LIBRARIES AND ROMANCE NOVELS, PART 1: SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS

More often than not, my professional life as an academic librarian and my love-of-books life as a romance novel reviewer and blogger intersect. That happened earlier this week when I stumbled across two different pieces–an academic journal article and a blog post–that brought together these two worlds. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about them here or on my blog about librarianship, but I thought this might be a nice place to start. I’m focusing today on one of those works, the blog post, below, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As I was scrolling through one of my favorite librarian groups on Facebook earlier this week, I noticed a link to Why Librarians Don’t Want Your Self-Published Book, originally published and written by Molly Weta, blogger at Wrapped up in Books last week. Molly makes a straightforward case for her reluctance to add self-published books to her library, which is primarily about the time, money, and the effort needed to vet, acquire, catalog, and process self-published books. The availability of independently published ebooks on Overdrive via Smashwords makes it (debatably) easier for libraries to share these works with patrons, but she still feels as though print poses a problem.

As a librarian I’m well aware of the stressors on our time, limitations of shelf space, and the need to build a collection that meets the needs of library users. But as a public library patron, a reader, and a romance novel reviewer, I’m know that some of the best authors in romance, and some of my favorite authors in the genre, are all indie-authors. Obviously Courtney Milan and Grace Burrowes immediately come to mind, but I’ve also greatly enjoyed recent works by Michelle Boule and Sandra Schwab, both of whom self-publish. I was pleasantly surprised to find Milan and Burrowes’ books on the shelf (and in Overdrive!) at my local public library. I think the romance community’s very vocal authors, readers, reviewers, and bloggers are at the cutting edge of incorporating self-published works into libraries and promoting them to a wide audience. That said, I will admit to being hesitant about agreeing to unsolicited book review requests. I can’t guarantee that I’ll like the book in question, and I don’t know if the requestor is only interested in positive press. I’m much more inclined to pick up work by a self-published author if I’ve communicated with them on Twitter, or if they explicitly state that all reviews–even negative ones–are welcome. Thankfully, that’s more often been the case with many of the indie-authors I’ve met.

The blogger mentioned above manages young adult (YA) and graphic novel collections for children and adults. I don’t know a great deal about publishing in those genres, but perhaps they might not have the same robust self-publishing / indie-publishing community found in romance. I know that a lot of romance bloggers are librarians, a lot of librarians are romance readers, and more than a fare number of romance authors are library users (and librarians, too!).

So I’m curious about your thoughts on incorporating self-published works in libraries, particularly in the romance genre.

  • Librarians: To what extent do we have an obligation to highlight the voices of independent authors and publishers? If the primary focus is meeting the needs of our users, and our users want self-published romance, shouldn’t we be making it more readily available?
  • Indie-authors: How do you approach your local (or not-so-local) libraries about incorporating your books? What’s worked for you? What’s surprised you?
  • Readers, reviewers, and bloggers: Do you want to see these self-published romance novels at your public library? Do you work to incorporate them into collections?

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