Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IN PRAISE OF LIBRARIES

by Barbara D'Amato


Last night I did a program on mystery and crime fiction at the Herrick District Library in Holland, Michigan, with Joanna Carl [Eve Sandstrom], organized by Robin Williams-Voight. We had a good group of people in the audience. Only a couple of them admitted to writing, but the rest were enthusiastic and well-informed mystery readers.

All the nice things happened. A man told us before we started that he had been in a bookstore earlier in the week, had seen two people in the mystery books department, recommended our books, and invited the people to the program. A woman who chairs a mystery reading group came. She had met us before, and is passing on the torch of mystery reading to new group of younger members. Several people brought books for us to sign.

Most writers hope that library appearances will help sell more copies of our books. But I was reminded again of how much libraries can do for people. The reading group is very affirming, giving a sense of fellowship to readers. They have a chance to talk with other people who like what they like. A young woman told me before we left that she was largely shut in and the library group, and reading, were her only outlets.

It was clear from all the various names of writers that emerged in the Q&A—Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Robert Barnard, Agatha Christie, James Patterson and many, many more—that these were real readers, and readers who thought about what they read.

As I entered the library and again as I left, I was happy to see how many people were there. After all, this is August, a warm, clear night, and the Lake Michigan beaches were only five minutes away. Chairs were full; a group of children were clustered around a man with a book; the computers were fired up and running.

I guess I’m saying support your local library. This is good stuff.

6 comments:

Dana King said...

Libraries are our affirmation that we, as a society, still believe in sharing knowledge and enlightment as means toward bettering ourselves and our children, without discrimination. Librarians have been in the forefront of the fight against recent abridgements to our civil liberties. I think there is no institution that better exemplifies the principles this country was founded on than the publicly-funded library. Thanks for reminding us.

Katie Bell Moore said...

Thank you so much! I know that there are some anti-library folks out there in various parts of the publishing industry, so it's lovely to hear when someone appreciates us. I guarantee your visit was a real thrill for the audience--people are still talking about Marcus and Sean's visit to my library two years ago! (I'm a public library director)And isn't Holland a great town? Glad you enjoyed it!

woodstock said...

I am a passionate supporter of my local library, I'm over there about once a week or so, and participate in two library based book discussion groups. Since I read at the rate of 2-3 books a week, the reality is that I simply could not afford to buy all the books I read, nor do I have room to store them all, if I were to purchase them.

I know that library readers sell books. Word of mouth on a popular title, ie THE KITERUNNER OF KABUL will send the librarians off to the local bookstore to increase the quantity they own, to keep up with the holds requests. And a couple of guys who ran a small publishing house once told me "We don't get remainders back from libraries."

But more thoughtfully, if we wish to create and support a "culture of readers" do we really want to limit reading to those who have unlimited funds? Even buying mass market paperbacks, if and when they are available, would cost me close to $25-20 a week.

Thanks for telling us about your evening at the library, I hope you have many many more!

Barbara D'Amato said...

Dana, I so agree that libraries are a symbol and a promoter of civil liberties. Thanks.

Katie, it's good to hear that library patrons appreciate author visits. Anti-library people in publishing just don't see the full picture.

Woodstock also makes that point. And another good point woodstock leads into--many people can't afford to buy a lot of books. But they will buy some, and may have been introduced to those authors at libraries.

I have at least three author friends who were very poor as children and haunted their local library since there were few books in their homes. They've grown up to write wonderful books. How valuable is that!

Capt said...

It's great to see libraries mentioned on the forefront of reading and writing. Not only public libraries, but school libraries as well serve as a place to get kids caught in moment of reading. I work with school librarians and help them build their collections, if ever a writer wants to attend a state show and talk about engaging kids or present at schools, they are all about it, as long as it doesn't break the bank. Keep up the good work of getting the word out at libraries, as one person said, "still believe in sharing knowledge and enlightment as means toward bettering ourselves and our children, without discrimination" Well put and perfectly on.

edired said...

Here in Oregon and I'm sure most other places library funding is an after thought . We have a tax structure to support library services but none to deal with infrastructure needs . Libraries here tend to be an internet portal for the poor . Rural Oregon abounds in unemployment and low wages . A job at Wal-Mart is actually middle income ! Since books can take you anywhere and anywhen we all need the best library services possible >