Friday, April 20, 2007

Libraries: Check it Out!

By Candy Calvert

WOONSOCKET . . . HENNEPIN, KEENE, DERRY ~ aren't those the most amazing words? Don't they roll off your tongue and conjure up Seuss-like or Willie Wonka-esque images? Do you have any clue what they mean? I wouldn't have, except for the Google itch that compels this new author to do spot-checks on Dressed to Keel and Aye Do or Die--to see where my quirky cruise mysteries have recently sailed. So, now I know that Woonsocket is a city in Rhode Island, that Derry and Keene are in New Hampshire and that it is Hennepin, Minnesota. And I learned (delightedly) that these particular "ports" are . . . (lowering my voice obediently, so as not to be shusshed) libraries. Libraries! Now there's a goosebumpy reality I hadn’t figured on when I became a published author, and for some reason, this is even more mind-boggling than walking into a bookstore and seeing my books on the shelves. Maybe because the word "library," hurls me into an immediate flashback to my childhood library in Sacramento, California--The Belle Coolidge Library in the Lanai Shopping Center near Executive Airport.

I hurtle back in time, and suddenly it is summer and I am eight--bare feet (and tar bubbles on the asphalt), braids, pink seersucker shorts, sunburned nose-- when my well-worn yellow library card promised exciting new adventures and new friends, like Wilbur and Charlotte and Black Beauty and Nancy Drew. When I discovered new worlds with dinosaurs or faraway planets, underground cities . . . limitless possibilities. Hot Sacramento days, long lazy hours until bedtime, tangerine Kool Aid, enough Pixie Stix to stain my tongue red, and a shady spot under tree . . . who could have asked for more? And who could ever have guessed that one day my books would be in that same Sacramento library and so many other libraries across the country? Again--goosebumps.

I’ve since learned that not all books are purchased by libraries--that, indeed, many mass paperbacks are not. And, apparently, the reason is that libraries acquire books based on the recommendation of major reviewers like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Booklist; and these folks (for reasons unknown to me) usually don’t accept mass paperback for review. They do, however, accept trade paperback, and Midnight Ink produces books (with beautiful covers) in that format. And then sends them to "Big Boy" reviewers.

So I continue to feel honored to find my mysteries in places like Bourbon County Kentucky, Warsaw Indiana, Hinsdale Illinois, Waukesha Wisconsin . . . and (seriously) Tasmania. And whenever possible, I offer to speak at libraries, even via phone conference--which recently happened when I connected with the delightful “Murder by the Book” club at the Regina, Saskatchewan library, who braved icy roads (dodging elk, moose, muskoxen?) to chat with me.

Plus, I found out one more thing that boggled me: it’s okay to write in library books. If it’s your own book. And you’re autographing it ("Really? You're sure?" I whispered to the librarian, certain she would confiscate my library card for vandalism). Trust me, this is something that little barefoot Sacramento girl (with Pixie Stix tongue) could never have imagined!
So what are your library memories? Old ones, new ones? Where have you “tracked” your books?


Mark Terry said...

How do you know which libraries your books are in?

Candy Calvert said...

You get the information when you Google your titles--just narrow it by using quotations marks ("Aye Do or Die") and then, along with other news items, the libraries that carry your books come up. All sorts of library search engines, in fact. And their online catalogs even tell you how many copies they've ordered, how many are checked out, how many on "hold," etc.

I try to write "thank you" notes to as many librarians as possible. One told me (apparently flabbergasted) that she'd had plenty of authors trying to get her to buy their books, but never one who took the time to thank them for having it on the shelves.
I love my "library readers." Some of them have become buyers as well, and most of them happily "spread the word."

Keith Raffel said...


Dressed to Keel is in 215 libraries/library systems. See

Happy Birthday!


Candy Calvert said...

Omigosh, Keith--you are obviously cosmically ahead of me in the library techno deal. Like I'm still sucking Pixie Stix. ;-)
But then, it's great to know that my library trail is even longer than I suspected. Thanks for the link and the birthday wish!

jbstanley said...

Many happy returns, Candy! My favorite librarian gave me stickers when I had read seven books of a particular genre. The mystery stickers were, of course, the coolest. They were black with white skulls and to me, an impressionable child, slightly dangerous and all-too tempting. I guess I've never grown out of that...