Book Business

Are Libraries Still Relevant for Writers?

I recently asked my editor and writer friends on Twitter and Facebook if public libraries are still relevant for writers (and by their reply to give me permission to quote them). Well, that opened a can of words (see what I did there?)—so many that I can’t use them all—but here are some of their responses:

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Brooke Jones Keith said, “I research online but I take inspiration from seeing and holding books…. Libraries are still a nostalgic way to reconnect to why I love what I get to do.”

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J.D. Wininger agreed: “A library reminds me of where my loves for reading, and eventually writing, first began,” adding that it’s also “a place for community; where people can gather and share.”

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Richard Mabry answered, “Yes and no. I do my research online, but when each novel is published, I make sure to give signed copies to every library around—both civic and church.”

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Jean Stewart said, “I love being able to browse through a section to find books I’ve never heard of that are relevant to the topic I’m researching. That just doesn’t work online.”

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Terry White shared his perspective: “For historical research, there is no alternative to spending hours with the microfilm machine on the upper floor of our public library. That’s the only access to decades-old copies of newspapers and local media.”

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Stephanie L. Robertson even “traveled three hours to access microfiche at our state archives.”

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Jill Richardson added that “a good librarian can still outdo google on some obscure or geographical knowledge. They can be relentless.”

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Nancy Lohr pointed out that she tries to verify citations online, but “I regularly go to the library to find a physical copy of a book, and I use my phone to take pictures of the title page, copyright page, and quoted or paraphrased text with page number showing. When I am back at my desk, I have everything I need to verify the quote or paraphrase and to present the citation accurately.”

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Teri Lynne Horsley took a different tack. “As both an academic and commercial writer I do not physically go to libraries. But, with online access to libraries around the world, I use their .orgs/databases all the time.”

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LaJoie Lex responded, “As an academic writer, I would not have access to even a fraction of the resources I need without my institution’s library. Also, I’ve been able to do a bit of archival research and work with rare items, and that’s an incredible learning experience that libraries make possible. Even though many things are becoming available online, it’s still crucial for writers to have access to the physical copies of books and manuscripts. They hold so much meaning that is lost in even an excellent scan.”

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Andrew Ronzino answered, “I believe libraries will never lose their relevance. Sometimes you want to rent a book instead of buy one. Sometimes you need a quiet place to research. Sometimes you want to just browse for hours and get lost in the sea of stories that exist on those shelves.”

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Steve Duke uses the library less these days for research but says, “I still spend time in the periodicals section for my own pleasure.”

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Though Anthony Trendl opined that the Golden Age of libraries is gone, he said, “I think it depends on the book…. Picture books, and children’s books in general, are consumed by the dozens. Parents can’t buy them all. Libraries can buy some of them. So, for certain books, libraries will be necessary.”

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Debra Breese Marvin answered, “Now that they also provide books and audiobooks via apps like Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla, it’s extremely helpful for me. I borrow books and audiobooks all the time and I do a lot of writing there. And I can order borrowed books from outside their system.”

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Janyce Brawn and Ardythe Kolb both cited the programs libraries provide to encourage reading and education, especially among children; and Susan Lower mentioned the role of libraries in hosting book clubs and writers group meetings.

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Linda Rowland Kruschke made the point that many potential readers “could never afford to buy as many books as they read, so they rely on libraries for their voracious reading appetites. These are the readers who will recommend our books to others.”

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Patti Lincecum Miinch suggested that “many people who may never see a book on Amazon or in a bookstore, who hesitate to spend money on a new-to-them writer, or who may not be able to purchase many books, will check out a book or author for free in a library. They may be hooked and make a point to buy other books by the author. I’ve ‘discovered’ lots of writers that way.”

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Colleen Coble said, “I have found some of my most ardent fans speaking at libraries, especially small ones.”

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Holland Webb replied, “In the face of macrotrends such as smart city development, rapid urbanization, and the hardening of economic categories, libraries hold increasing relevance as public spaces in which writers can speak to people from across a wide social, economic, technological, and political spectrum.”

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Cherrilynn Bisbano struck a similar note: “Libraries have meeting rooms where writers can give a free class. This could lead to other speaking engagements, selling books, and more.”

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Finally, the prize for “answer of the day” goes to Bill Patterson, who said, “I’m reading your post from a library. Yes, still relevant.”

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What about you? Do you still find libraries useful?

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The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

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How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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