Libraries – Donate or Not?






One thing I looked forward to once my first book was published was taking several copies to my local libraries. It was there where I hoped to locate fans and readers, people interested in an author who wasn’t well known but who could provide them with a new reading experience. Over the years, I still look forward to this experience.

Why?

Because where I live, in the southern United States, libraries welcome authors with open arms. They don’t care if you’ve been publishing for years and have millions of fans or if this is your first book and no one knows you. The feeling I got from every library I visited in my area, a total of four within an hour’s driving distance, was that my arrival was akin to that of royalty or a mega singing star/actor showing up unannounced. Staff pointed out where I could put my supply of bookmarks and postcards. Patrons in line tentatively asked if they could have me sign those bookmarks/postcards. Mostly, I was filled with happiness at how the queue to check out my books formed almost immediately.

I was dreaming that the rest of the world would view my books in such a manner, even if I couldn’t appear in person at their local library. A few years later, in a discussion between a group of authors, I made a discovery that saddened me.

Not all libraries welcome indie authors with open arms. Many libraries in the United States, one of the countries where people can choose what they read without fear of censorship, are in fact censoring books their patrons can check out. I’ve heard far too often that the book needs to be reviewed by the New York Times or USA Today before a library’s board will consider putting it on their shelves. All I can do is shake my head in disgust. In the twenty plus years I’ve been writing and submitting my books, I’ve only seen a single indie author receive a NYT review, and her books were selling in huge numbers. My point is that out of the thousands of authors who publish or have published wonderful, entertaining books every month, only one got the attention of what is considered the Cadillac of reviewers.

To make matters even worse, a good friend of mine and a fellow author, proudly took her books to her local library. She was willing to donate them free. Here’s the response she got from a library system on the west coast:

“In my area (Seattle, WA/King County), the process to get a book in the library isn’t where I can simply walk into my local library and donate a copy or three. The books are juried, at author’s expense, and being a local author isn’t enough. They want a review from the local newspaper or NYT! Good luck getting the book reviewer for the Seattle Times to email you back. After a few months, I gave up. The only way my books will end up in my local system is if patrons go in and request them.”

I’ve read KateMarie Collins’ books. She tells fabulous stories; readers will be enthralled by her books for years. Yet, she can’t get them on the shelves of her local library because of an antiquated system of evaluating and purchasing/receiving donations of books that needs to change.

Oh, how I wish Kate and other authors like her could have experienced the love and admiration I discovered when I walked in unannounced to donate my books. Or the fluttery butterflies in my stomach when I returned a week later, to see if more bookmarks were needed (they were), only to see my books prominently displayed on shelves near the door, proclaiming “Local New Author.” No amount of praise anywhere will compete with the sensation of a job well done than an author realizing their books are there for the reading public and you are gaining fans through a small donation.

How does one change this system in place by far too many libraries now? First, most libraries are facing cuts because of budgetary concerns. They can no longer purchase as many books as they did thirty or more years ago. Yet, they’re ignoring the best way to get new reading material for their patrons by turning away indie authors.

There is a fantastic solution though. Readers should have a say in what their local library purchases or takes as a donation. Instead of walking out the door in disgust when you can’t find new material, ask to speak to the head librarian and question why they aren’t supporting local authors. Why haven’t you seen these authors booked in to speak to interested patrons? Why aren’t their books on the shelves? When can you, the reader, expect to see those books you want to read so badly?

It will take more than one person, or even a dozen, to change this system. This will take a community saying enough is enough. Let us chose the books we want in our library. Let us decide if it’s worth our time to have local authors featured in our libraries. Demand that you have the opportunity to discover whole new worlds and characters.




About the K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.

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Comments

Excellent post. I've run into this with my library. They now carry one of my books, but it'll be a long time before they'll have them all.
KC Sprayberry said…
So strange. The libraries in my area love authors donating books. They're so cash strapped it's often the only way they can get new books.