venue, plus expenses (economy travel, accomodation, meals). For more information, references, availability, and a price quote, please contact Gene with as much detail about your event as possible.

For more information on hiring Bill to speak about cartooning to the public at your library, please contact him directly.

We look forward to hearing from you!

(Sorry, we have a limited number of spots free in our calendar, so we can't accept every invitation. We book strictly on a "first come, first served" basis, so email sooner rather than later!)

-Gene and Bill
the Unshelved guys

* Canada
** All librarians are special


Apr 26 Seattle, WA
Cartoonists Northwest Toonie Awards Dinner
Hall of Fame Award & Talk (Gene & Bill)

May 7 Chicago, IL
Chicago Public Library staff
STP (Gene & Bill)

May 9 Darien, IL
Indian Prairie Public Library District staff
Funny Thing (Bill)

May 16 Campbell, CA
Santa Clara County Library District staff
Funny Thing (Gene & Bill)

May 30 New York, NY
Book Expo America
11am 1E02 Worst Social Media Advice Ever (Bill)
1pm 1E02 Too Much Information (Gene & Bill)

Jun 26-Jul 1 Las Vegas, NV
ALA Annual
Booth 2008 (Bill)

July 23-Jul 27 San Diego, CA
Comic Con International
Booth 2300 (Bill & Gene)

Oct 1 Lancaster, PA
Pennsylvania Library Association
Talk (Gene & Bill)

Oct 24 Williamsburg, VA
Virginia Library Association
Funny Thing (Gene or Bill)


April 14-17 Austin, TX
Texas Library Association conference
Booth 2152 (Gene & Bill)

April 25 Omaha, NE
Omaha Public Library staff
Talk (Gene & Bill)

Satisfied Customers

References Available.

  • Alaska Library Association (twice!)
  • Arkansas Library Association
  • Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services
  • Association of Rural and Small Libraries
  • Benedictine University Library staff
  • Beyond Hope
  • Book Expo America (six times!)
  • Bumbershoot
  • British Columbia Library Association
  • California Library Association (twice!)
  • Cartoonists Northwest (twice!)
  • Central Oregon Regional Libraries
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Library staff
  • Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo a.k.a. C2E2
  • Colorado ILL Conference
  • Comic Con International (twice!)
  • Connecticut Library Association
  • Dayton Metro, OH Public Library staff
  • DeKalb County, GA Public Library staff
  • Delaware County, PA Library System staff
  • Enoch Pratt Free Library, MD staff
  • Florida Library Association
  • Fort Worth, TX Public Library staff
  • Google
  • Graphic Arts Guild, Boston chapter
  • Graphic Arts Guild, Seattle chapter
  • Hancock County, IN Public Library Staff Day
  • Humanities Washington
  • Illinois Library Association
  • Indianapolis-Marion County, IN Public Library staff
  • Indiana Library Federation
  • Ingram Library Services
  • Jacksonville, FL Public Library staff
  • Joplin, MO Public Library public & staff
  • Las Vegas-Clark County, NE Library District
  • Library Association of Alberta
  • Kansas Library Association
  • Kitsap, WA Regional Library staff (twice!)
  • LA County Public Library staff
  • Manitoba Libraries Conference
  • Maryland Association of School Librarians
  • Massachusetts Library Association
  • Medical Library Association (Pacific Northwest Chapter)
  • Michigan Library Association
  • Minnesota Library Association (twice!)
  • Mississippi Library Association
  • Missouri Library Association
  • Missouri Association of School Librarians
  • Military librarians
  • Monroe County Public Library staff
  • Montgomery County-Norristown, PA Public Library staff
  • Nebraska Library Association
  • New Jersey Library Association
  • New York Comic Con
  • New York Library Association (twice!)
  • New York School Library Media Specialists
  • Norfolk, VA Public Library staff
  • North Dakota Library Association (twice!)
  • North Carolina Library Association
  • Oklahoma Library Association
  • Oregon Library Association
  • Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools
  • Pennsylvania Library Association
  • Pierce County, WA Library staff
  • Rhode Island Library Association
  • Seattle, WA Public Library staff
  • Schaumburg Township, IL District Library staff
  • Simmons College Library School
  • South Dakota Library Association
  • Spartanburg, SC Public Library staff
  • St. Catherine University students
  • St. Louis County Public Library supervisory staff
  • Tennessee Library Association
  • Texas Library Association (twice!)
  • Texas Woman's University students
  • Timberland Regional Library staff (twice!)
  • Toronto Comics & Art Festival
  • University of California San Diego Geisel Library staff
  • University of South Carolina students (twice!)
  • University of North Carolina students
  • University of Washington students
  • Utah Library Association
  • Vermont Library Association
  • Virginia Beach Public Library staff
  • Washington Association of Library Employees (twice!)
  • Washington Library Association (twice!)
  • Washington Library Media Association (twice!)
  • Wilderness Coast, FL Public Libraries
  • Wisconsin Library Association
  • Wyoming Library Association