What Your Local Librarian Can Do for Authors

This article is by Jane Chirgwin.

librarianYou might already use libraries for books, movies and internet, but have you considered how your local librarian can help you as an author?

I’m a Library Director, so let me give you the inside scoop. (Side note: not everyone who works at a library is a librarian, just like not everyone who works at a hospital is a doctor.  Also not every librarian is female, I’m just using that pronoun.)

  1. Purchase. libraries used to be very reluctant to buy self-published works, as it was hard to judge quality.  Now Library Journal has reviews of self-published ebooks and a discovery platform- http://self-e.libraryjournal.com.  Smashwords distributes ebooks to Overdrive, an ebook and audiobook lending portal for libraries.  Tell your librarian she has to make a search in the self-published section, or a search won’t bring up your title.  If you are traditionally published, the request for a sale is even easier, just give her the ISBN and publisher, tell her you’re a local author willing to do a free book talk, and smile.
  2. Discovery. When your book is in the library, readers are more likely to give it a try, as there is no penalty for putting it aside as there would be if they purchased it.  If they love it, they will tell their friends and neighbors, who will buy it.  (This of course only works if you have a great book.)  Some readers never use libraries, wanting to own their own copies of everything.  That’s a bonus for you, if a downer for us!
  3. Book signings.  Small libraries are always looking for free events to fill their calendar, and many have meeting rooms you could use to host a signing party.  Ask to have your event listed with their monthly events, then invite everyone you know to attend.
  4. Promotion.  Create an attractive bookmark with your book information on it.  Ask your librarian if it’s ok to put it out on tables or at the front desk.  People will grab a bookmark as they check out, and look at it later.  Asking is an important step, as I know I get irritated if I find something placed without permission.
  5. Connection.  Use the library as a place to meet other writers. Many libraries are participating in NaNoWriMo’s program, “Come Write In.”  Or you could start a writer’s group and meet at the library.  Libraries now act as a community center, connecting people with local information, services and organizations.
  6. Learning.  Check what events are happening at your library.  You could find they are hosting an author you admire, a writing workshop, a lecture on a subject you are researching, or a computer class that would help you figure out new software.
  7. Research.  When you’re trying to picture the day in the life of someone in medieval Spain or develop a magic system based on thermal dynamics, you need more than quick answers.  Old-fashioned pouring over books is the way to go.  Libraries also have specialized databases and experts in finding information.
  8. Books.  We have those.  Reading of all kinds, not just in your genre, will deepen your knowledge, vocabulary and writing ability.
  9. Magazines. We have those too.  Big libraries will have at least one of the big-name fantasy and Science Fiction magazines, allowing you to study them before submitting stories.  We also carry writing magazines, full of listings and helpful articles.  Our library system has just introduced digital magazines into our collection.
  10. Copiers. We charge less than office stores, and have the ability to scan to or print from a USB drive.  We can also send faxes for a fee.
  11. Printers. Did your printer conk out half-way through printing your manuscript?  Come to us.
  12. Tax assistance. Many libraries have free tax help, especially useful for the self-employed.
  13. Wifi and internet access terminals.
  14. Child entertainment.  Writer moms, you know places to take kids that do not involve buying something can be a life-saver.  Get some writing done while your toddler plays with toys, your older child attends a program or your teen hangs out with friends.  Please, though, pay attention to the library rules and do not leave young children unattended.  Librarians have been known to sell children to the Goblin King.
  15. Silence in the library.  For some reason this phrase now fills me with dread, and I have a lot of marks on my arm.  What’s that all about?

Librarians love authors.  If you’ve ever been to a librarian convention (also a good idea to promote yourself) you will see authors treated like rock stars.  Say hi to your local librarian, she can be the Alfred to your Bruce Wayne.

Has a library helped your writing career?  Do you have a great library experience to share?

Have you created a librarian character or placed a scene in a library? (For example, Jim Hine’s Libriomancer series)  If so, did you get a librarian’s opinion of its accuracy?

About the Author:

Jane Chirgwin is a Library Director in upstate NY.  Her latest novel, Seeking Clarity, is an urban fantasy and is available on Smashwords. Her blog, Jane’s Folly, is a celebration of creativity in writing, crafts and library programs.

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8 thoughts on “What Your Local Librarian Can Do for Authors”

  1. My local libraries have been wonderful! I’ve done signings, book talks, an author convention, and attended writing workshops. Also, my main character is a children’s librarian, so I’ve talked to the librarians for advice on making her real.

  2. My sister worked briefly at our library as an intern and got to know someone who encouraged me to submit my self-published book on the spirituality of The Lord of the Rings. It would have been part of a Local Author spotlight too, but it was already checked out! She also encouraged me to join a writer’s group they were forming. I am glad I did because I am now done with the first draft of a fantasy and working on another that will be part of a series. Thanks for the tips. I like the one about the bookmarks.

    God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

  3. This is wonderful advice! I’ve been wondering how to utilize my local libraries more (in this regard). I’ll definitely be prepping my bookmarks and checking out the meeting rooms 🙂

  4. Jane,

    I live in a very, very small community and they don’t have all the things you mentioned in your article. To be honest, I’m not sure they have a true librarian.

    However, they do what they can for the community and I will look into finding out more about what you mentioned in this article. I will find out if they have a writers group that meets there, if I could start one with their help, and if they have any other resources that might help me out.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this resource!

    • I grew up in a small town myself, so I know what you mean. My first job had one computer with dial-up. The internet is making it easier for libraries to share resources, so don’t write off a library because it’s tiny. One of our local “one-librarian” libraries has a 3-D printer as well as a lot of innovative events.

  5. Jane,

    Thanks so much for this article! I’ve been looking into ways to try to get an author event at my library, but there seem to be some hurdles when I first contacted my library a few months back.

    The librarian I spoke to told me she needed to review the physical copy of the book before they would carry it and they need to carry the title before a book signing or event can be scheduled.

    On top of that their schedule was booked for eight months already. At the time, I was just trying to get some promotion going for my book and didn’t have time/patience to wait so I abandoned the library route.

    But now I’m looking to make a push to get into the library system again so this helps. Thanks!

    • Sorry you’ve run into that, it sounds like your library is overwhelmed. Some libraries have rules about author promotion because they’ve been burned in the past. We receive unsolicited books in the mail. Some are religious, some are about conspiracies, and the most interesting ones are about our alien overlords controlling our minds with radio waves. But I digress. Seeing the book in advance will reassure the librarian you know how to spell and put words in the correct order. If they’re over-booked, perhaps you could approach a branch library or a rural library further away.


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