“We used to feel like we were sneaking in,” Nora Rawlinson said of her early experiences as a librarian attending the American Booksellers Association event now known as BookExpo America (BEA). Rawlinson, cofounder and editor of earlyword.com, said she’d have to register as “Baltimore Public Library Book Sales” in order to get a badge. “Now we’re here and we’re VIPs, so forget about all that.”
Rawlinson spoke as part of a book publisher marketing panel, one of a series of programs sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) called Libraries Transform: ALA@BEA that highlighted the role of libraries in the publishing business. The panel, “Publisher Marketing Teams Helping You Help Readers,” described the many ways that librarians can access publishers for information on and galleys of upcoming books and connecting with authors. Speakers included Virginia Stanley and Amanda Rountree of HarperCollins, and Talia Sherer and Anna Spieth of Macmillan. Wendy Bartlett of Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library moderated the panel.
The influence of libraries with publishers is greater than the nominal 5% of the market that libraries are supposed to represent, Rawlinson said, noting that many of the top ten books selected for LibraryReads each month have been made into audiobooks.
The publisher reps suggested public librarians register on Edelweiss or NetGalley to access frontlist title egalleys, to follow them on social media streams for hot title info, and to come to conference events such as Book Buzz Theater at ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition to learn more about new books. Handouts in the room provided emails and phone numbers for the Association of American Publishers adult trade marketers.
The future of readers’ advisory
In another panel, on the innovative future of readers’ advisory, Becky Spratford, readers’ advisory librarian at Berwyn (Ill.) Public Library and Booklist contributor, discussed what librarians can do to bridge the divide between virtual readers and those who come into the library building. “Virtual readers are the other side of the exact same coin,” she said. “Put the focus back on reading and [readers’ advisory] comes naturally.” She offered many suggestions, such as emphasizing the magic of the backlist—something that bookstores don’t have—and creating book chat podcasts or videos to attract online readers.
Donna Seaman, adult books editor at Booklist, talked about the many features Booklist offers to readers’ advisory librarians, from free webinars to tailored enewsletters, blogs, online reviews, and of course the print Booklist magazine. “Booklist Online is a readers’ advisory treasure trove,” she said, with links to all an author’s books that have been reviewed, which ALA awards they’ve received, and multiple ways to search for books and authors.
Working with local authors
Local authors call Laurie Kincer of Cuyahoga County Public Library every day, seeking information on how to get their book in the library. She offered tips and ideas on how to help local writers in another session on Thursday. Her library established the William N. Skirball Writers Center, a 2,500-square-foot facility with writing rooms, books and magazines on writing, laptops, and free writing classes and workshops. But she noted that any library can start small, like offering a self-publishing round table in which several local authors can present how they created their books, as well as offer an opportunity to sell them. Some libraries, such as Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Public Library, have an emerging author collection of local writer’s works. She suggested asking the writers to provide one donated book for them to review and determine whether to include it in the collection.
Veronda J. Pitchford, director of membership development and resource sharing at Reaching Across Illinois Library System, offered the view of working within a broader library coalition to promote local authors. She called out two programs: the Black Caucus of the ALA self-publishing award that was launched last year, and the Illinois Author Project’s Soon to be Famous contest that draws attention to Illinois self-published authors. Authors are hungry for resources that librarians offer, she said, and librarians can connect people to authors. “We have a role to point people to the next thing.”
Librarians visiting Chicago were also invited to check out a pop-up Library Café at Millennium Park, sponsored by ALA, offering coffee and entertainment on Thursday and Friday.