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Of Nancy Drew, Pencil Sharpeners, and Culture: Why I Love the Library (and You Should Too)

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PRESIDENT’S REPORT

 

by Florrie Binford Kichler

 

Of Nancy Drew, Pencil
Sharpeners, and Culture: Why I Love the Library (and You Should Too)

 

Remember that smell? Those of
you over 30 know. That smell when you were a kid and first walked through your
neighborhood library doors. The whiff of pencil shavings from the Boston pencil
sharpener on the bookshelf mingled with the faint scent of musty covers from
the old World Book
Encyclopedia
. The ink-on-paper aroma from the rows of <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Bobbsey Twins
,Black Stallion,
and Wizard of Oz
books in the Children’s Room mixed with the smell of cardboard from the
thousands of cards neatly filed in the wooden card-catalog file.

 

Every week I rode my Blue Schwinn
Flexible Flyer with the metal basket on the handlebars to my library, where I
would spend hours choosing my reading for the next seven days. Shifting from
leg to leg as the librarian (who didn’t always smell as good as the library)
date-stamped the register pasted in the back of each book, I was impatient to
pedal home and open the latest offering from the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Nancy Drew
series or reread Louisa May
Alcott’s Little Women
for the 16th time. After all, two weeks wasn’t that long, and five cents a day
in overdue book fines was a lot of money to a preteen bookworm in the 1960s.

 

A few decades have passed, a car
with a trunk and four wheels has replaced the blue Schwinn two-wheeler and wire
basket; the card catalog has yielded to technology, but I still love the
library.

 

Not only for the reading material
I borrow and the wealth of information I find there, but because now, as a
publisher, I am paid a lot more by libraries for my content than I have ever
paid them in overdue fines.

 

Library Sales Satisfaction

 

The advantages of selling to the
library market are many, and here are some of my favorites:

 

There
are more than 117,000 libraries in the United States alone that spend in excess
of $1 billion a year to build their collections.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Libraries love author visits and programs, and many
have no problem with authors selling books at the back of the room.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Historically, libraries bought mainly hardback books.
But today, to stretch budgets, libraries frequently buy paperbacks as well.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Libraries spark book sales—often a visitor will
purchase a book after checking it out at the library.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> You can market your content in a variety of formats.
The book is not dead: in 2004 nationwide, libraries boasted 804 million print
materials, and total circulation was 2 billion. However, books are now just a
part of what libraries purchase. Audiobooks and e-books are beginning to
account for a significant portion of library collections.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> While bookstores buy what they think will sell, and
immediately return what doesn’t, libraries buy what they think their patrons
will read, and they keep that product for years as long as it keeps
circulating—or until it wears out, at which time they will order more,
again, as long as the book is in demand. Note: Never forget that it is your job
as the publisher to continue marketing and publicity efforts to insure that
patrons come into the library searching for your book.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Libraries will buy multiple copies for satellite
branches. Larger cities often have more than 50 branches—New York City
has 81.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> When was the last time you got a return from a
library? I won’t say it never happens, but compared to returns in the retail
book trade, returns from libraries are almost nonexistent. That alone makes
libraries worthy not just of love but of adoration.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Most important, though, librarians love books. Okay,
they love “content”—we all know that in the digital age it’s about
multiple configurations of reading/listening material, of which the book is
only one. But call it what you will, in the world of co-op advertising, 60 to
80 percent discounts, coffee-stained books reappearing in your warehouse, and
big-box retailers, it’s kind of nice to talk with someone whose first concern
is seeking the information that will fulfill their patrons’ needs, improve
their lives, and preserve our culture.

 

Sounds a little like an
independent publisher, doesn’t it?

 

My virtual door is always
open—I encourage you to share your comments, thoughts, and ideas by
emailing me at fkichler@patriapress.com.

 

 

 

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