Have you found a way to connect with your local library?

libraryUp here in beautiful, scorching hot Vancouver, we have some incredibly progressive people working at our local libraries. Over the past couple of years I’ve been invited to give readings, sit on panels, and teach workshops at several of their fine facilities. These are large libraries and they cater to thousands of patrons. And, I’m the self-published guy, so I’m a little harder to find. Fortunately, through the creative use of smoke and mirrors I’ve made myself so loud that I can’t be ignored. And, they carry my books and their users borrow them from time to time, so, I’ve become known to some extent, locally. The largest library is the Vancouver Public Library. This is truly a magnificent building and it’s situated right in the middle of the city. They called in a bunch of us author-type people last month for a meeting. When they told me in their invitation email what the subject matter was I couldn’t wait to attend.

The library wanted our input. They wanted to know how to connect with the local self-publishing community. They began the meeting by telling us they didn’t know exactly what they were doing. I’ve heard the most intelligent people I’ve ever met say exactly the same thing. The only way we can grow and learn is to realize that we don’t know something. So, I loved hearing that. After their introduction, they broke us into groups and asked us to address several questions. The gist of the meeting was that they want to serve the local author community more effectively and in particular – the self-publishing community. I told you these guys were progressive.

One of the questions I had was, other than major releases, how they decide which books to order for the library. Bear in mind this is a Canadian library and the US may differ. Apparently the library employs a team who scour literary magazines searching for books that have been reviewed by a recognized literary publication. I imagine this is in addition to catalogs they are supplied with. So, if a self-published book has been reviewed by one of those hard to infiltrate magazines the team may order it for the library. As many Indie authors know – that’s a tough nut to crack. This was where the conversation became really exciting. They wanted to know how to find out about our books. Yes, they did!

I had a number of ideas as did many of the other authors in attendance. And then afterward some of my online colleagues had great suggestions too. Stephen Hise suggested a designated submission page on their website where authors could submit their work. K.S. Brooks sent me the link to a library in Arizona that has a similar system. In case you’d like to take a peek, here it is. There were other suggestions too and it really made me think. It’s fine for us to imagine having our books everywhere. We want our print books to be in libraries and corner stores and major bookstores, but if we don’t have a road map or plan, we’re not going to get there. We need to bridge that gap.

There were other items discussed in terms of how the library could connect with the Indie community and I offer the question to you. When a new book is released by a self-published author and it performs well I hear about it, and you probably do too. We’re in our own little insulated world. We need to un-insulate. We need to find ways to have a connection between that other world and our world. How can we bridge the gap, not just in Vancouver, but in every community? Have you found a way to connect with your local library or community? Do they know who you are?

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of BookDoggy.com and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

27 thoughts on “Have you found a way to connect with your local library?”

  1. Martin, GREAT post. What an opportunity for you, and then by extension, for all of us. By coincidence, I’m attending a writers’ meeting this morning in my local library. This is great info to take with me. Also, I’ve very pleased that Pima County leads the way in opening their doors to all writers. The Tucson Book Festival is one of the top 5 largest in the country, and it’s hugely gratifying to see so many folks who are thrilled with books and reading. Since I moved, I’m not close enough to attend any more, but I always enjoyed that weekend in March. Thanks for posting this. Excellent info.

  2. I’ve had a lot of trouble with my local libraries. I live in NYC, in Queens to be specific. I was allowed to give a talk at the main branch of the New York Public Library, not about my Twitter-composed mystery novel, Executive Severance, but about “Creativity in Social Media.” I did manage to feature my book prominantly in my talk.

    As for the Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries, at first I couldn’t get them to carry my book, a prerequisite to speaking at any of their branches! I finally shamed the Queens Library to buy one (one!) copy of my book by posting a tweet during Book Censorship Week about how they have censored my book. Then when I proposed a reading, they wanted me to speak about using Twitter for marketing purposes, not about my writing.

    My impression is that library staff are not qualified to judge the merit of literary works, but take their cues from mainstream publishers, best seller lists and literary reviews. If you can’t get coverage from any of those, you’ll find it difficult to get in.

  3. Martin, you are lucky. I’ve tried to connect with several local libraries. The smallest one actually bought my books and have them on their shelves. Two are not even interested in talking to me and gave me the cold shoulder. One lost interest when the writing group run by that library folded. One accepted free books, and then took 18 months to put them out on the shelves – too busy they say, even though clients were asking for them. And that is in my home town where we have several (about 8) local authors, some with really good books in various genres. I hope the trend you are seeing in Vancouver spreads.

    1. Robert and Yvonne, I’ll tell you what I did in case it helps you.
      Last year I decided that I’d go and speak anywhere. It didn’t matter how many attended, where it was, or whether I’d be paid. I just went. I figured if a group or meeting was going to give me floor space I’d go. Sometimes, I even Skyped to a group.
      So, I spoke a lot. Sometimes it was on self-publishing and occasionally I read from my books.
      From those talks a bunch of opportunities sprung up. I was invited all over the place and the library invites began to happen. To speak at those initial groups I sent my info out to Meetup groups as well as writer groups. Without all those initial talks I know the library opportunities would not have happened.

      1. That’s how I got that small library that bought my books interested. I volunteered to read to their in-house book club. I did that here in Stratford, too, but they have not shown interest unless it was free and then took 18 months to shelve them. I would like to do more talks and readings but finding those opportunities without costs to me is not easy.

  4. I’ve made it a habit to donate a copy of new books to my local libraries, and have often gotten a small article in the paper for it. That’s a win-win for me and the library, getting us both in front of readers.

  5. That’s fantastic! Just south of you on finally cooled down San Juan Island, the local library has an end shelf, right in front, dedicated to local authors. They also put them on the New Releases shelf. I gave them copies, which they quickly logged in and put out. They do a brisk lending business. And the local paper ran a great article when my first novel won the Indie Excellence Award for Fiction.

    Last year local authors marched in the 4th of July parade with the librarians, carrying blown up images of their book covers on sticks. The librarians carried books from traditional publishers. It’s a very small town, but thousands of people travel here for the parade.

    I’ve tried buying listings in catalogs that are, they promise, read by every librarian on the planet. Nothing. Same with the NY Review of Books independent press listings. I love the idea of libraries having a designated submission page. I wonder if contacting libraries in the locations about which you write would have some value. An author I know in Hawaii had the library on a different island request a set of her books.

    The local bookstore is a different matter. She will take them, then puts them on the bottom shelf, behind the door and, in case you didn’t get the message, behind a chair. At the moment, you have to run a gauntlet of ‘we hate Amazon’ signs to get in her door. A friend (published by Simon & Schuster) was just visiting; even he felt scorched by the hostility. I think the dust up between Amazon and Hachette is making contacting independents and libraries even more difficult for indies.

    Local librarians want vetted books. I don’t blame them. It’s a huge challenge.

    1. There are challenges, no question. But, it all comes down to the people doesn’t it. If you have a book that they fall in love with they’ll find a way to get it to their patrons. I hope.
      Thanks for the info, Mary Ellen.

  6. Great points Martin. I’m glad Van is so progressive in their attitude to indies.

    I love libraries. They have been so much a part of my life.Libraries and periodic purges are the only reasons I can still move through my house without being crushed by structurally unstable piles of books.

    I truly suck in the electronic arena, mostly because I can’t summon the motivation to care about it. But libraries are one area where I’ve had a fair bit of success. I donated a few copies to the small community libraries around where I live out in the boonies. In return they’ve hosted me for readings and signings. While I can’t retire on the profits, they’ve all been good fun.

    More recently the Toronto Public Library ordered seven copies of The Spark. After talking to the librarians at the branches that have the book, I’ve developed a program I call “Fire & Ink” that contrasts the reality of firefighting with the pop culture image of calendar boy (& girl) firefighters. I’ll be expanding the offering to libraries within reasonable driving distance.

    Most libraries are starving for good programming. They probably won’t be able to pay you anything, but most will allow you to sell and sign books.

    1. I agree. Based on the feedback I’ve received from our local librarians, they want to know more about what we’re up to. Your presentation sounds really interesting. Maybe you’ll be able to take it on the road, John.
      Thanks for commenting.

  7. Good job with your local library, Martin. 🙂

    What I’ve seen, both in the comments here and elsewhere when the subject has come up, is that it’s pretty easy to get your local library if you live in a small town. If you’re in or near a big city, though, good luck. To be honest, I haven’t even bothered trying to get libraries around here to take my books — I’m way too close to DC. The library in my hometown wouldn’t take them, either — but it’s 60 miles from Chicago and gets a lot of big-city folks on vacation.

    Maybe if the program succeeds in Vancouver, you could encourage them to submit an article about it to some big library-oriented publication. They can’t possibly be the only ones interested.

  8. Speaking as an ex-librarian who used to do collection development (librarianese for buying books), the hard part from that end, just as it is for every aspect of marketing a self-published book, is being inundated. Open the door to one local author, especially anywhere larger than a small town, and you might as well be opening a floodgate.

    Speaking as a self-published author who has worked (and has connections) in two local library systems, even having connections doesn’t prevent you from getting stopped at the door.

    It’s sort of a vicious circle. Librarians need the traditional reasons (reviews in the journals dominated by traditional publishers) to justify spending the taxpayers’ money (even donated books have to be cataloged and processed, which costs more for a book that doesn’t come that way from the distributor), and authors can’t get into those journals because they’re not traditionally published.

    1. Yes, I’m sure many of them are concerned that they’d be deluged with submissions. Again, I think it goes back to the people. The librarians need to be open to checking us out. Fortunately for me, in this area they truly are.

      1. Exactly. I used to process donations (go through the boxes of books the library received and decide add to collection (roughly 5%)/booksale (~50%)/recycle (the remainder — mostly because of condition issues — nothing like dealing with a box full of books and silverfish, or a book so reeking of cigarette smoke that it made me ill). I was discouraged from sending donations to tech services (where they processed books) because it was “too much trouble” for them. You have no idea how much I hated that…

  9. I agree with your comment to mmjustus. You’re fortunate to have a good system there. San Diego is more likely to persecute and insult local writers than to boost or even accept them.
    My book, Imaginary Lines, is in several libraries in several states… but not in San Diego. The book is a collection of essays about the area, all of them previously front page or heavily featured articles from the local papers, except the one from Harpers. The cover is by one of the most prominent painters in Mexico–at one time a San Diego resident.
    People like local books. San Diego suffers from “small town self image”. They haven’t yet come to believe that they can produce worthwhile art, and need to get an OK from Manhattan. (The WORST place to get your cultural structure from, in my book.) Seattle used to be like until, oddly, the huge success of grunge music made them start to accept themselves as a “real city”.
    On the other hand…. is having books in libraries really worth the trouble? When people can borrow from Kindle or get all the books they want from KU? It’s something to consider, and kind of an article of faith, not reasoning.

    1. Yes, I think “there are no prophets in your hometown”, is engrained in some people. There are still some doors that remain closed to me and I imagine that unless I’m trumpeted by a major publication they always will be. Your comments about Seattle are interesting. The grassroots movement became popular and then the normies began looking under rocks to see what was really happening out there. We just need to see that attitude grow.
      And, I want to be in libraries because I want to spread my wings as widely as possible and my library is a whole separate community. For me, it’s not just about having my books in there. I want to be part of the community too.
      Interesting thoughts, Linton, thank you.

        1. They support local authors who have approved by Manhattan, is my impression. At Bay Books in Coronado I recently asked if they’d thought of a rack for local authors and she said, “We don’t carry self-published books.”

          1. I thought that might be the case. The Warwick’s website has got the ‘hate Amazon’ thing going on. Our local bookstore will carry local/self-published, but we provide the stock. And we are not allowed to darken their door except once every six months, to collect funds. They call for new stock all the time. She told me that didn’t mean me because I sold a lot of books and advertised, which drove sales her way. And several book clubs read it. Even so, she didn’t return my calls or emails over my second book, the sequel, despite people asking for it. She got uber-hostile once Hachette and Amazon went at it, like that has zip all to do with self-pubbed print books. The local co-op carries it and, surprisingly, that’s a dedicated group. Several local art studios, co-ops, carry local authors. This is a tourist town during summer.
            Good luck!
            I agree with you, Martin. I think being in libraries is a fine thing. I’ve had people check it out of the library, and then buy it to give as gifts. All reading, all the time.

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