This is a guest post by Stacey Goldade, head of the Statewide Catalog Development Department at the North Dakota State Library.
For patrons to want to come to your library, you’re going to have to have something that appeals to them. That means a wide range of topics, formats, genres, stuff for all ages, etc., which means making sure you have enough materials about diverse kinds of people. I know you may say that practically all your population is white and of Scandinavian descent, but that’s changing and even if it was true, the whole point of a library is to learn about new things. So even though I’m a white woman, one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read was Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, which let me see what being a black man in the south in the 1950s was like. It’s very unlikely you have anyone in your community that is an astronaut or a pro-football player, but you have books about space and sports right? Because people still want to learn about those topics even if that’s not their profession or their background. People want to learn about other people too, so make sure you are providing them with books about all kinds of people.
Have you ever thought to yourself “Diverse books don’t circulate in my library because my community isn’t actually diverse”? While you may feel your community is not diverse, a lack of diversity may not be the reason why diverse titles aren’t circulating. It may be that you as the librarian need to make your patrons aware of these titles and promote why your patrons might enjoy them. Have you ever chosen not to purchase books because you think they are too “diverse” to circulate in your library? They definitely won’t circulate if they are not on the shelves! Remember that books don’t have to be about diversity, they can simply be diverse.
Once you’ve purchased them, what can you do in your library to help get books circulating?
- You probably already do book displays, but do they highlight diversity in your collection? Try using an infographic to help people select a good match. There’s no need to make the display only about diversity, simply incorporate diversity into displays you already have planned.
- If you do a program such as Blind Date with a Book, be sure to include some diverse choices. The whole idea of a Blind Date program is to get patrons to try something new that they might not usually read.
- Diversity in YA, a blog which highlights “young adult books about all kinds of diversity,” has a guide for how to encourage diversity in your collection. One of the suggestions is “recommend diversity.” What’s one primary reason books are often popular? Because people are talking about them! Kids in particular want to read what everyone else is reading, so talking about books will go a long way toward getting them to circulate. Even adult patrons come in asking for books they heard about on TV or the radio. Once you have the momentum of word of mouth, you will see increased circulation. What are some ways to talk about books?
- Mention titles in your weekly article in the newspaper
- Mention titles on Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
- Mention titles at book club meetings
- Work with the school librarian to cross-promote
- If you’ve never tried book trailers, try featuring them on your library website or Facebook page. Not all books have them, but you can find them on YouTube, or you can try the website of the author or the publisher.
- You can’t read everything, so familiarize yourself with websites that can help you advise readers on what books they might like. Also, the State Library offers access to NoveList (under Books & Literature), another great resource for connecting readers and books.
- If you don’t usually do book talks, read up on how to do a book talk and try it with some titles you’ve enjoyed.
PaperBackSwap is a great service I learned about during my visit to the Mott Public Library. In a nutshell, PaperBackSwap facilitates exchanging unwanted books for titles you can actually use.
Here’s how it works:
- You place your unwanted books up for offer (you can simply scan in the ISBN)
- When someone requests one of your books, print off the wrapper and mail it out to them
- When they receive it, you earn one credit for a paperback or hardcover book, two for an audio book
- A credit can be redeemed for a paperback or hardcover book, audio books cost two; and, yes, large print titles are available
- You pay postage when you’re shipping items out, but this is the only cost to you
- To help get the titles you want, you can create a wishlist and set titles to be auto-requested when they become available
When you sign up for a free account, you get two credits which you can redeem at any time. This lets you evaluate the service at no risk. Huzzah!
There are some really reasonable restrictions on what’s allowable for trade. Brilliantly, ex-library copies in good condition are perfectly viable (though members can choose not to receive them). It’s like library recycling!
If you’re like me, you’re both deeply cynical and curious as to how a free-to-use ad-free platform could be sustainable. Their secret? They sell stuff, too. If you find something you crave and are out of credits, they’ll sell you credits you can trade for books. If you just can’t land a used copy of what you’re looking for, they host an Amazon Affiliate marketplace on their site. They also have sundry other book-related merchandise on offer.
Ultimately, this is a cost effective and reasonably efficient means of freshening up your shelves with new material, while getting items you can’t use or no longer want out of your library and into the hands of readers. Truly guilt-free weeding.