Monday, July 1, 2013

Are Your Books in Libraries?

By Beth Groundwater

This is a question I often get asked by readers, and I'm happy to answer, "Yes!" However, I usually go on to explain how readers can get their hands on a copy of one of my books at their local library system. Libraries are increasingly strapped for funds, and as a result, are reducing inventory on their shelves.

Instead, libraries are participating more in interlibrary loan systems where they share materials with other libraries. So, if a reader can't find a copy of one of my books on their local library's shelves, I tell them not to give up, but to search for the book in the electronic catalog. If the local library has a copy and it's checked out, the reader can request a hold. Otherwise or instead, the reader can see if a copy is available via interlibrary loan and request a copy that way.

For instance, my small local library in Breckenridge, Colorado, is one branch of three in the Summit County Library system. And the Summit County Library (SCL) belongs to the Marmot Library Network that has municipal and educational library members throughout western Colorado. After I find and reserve a book from the SCL on-line catalog, when I actually receive the book, it could be stamped as belonging to the Eagle Valley Library District, Colorado Mesa University, or one of the other member libraries. Then when I return the book, it gets sent back to the owner library.

I looked up my own name in the SCL catalog, I find that collectively there are a mix of trade paperback, large-print, and ebook copies of all five of my published mystery novels in the Marmot system that are available for checkout. If I was just browsing the shelves of the library branch in Breckenridge, though, I might not find any.

The most extensive interlibrary loan system is WorldCat, the world's largest network of library content and services, which, as of November, 2011, included 72,000 member library systems from 170 countries and territories. SCL is a member of WorldCat, so even if the Marmot system does not have a copy of a book I am looking for, a librarian could find a copy for me and borrow it through the WorldCat system. So readers should never despair if they don't find a book they're looking for in their home library--even if you're a bookworm and check out the maximum allowed number every week as I did as a child!

The WorldCat system has another use for authors. It's a great way for gauging the extent of your library sales. For instance, when I searched for Deadly Currents, the first book in my RM Outdoor Adventures series, I found copies in 419 different library systems (some of which can contain tens of branches), including in countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Having either a large-print edition or an ebook edition, I've found, results in even wider library distribution. One thing to remember is that the number (419) is the number of library SYSTEMS that have copies of the book, not just the number of libraries or the number of copies.

I even used WorldCat to research publishers when my agent and I were looking for a new publisher for my mysteries that would produce trade paperback and ebook editions. At that time, I was with a publisher that produced hardcover and large-print editions, and the two books they had published for me had wide distribution in WorldCat. When Midnight Ink offered a contract, I looked up some Midnight Ink titles in WorldCat, and found that they, too, had wide distribution. So, I wouldn't be giving up library sales by going with them, and I'd be gaining retail bookstore sales.

I encourage both authors and readers to use the on-line catalog resources available to you to search for books and see where you can find copies in libraries. So, Inkspot readers, I have a question for you. What's the rarest book you were able to find and read from a library? Let us know!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Beth,

Like you, all of my novels are available in libraries. I never push readers to buy the hardcover editions. I'm delighted when they request the novels at their libraries.

Mare said...

I use my ILL system all of the time. I'm in 5 online reading groups and some of my friends get me off on tangents so it only makes sense to use this system for me. I got to read a 1898 edition of Wilkie Collins' The Haunted Hotel. There is just something about reading a book that old and it came from the Coast Guard base so I'm sure that countless hands held it before mine.

Peg Herring said...

Good info, Beth! I also suggest fans ask their local library to buy my books if they'd like to read them. Being a retired teacher, i have former students all over the country, so it's a great way to get my books into places I've never been. Some will comply with patron requests, especially if the book has professional reviews.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Jacqueline, Mare, and Peg. Mare, I love your story about the Wilkie Collins book! Thinking of all those hands from the past ...

Peg, you gave a great suggestion to readers to request that libraries purchase copies of books they want to read. Many libraries have very simple forms to fill out for this that ask for the title of the book, name of the author, and ISBN.

Beth Groundwater said...

Comments from Facebook:

Maria: A book from the 14th century.

(Wow, Maria! But then, she went on to explain that she worked in a library. I'm sure she treated it very carefully, since it was a rare manuscript.)

Margi: Your books are in our library, allllll the way over here in Germany!

(Margi lives on a US Army base in Germany.)

Beth Groundwater said...

Another Facebook comment from Nash, who shared the link:

Many know of my life long love affair with libraries. Ralph Carder maintained I'd forgotten more about libraries than most people every knew about libraries. Not true today, since I retired the function and tools librarians take for granted has changed dramatically. Beth Groundwater does an excellent job of describing the old/new function of Inter Library Loan. Beginning in 1965 I loved using the old clickidy-clack (like a tellatype) to order books for students at the then infant Wright State. I was delighted when one of the librarians at KDLA knew what I was taking about in 1993. Local library doesn't have the title you want ask about ILL.

Maegan Beaumont said...

my local library
is on an automatic reordering system. If there are more than 4 hold on a single item, the system will automatically re order another copy, which is kind of nice. I have a friend who works for the library so every time my book gets automatically re ordered he calls me and let me know. :)

Shari Randall said...

Beth, you did a wonderful job explaining how ILL works. It's a great feeling knowing that books can find their way into the right hands with just a little help.
I haven't ordered a book through ILL but I placed a request for a patron once who wanted a copy of a family history. There are only two copies in existence and he was thrilled to see one - a very precious commodity.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Maegan and Shari!

Maegan, it's always a good thing for an author to have a few librarian friends in their back pocket.

Shari, I would definitely say that you procured a rare book for your library patron, with only two copies in existence!

Beth Groundwater said...

From Matt on Google+:

My dad found a book called, "Euclidean Geometries", which he bought. It was so old that the pages were browned down to the spine, each page was weathered and had a powdery feel (where the page had disintegrated).
I read a little, but it was literally about science and maths, so I got bored and put it down. But it's apparently quite a rare book, so my Dad scanned it and put it online.

Deborah Sharp said...

I still remember the thrill I got when I looked up my first book on WorldCat, and saw the far-flung places ''Mama'' had traveled. As for rarities, my county's main library in Ft. Laud has a wonderful collection of rare books (kept behind glass in a temp. controlled room on the sixth floor). They often have displays, and I once browsed, wearing gloves, some original John D. McDonald paperbacks. Cool!