Category Archives: libraries

1

Libraries and Discoverability

Where do readers find out about new books?

It’s one of the questions every publisher asks itself over and over–perhaps even every time they release a new book. And on that topic, there was an interesting article in PW this week by branding guru David Vinjamuri about how libraries should be utilized to promote new titles. Vinjamuri makes some fascinating points here, especially when he correctly show how libraries do not cannibalize bookstore sales, which is unfortunately a truism that children’s book publishers have railed against with their corporate overlords for years. I was also impressed by his analysis of how important physical space is for discoverability, and how the shrinking of physical display space through store closings has affected sales—though it’s a little depressing that one takeaway here is how much people really do judge books by their cover!

Now, one can certainly debate Vinjamuri’s ultimate conclusion that publishers should work with libraries to replace bookstores as a means for finding new books. Myself, I wonder if a cynical attempt to promote through libraries might backfire, and backfire badly, as I think most people at some level go to libraries to escape commerce. I also know from years spent talking to librarians at ALA that they tend to guard their independence rather fiercely, and it’s hard to see them getting into the pay-to-play games of co-op advertising and display space.

But on the other hand, it’s great to see someone suggesting a new approach to book promotion. As I’ve written before here on the blog, with all the sales data available now, I wonder if we’re going to see more inventive ways of publishing and promoting books. While marketing through libraries may not be the best way to go, the fact that marketing types are thinking this way could lead to some rather interesting new book campaigns in the coming months and years.

Okay, enough speculation. Let’s get back to the question at hand—where do YOU (as a reader) find out about new books? And if libraries are one of the places, do you think publishers should market through them?

5

Angels Among Us

 I’m thrilled to be the new kid on the block here at D&G, one of the classiest and most respected agencies in the business. This is a great team of people to be working with.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about libraries and librarians. My client Chris Grabenstein’s Middle Grade adventure THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS just published on March 24, and it’s already been embraced by the same librarians who loved Chris’s recent bestseller ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY. When we’re kids, we take plenty for granted. Throughout my childhood, librarians were just always there, and I never really appreciated all they did for us, or what courageous warriors they could be.

It is librarians who have always been the first line of defense against book-banning. It is librarians who struggle, in the face of constant budget cuts, to keep their stock as full, wide, and up-to-date as possible. And it is librarians who are determined to get kids started reading early, and to encourage them to keep reading beyond the age when they are distracted by sports, TV, and video games.

But sometimes they take that extra step and become heroes. It’s no wonder that we now have The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity. Inaugurated by Daniel Handler and the American Library Association last year, it is presented at the Summer ALA conference. The first winner was Laurance Copel, who was honored for her work in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward. This year, on June 28, the recipient will be Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Public Library in Ferguson, Missouri. What did he do to reap this award? Let’s start with the fact that he kept the library, located just a couple of blocks from where armed militia were clashing with protestors, open and active throughout the unrest following the Michael Brown shooting.  Amidst the surrounding rioting, looting, and violence, Bonner hung a sign on the library’s entrance:  “Stay strong, Ferguson. We are family.”

All through those disturbing weeks, with the local school system shut down, Bonner recruited volunteers, teachers, and church groups to provide educational activities for up to 200 children per day. He organized community groups to offer a wide range of programs and services to help affected local citizens and businesses to recover. Bonner, the sole full-time librarian on the staff, had started on the job only weeks before, yet he instantly became a mainstay of the community right when Ferguson needed one. He even brought the Small Business Administration into the library to make low-interest loans and aid available to local Ferguson businesses. So successful was Bonner’s outreach that his programs become SRO, and he had to expand activities into rental space in the church next door.

I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Bonner on the phone last week. He sounded solid, unassuming, and down-to-earth as could be.  But in my book, he, like so many other librarians, has a pair of white wings on his back, and walks a few feet off the ground.

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Little Free Library

Last month, when I was on vacation in Ohio (we publishing folks lead very glamorous lives) my son stumbled across a Little Free Library box—a brightly painted shelf with a plexiglass door, a peaked dollhouse roof that was filled with a random but charming assortment of books ranging from Rick Riordon to the Book of Mormon.  I’d read about Little Free Libraries before, but I’d never seen one, and they seem to me an absolutely lovely idea. My eight year-old was enchanted.  Free books—tucked into a small green space beside a modest community garden—for him it was a wish come true.  I know that the free exchange of used books is not so great for the publishing industry as a whole, but it seems to me—especially at this intimate, personal scale–a very good thing for the human race.  In a month in which the news from much of the world has been grim, this struck me as a bright note.

The train station in my town has a Give a Book, Share a Book shelf that I patronize regularly  in an effort to avoid becoming a a book hoarder—in Japanese known as a tsundoku (Thanks, LA Times) and I’ll bet you’ve got similar low-maintenance book swaps in your local coffeeshop, church, temple, or community center.   These are great, but there’s something special, almost magical about the Little Free Library boxes.

You can see a gallery and visit the Little Free Library site here, and there’s information on how to start a LFL in your town.

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Whether a borrower or a lender to be…

I usually take a look at Twitter while I eat lunch and today this little gem, retweeted by publishing newsletter Shelf Awareness, caught my eye:

 

My first thought was, “Josh Malina is nicer than me.”

Now, in some ways I’m happy to lend books. If I loved a book, I want my friends to read it so that they can love it too – or so that we can argue about why we thought it was so good/not so good. Here in the DGLM office we often borrow books back and forth (DVDs too – in fact I currently have Lauren’s Sports Night DVDs, featuring the aforementioned Josh Malina – but I digress.) Books, staplers, post-its, everything is fair game in the office, right? Just don’t touch my peanut butter.

But sometimes I really, really love a book in a way that’s linked to a specific physical copy of a book. And then I’m verrrrrry reluctant to lend it out. Sometimes because I’ve scribbled notes all over it. Sometimes because I got it at an author event and it has a special inscription or signature. And sometimes, nonsensically, I loved the book so much that I want to hold on to the exact physical object that I held in my hands while I read it. The book is a physical symbol of that intangible and cherished reading experience.

I know this horcrux-like attitude doesn’t fit very nicely into the digital age. But the lending of books is a beloved part of the reading experience that hasn’t transitioned quite as easily to the e-books experience. It’s getting easier and easier to do it impersonally, whether you use the Kindle Lending Library, your city library, or subscription services like Oyster. It’s not so easy, however, for passionate readers to share e-books with each other like they could do with paperbacks – shared digital books often require both readers to use the same device or service, and usually come with time limits.

This is this kind of digital growing pain that has as much potential for excitement as for inconvenience. Think of the amazing new borrowing inventions that lie just around the corner! In the meantime, I’ll be separating my books into two categories: “Go Ahead, You’re Gonna Love It” and “Do Not Touch My Precious.”

Are you a free spirit when it comes to lending your books, or do you have precious no-touch copies like me?

 If you’re an e-book reader, what are your suggestions for improving options for e-book borrowing?  

0

“Why are librarians so lonely?”

“They’re always by them shelves…”

Sorry about that. I thought I’d start this blog off with a little joke to break the ice, because what I’m about to write is a little nerdy—and to be honest, I’m a little nervous.

I love libraries.

Some people can read anywhere. In the subway. Walking down the street. Even at the gym while taking a stroll on the treadmill. I can’t. Or to be more accurate, I can—I just prefer not to.

Reading can be a powerful thing. Stories have the ability to transport us to a different place, a different time, allow us to experience life through the eyes of another and make us see the world in a whole new way.

And where we read has an impact as well. The world around us influences everything we experience, and in some of the more beautiful libraries, surrounded by rich mahogany and windows that let the sunlight of the world beyond slip through, in that quiet stillness, we are at peace and can truly absorb the words on the page in front of us.

Here are some snapshots of that type of elegant serenity I’m talking about:

 

 

 

Some more of the world’s most beautiful libraries: http://www.lovethiscitytv.com/top-10-most-amazing-libraries-in-the-world/

 

Oh, and on a lighter note, some more jokes for your reading pleasure: 

“Want to hear a joke about a library?”

“Sur-”

“SHHHH!”

 

“Why did the librarian slip and fall?”

“Because she was in the non-friction section.”

 

So, I was working in a library and this guy comes up to me and asks, “Do you have a bookmark?”

I said, “Yes, we have hundreds…but my name’s Mike.”

0

Ready for a little test of your literary instincts?

Don’t cheat and skip ahead to the pictures!

The following is the final paragraph of the galley letter for WHAT very popular book:

“I predict you’ll also face another quandary: whether to share this with a friend, or to keep it for yourself, knowing how much this Reader’s Edition of __________’s first book will be worth in years to come.”

Any guesses?

Here’s another clue. The galley letter is signed by Arthur Levine…

Written for a debut novel that his eponymous imprint at Scholastic purchased for $100,000…

And this galley mailing happened in the summer of 1998…

Being brilliant and super knowledgeable about publishing lore (as all regular readers of the DGLM blog are), I’m sure you’ve guessed that this mystery title is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

  I learned all this delightful trivia from The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s historic Bryant Park branch (yes, the one with the lions out front). The Harry Potter area caught my eye, as I am currently in the middle of a delightful re-read of the series, which I only read for the first time a few years ago. (I know, I know, hush!)

Sound philosophy, even for muggles

Now it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for children’s books. And the exhibit area was full of artifacts from other children’s literature. You can stop by and see the original Winnie-the-Pooh plushies that inspired A.A. Milne or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s handwritten manuscript for The Secret Garden. One display discusses classic NYC-themed children’s lit (hooray for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!), and there’s even a Goodnight Moon reading nook with battered library copies of all your favorite picture books. Quite a few families were curled up on the rainy Sunday afternoon that I visited, and I was tempted to grab a Wild Thing and join them.

Not all attendees were as riveted as I was.

1

Where books come from

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the homes my books had before they were on my shelf.  Maybe it’s the four huge bins of books of my books my mother brought me from her house (just the ones from college and grad school).  Or maybe it’s that I recently passed the sad corner on which the B&N that used to employ me sat, up until it closed at the end of last year.  But either way, I thought it might be fun to share my library memories.

I was a library kid.  The Rushmore Memorial Library, in fact.

Imagine tiny Lauren, looking for the next Cam Jansen book on her tiptoes

I grew up not far from here, and though I wasn’t allowed to cross the street that stood between us without a parent, my family spent quite a bit of time here growing up.  I haven’t been inside in a very long time, but I can remember being small and reveling in the freedom of a few hours in the kids’ section while my mom went to look for her own books.

Next up was my town’s other library, the Ida Cornell Library.  It shared a parking lot with my elementary school, so while it wasn’t my library, I did get to go often.  This was more a social library for me, in fifth or sixth grade, working on some project or hanging out with my equally nerdy friends.  I always felt slightly disloyal when I was there, cheating on Rushmore, but that feeling was assuaged by my joy that it looked like some strange fairy tale house.

Where Hansel & Gretel lived before getting lost in the woods.

Imagine slightly taller Lauren, getting shushed by a librarian for being chatty

I haven’t been much of a library person since childhood, perhaps because virtually all my pre-DGLM employment was in bookstores.  So the only two other libraries I’ve got an affinity for are the ones at my college and grad school.  Neither is quite as happy a place in my memories, but I did spend a terrifying number of cumulative hours in them procrastinating and daydreaming while pretending to do research or write papers.  I do have slightly nostalgic memories of sleeping on the floor in the basement of Bobst next to a study carousel while pulling all-nighters.  Ah, to be young and irresponsible!

It's not exactly the prettiest building ever.

Imagine, college-aged Lauren, boring herself to sleep while writing a paper

That's Leabharlann Shéamais Uí Argadáin if you prefer your library names, as Gaeilge

Imagine grad school-aged Lauren, wishing it was as easy to nap in the James Hardiman Library as at Bobst

And bonus library!  My books rarely come from here, but if this isn’t one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, I don’t know what is.

If people tell you Brooklyn's not actually great, they've never been to Grand Army Plaza.

Who needs lion statues when you can have this?

 

So those are MY libraries.  Tell me about yours!

4

Rallying round

I came across this interesting piece today about a group of squatters who had settled in a public library that had been shut down by the local council. Before they were finally evicted, the squatters-turned-librarians had endeavored to re-stock the library with books that were donated by the local community, amassing 8,000 books. Not only were the once empty shelves replenished, the commandeered library held events for children and authors and are set to have a pot luck style event this Christmas Day.

I was really taken by the sense of harmony and community in this story. And it was reassuring to know that in a world where we have a myriad forms of entertainment thrust in front of us, there is still such a strong affection for books, not just individually but collectively as well.

If you were a part of this community, which one of your books would you donate?

6

Literary Spirits

Halloween is just around the corner, and as usual, it’s only increased my appetite for ghost stories. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and had my own paranormal experience while at my grandmother’s house. That incident seemed more likely due to my overactive imagination than supernatural forces, but it only increased my fascination with the specters, ghouls and the like. Two books in particular, though, solidified my love of all things macabre: A House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels, by Alvin Schwartz with art by Stephen Gammell. The former made me sleep with a light on for the days I spent reading it–I swore I could hear ticking! And the latter was the most passed-around book in second grade and one that terrified me even in broad daylight. I’ll admit, I’m pretty easily frightened, but I have a feeling those books will be terrifying children for years to come.

What got me thinking about all of this, though, was a list of haunted restaurants here in LA, which then got me searching for a list of haunted libraries. And I found it! It’s helpfully broken down by region, so there’s sure to be one near you. It turns out I have a handful to go see right here in Southern California, and I’m going to go exploring my next free weekend. Sadly, the one I most one to go to, the Brand Library in Glendale, is closed for renovation. Here’s hoping the spirits stick around through all the construction noise!

Do any of you have haunted library tales or favorite scary books?

2

A Little Free Library grows in Brooklyn

If you didn’t see this article in the Times this morning, get ready for some major cuteness: The first Little Free Library in New York City has gone up in Brooklyn. Have you heard about the Little Free Library program? Evidently it’s an international movement to set up some kind of receptacle—usually a box, but evidently canoes (?) or ovens(?!) work, too—in a neighborhood where residents can leave books for borrowing.

Well, if the kid-cuteness factor and neighborly good vibes are to be believed, I dearly hope we see some more of them around town, and soon. Right now, I’m having a bit of a lovefest with the NYPL—I took some books out last Friday for my 3 ½-year-old, and I’ve been amazed at his reaction. While Henry certainly gets excited when I bring home books to keep from work, the idea that these are on loan has made him completely obsessed—I think we read Revenge of the Dinotrux three times in a row this morning over breakfast, partly because he knows it has to go back to the library. At the same time, he keeps asking when I’ll go back to the library, and when I do, I must get him another Spider-Man book—or else!

And I have to say, considering his ever-growing list of demands and wants, this is one request I’m happy to oblige. Besides, I have totally selfish reasons here—after all, libraries build readers, and readers eventually buy books. So, to keep me in business, I’ll be heading back to the library for Henry this Friday afternoon. And who knows, if the red tape doesn’t choke us here in Manhattan, maybe there will be a Little Free Library on the Upper West Side soon—I certainly hope so!