Working with Libraries

The below recommendations are heavily cribbed from our own editorial that we wrote for Queer Romance Month back in 2014 as well as the 2013 GRNW Keynote by Marlene Harries. If you feel like this looks familiar, that’s because it does! We thought it would be efficient to adapt what has already been done.

Why reach out to libraries?

Libraries are Literary Centers within our system, whether that system is a community, a high school, a university, a city, or online. By adding stories into a library, you *change* the system, and that ripples out across all the various connections that libraries have. Changing a system to be more inclusive to LGBTQIA stories is a great way to increase exposure and resources for readers searching for those stories.

How to work with libraries

We’re going to steal some of the main points from librarian Marlene Harris’ 2013 conference keynote address: How to get LGBT Romance Books into Libraries. They’re good points and we should put them on repeat as much as possible.

Request Books

If your local library doesn’t have much of a LGBTQIA story collection, use your power as a patron and request the books for purchase. You have to be a part of that library system to do requests, but requests DO work.

Things to consider:

  • Libraries can purchase more at the beginning of their fiscal year than at the end.
  • If they have ebooks, that can be easier for them, because some libraries have to purchase more hardcopies of a purchase than they do an e-copy. (For instance, when purchasing new books, the Seattle Public Library has to purchase four copies of a paperback, but can get away with only two copies of an ebook. This means they have way more flexibility with ebook purchasing.)
  • To purchase ebooks, they need to be a part of the system that the library buys from. That means in some cases, they need to be in the Overdrive system. If a publisher isn’t making their books available through systems like Overdrive, this means it’s much more difficult to get the ebook purchased by the library. (This is somewhat changing as more libraries are working with Smashwords, but Overdrive is still the leading distributor of ebooks to libraries.)

Moral of the story—if you want more books in your library, help guide your library by telling them what you want purchased. Sometimes the best expert in the community on a specific genre is…You! The librarians may not know what the best books are to buy. You can point them in the right direction, and expand collections, by requesting titles for purchase.

Borrow Books

If a library has LGBTQIA stories in their collection, but no one borrows them, the library thinks there isn’t a market for the books, and they have no motivation to buy more.

If books are borrowed, it sends the message to the library that there IS interest in the community, and to serve their community, they should feed that interest.

Borrowing a book is one of the simplest, but still very powerful ways to tell a library that their LGBTQIA stories are valued.

Reach out to Library Blogs

Again, the person with the most knowledge about LGBTQIA genre fiction in your community might be you! This means that you could, say, reach out to your local library, and if they have a blog, ask if you could do a quest post that discusses what LGBTQIA titles that they do have. This is a neat way to spread awareness of the books in the collection. We’ve done this for SPL for gay romance, LGBTQ romance, and queer mysteries.

(Authors: Don’t do this as a way to plug your own book. That can appear shady. Use this as a way to point to others. If you need to mention your book, save it for your short bio at the end.)

Work with Libraries

Local libraries like to work with local authors, and getting a reading event at a local library is totally possible. We’ve head multiple author reading events at our city library. This is what we’ve learned:

1- See if your library does author events. If they do, it’s a lot easier to get the ball started.

2- Find someone who works in programming and talk to them about the potential of doing a reading event. For Seattle, emphasizing that our focus was on LGBTQIA romance was helpful here because reaching out to LGBTQIA audiences is part of their mission. If your library is also interested in addressing LGBTQIA audiences, this will be helpful in approaching them.

3- Plan ahead. These events can take months of planning. First, talking about it can take time, especially in the beginning as people get buy-in. (You might have to talk with a few different people at your library, depending on the size of the branch. Our initial talks with SPL to three months to set up.)

Once approved, you need to get on the library calendar, and that may need to be months ahead. The initial conversations for our April 2014 event started in October 2013, and we got approval in January 2014. Our approval for an event in November happened in the previous August. Planning ahead and understanding that the library may need time to decide or get things organized is very important.

4- Be helpful. You might be the most knowledgeable person about the content for this event. You will be a better event partner to your library by helping them with drafting marketing text for the event. Also, if you do something like provide them a list of books for the event, you’re helping out, and ensuring that they stock the books for patrons to borrow.

We’ve found the library to be a great partner. The most important things were to 1) reach out to them and build a relationship and 2) plan ahead. After that, it was just the regular things that come with doing an author events.