This week just happens to be National Library Week. How awesome is that? I mean, I love libraries. A week celebrating something I truly love is a wonderful thing. I love my own library, and I love just about any library that I come across.
I have heard many authors say, “But the library lets people read my book for free! How does that help me?” Let me tell you that if that is your concern, you are missing the point. The theme this year for National Library Week is “Unlimited possibilities @ your library,” and I’m here to tell you it’s true.
My area is blessed with a vibrant and thriving library system. I have several library systems within 50 miles of my house. These neighboring systems have thriving Friends organizations, as does my own. The population that uses these libraries is as broad as you can imagine.
My home libraries are my favorites. I am very lucky. I know that. I live in Minnesota, which I believe has got to be one of the library centers of the country. I’m only basing that on the fact that my own system and neighboring systems are so strong, it’s silly. And that everywhere else I go, the library looks pathetic compared to what I’m used to. I frequent two local branches of my library system.
What do these libraries do for me? I have an online account, which allows me to reserve titles that interest me, and pick them up at my local branch when they become available. I also belong to two different book clubs, through two different branches, which allow me to have book discussions that I would have never had otherwise. There is programming that I go to. I have done research there. I have volunteered there in the past, and I know the librarians. It’s a comfortable place to go.
Many authors don’t realize the importance of libraries. Think about it. If a child reads your book at a library, they could be a fan for life. If a single branch shares a copy of your book (or multiple copies) with patrons, they could become the fans that request your subsequent books be purchased by the library. And eventually, you could be one of those authors who has 14 copies in the system with a queue of 152 people who will wait to read it. Not instead of buying it, understand, but instead of reading something else.
If you are lucky enough to have a local library (and I understand that not everyone has the same embarrassment of riches that I have), then you should frequent it. Go there. Go to the library and get to know your librarians. If they have programming, check it out. My local systems have a rich assortment of programming, including many author events, regular reading series, book clubs, and classes. I always recommend the classes to anyone who wants learn anything about computers. It’s a great place to start.
They can help you learn about ebooks. They rent ebooks! At some libraries, you can even rent an e-reader, if you want to try it out. They can help you learn new computer programs and find out about all kinds of new things. Libraries are also vast repositories of databases. My system hosts many different databases – from series lists to historical information. Great for research. They will also do inter-library loans, which let me get books from all over the state. How great is that?
Friends groups are another component of the library that you should get to know. The Friends groups that I am familiar with are very active, and sponsor award programs, loads of programming, and have gala events every year. They run used book stores and periodic blow-out sales, and raise funds for collections and buildings. They are dedicated groups that work behind the scenes to make sure the library remains strong.
So the fact that libraries loan books for free is a plus, not a minus. If a library sees demand for a title, they will order more. If they see it has won awards, they will include it in displays. If they run a reading series, they may ask you to come be a part of it. It’s all great exposure. Librarians are voracious readers, and are often asked for recommendations. If you are familiar to librarians, you will find this carries a lot of weight. Many times, I have read a book first after getting it from the library, and then later purchased it for myself. It’s a place to discover new authors, to find out about new things, and to go to just be with a lot of books. It’s like-minded people.