Monday, June 01, 2009

In Praise of Public Libraries

So I was recently at the RT Book Reviews Convention mongo author booksigning and a reader came up to me and told me she'd read all of my books and loved them. Believe it or not, authors really enjoy hearing this kind of thing so I beamed at her and said something like, "I'm so glad!" Then she turned a little red, sidled closer, and said that she'd gotten my books from her local public library in the tones most would use to confess to a mass murder. I probably would've laughed at that point, but the reader was explaining why she had to use the public library--her husband had been laid off--so I was serious as I told her how sorry I was to hear that.

Then I said something like this:

Listen, there's no reason you should ever apologize for checking a book out from the local public library. Yeah, I may not have made my 8% royalty on that particular book at that particular time, but the public library did pay for it with your (and my!) tax dollars. Libraries in America account for a huge percentage of the books sold. Many readers "test" new authors at the library and, if the author proves to be good, buy her next book new. I figure it's a win-win situation.

Besides, if I'd condemned that reader for using her public library, I'd be a hypocrite. I love the public library! Every time my family has moved one of the first things I do is find out where the local library is and go get a card. Linda Howard, Amanda Quick, and Elizabeth Lowell are just a few of the authors I discovered by reading dog-eared copies of their backlist (and subsequently buying new.) Using the public library when your personal finances are tight just makes sense.

Now, here's something else I told that reader at the RT bookfair: if you do use your local library, make a point of requesting your favorite authors' new books. Why? Sadly, libraries' budgets are getting pretty tight. They may not buy an author if they don't know there's interest in her books--this particularly pertains to new authors who don't have a following yet. I have to confess that I always felt awkward requesting a romance book at my local library, despite my librarian's urging. I figured, who was I to decided what the library should buy? Well, I was a romance reader who'd been reading the genre for 25+ years (at that time) that's who. Duh! I had (and I bet you have) a really good idea of who the hot romance authors were, authors that other romance readers would like to read as well. And although I loved my local librarian, she didn't read romance (though her SF/F section rocked.)

So remember: use the public library with pride--it's once of the best benefits of living in the USA--and be sure and request authors you enjoy.

Go forth and read!

Elizabeth Hoyt


PJ said...

Great blog, Elizabeth. I loved the library in the town where I used to live. They had an enormous romance section (both hardcover and paperback) and I could be found there every Saturday morning checking out books. It's where I discovered the majority of authors who are now my auto-buys.

Lilith des Cavernes said...

Libraries are marvelous public services. I like to support authors by purchasing their work as much as possible, but it can get expensive. Also I like to listen to books on CD while I'm gardening or doing housework, and our library has a wonderful selection. Yes... libraries are way cool!

Sarah McKerrigan said...

Every time somebody freaks out about socialism, I remind them that we have some pretty wonderful social services in this country--a police force, a fire department, and, yes, the public library!