Like many physical locations, public libraries were massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the pandemic’s first year alone (2020), the American Library Association (ALA) reported significant impacts on libraries by the coronavirus.
While the ALA has yet to release a report on year 2 (2021), they’re likely to report many continuations of trends started by the pandemic’s beginning: a mass pivot from in-person services to virtual, a significant increase in library use because of those virtual services, lots of concerns about reopening and reclosing between virus waves, and the turmoil of book banning.
In the face of much strife, supporting libraries is more important than ever. On top of book lending, libraries assist communities by providing education, tech access, literacy, meals for kids, community building, and even vaccine clinics.
If you’re a self-publishing author, you may wonder how you can help libraries. Here are several ways you can do so, whether as an author or a patron of your local library.
Offer copies of your book to libraries, both physical and electronic.
Libraries have varying policies for acquiring books, so do your research to maximize your chances of getting your book into collections. Greenhorn authors will have the best luck reaching out to local libraries due to being regional writers.
If you do submit your physical editions for consideration, make sure your titles are available by a wholesaler. Libraries usually acquire their copies through wholesalers rather than retailers, so they can expand their collections with the least amount of money while still supporting authors and publishers.
Even if you have no luck with a physical copy, digital lending is another trend influenced by the pandemic. If you use an eBook distributor to publish your book to multiple sites, then you likely have the capability to submit your book to eBook lending services such as Overdrive. In addition, with digital books, libraries don’t have to worry about shelf space, so they’re more likely to agree to acquire.
By making your book available to libraries, you can reach more readers who may otherwise not be able to read your book, all while expanding your library’s collection.
Offer to host book events. Libraries love featuring local authors. By offering to do an event, you give the library’s patrons another reason to visit. This is especially doable if you can demonstrate that you can bring in your readers.
A book signing is the most obvious event, but other options exist. For example, if you’re a children’s author, you can host a story time for the library’s youngest patrons. If your book is nonfiction, you can host a class based on your book’s subject. Your novel could become a candidate for a book club. And if you collaborate with other local authors, you could cohost a panel together.
And because of increased tech services, it doesn’t have to be an in-person event: libraries may be willing to host you for a virtual seminar, which allows the possibility to reach even more people.
Support public libraries politically.
Public libraries rely primarily on funding from their local and county governments. Vote in municipal elections to support propositions and referendums that raise library revenue.
Pay attention to your local government’s budgetary proposals and give your feedback so that they opt for funding increases, not budget cuts on libraries. If your local libraries are underfunded, consider even campaigning for increased funding.
Also, stand up for libraries when they’re threatened with book bans and censorship.
Visit libraries and use their services.
Librarians want you to use the library! So, borrow books, attend on-site and online events, take classes, volunteer your time and efforts, buy old copies from book drives, and more.
Libraries are made to be pillars of their communities. By benefiting from a library’s services, you’re fulfilling its purpose. You also demonstrate the library’s benefits in the process, which only contribute to libraries as a lasting institution.
Remember, no matter your status as a writer, the best way to support libraries is through your role as a member of its community.