Wednesday, January 23, 2013

You & the Library Request Exchange

By T.W. Fendley

Be advised--you will be asked to take action at the end of this post. (Don't worry--there won't be a test.)

My husband and I are big library fans. We're at the local branch a couple of times a week, and between visits, we download ebooks and audiobooks. We got our grandkids cards so we could take them to our county library when they visit, and they look forward to going, too. We contribute as "Friends of the Library." Our lives would be far less interesting and informed without the library system.

Because of that, marketing to libraries was high on my "to do" list before my debut novel was published in October 2011. Some people may wonder why I'd rather have my book in libraries than on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, but it's all about readers. As a May 2009 "Library Journal" article stated, "Libraries are far more than a market…Libraries create readers." 

In hard economic times, they also provide a way to keep those readers reading. According to the latest federal nationwide public library survey, published in October 2011, visits nationwide to public libraries totaled 1.59 billion, or 5.4 library visits per capita. There were 2.41 billion circulations of library materials (8.1 per capita).

Of course, many library readers are also book buyers, and libraries buy a lot of books. The study reported libraries spent $1.3 billion, and library sales accounted for about 40 percent of the children's book market and more than 10 percent of the $27 billion book industry.

I want my book to be in libraries, and I want yours to be there, too. But, as I soon discovered, if you are published by a small press or are self-published, that isn't always easy. I found this explanation, excerpted from a Library Journal fact sheet, on "How To Reach Public Librarians and How To Annoy Them." Among public librarians who responded to an online survey, the top four preferred methods of finding out about new publications to add to their libraries' collections are (in rank order):
  • Pre-publication reviews
  • Post-publication reviews
  • Patron recommendations
  • Descriptions of forthcoming books from vendors

Getting reviewed in Publishers Weekly, the trade magazine for the industry, or in Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews are critical, but almost impossible without advance reading copies (ARCs). If your books are print-on-demand, as most small press and self-published books are, it's unlikely you'll get pre-publication reviews. Even post-publication, it's difficult to get reviewed, despite wonderful reader-review programs at Goodreads and Library Thing. 

Although I continue to diligently seek post-publication book reviews, I was finally able to get an ebook copy of my book in the local library by using the third option above: patron recommendations.

Which brings me to the part of the post I warned you about: a call to action.


Ripley Patton, a fellow Broad Universe member, initiated the Library Request Exchange idea. I had considered it, but previously reached out only to my family and critique partners. What is intended is a grassroots effort for writers like you and me, which will benefit readers everywhere who would want to read our books if they knew about them.

Here's how it works:
  1. We exchange book info: Author, Title, Publisher, ISBN, genre/subject
  2. Then you put in a request at your local library for my book, and I put in a request at mine for your book.
Simple, right?

Here's the information you'll need to submit the patron recommendation to your library (note: Your library may have two places to enter request--one for print and one for ebook, which have different ISBNs.)
  • Author:
  • Title:
  • Publisher:
  • ISBN (print):
  • ISBN (ebook):
  • genre/subject:
Another BU author, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, suggested gathering everyone's information together rather than doing individual email exchanges. To simplify things even further, I thought we could use the comment section of a Library Request Exchange page to enter our information. Authors can join the exchange at any time through the Library Request Exchange link at the top of this website's right sidebar under "Pages."

Once your library advises you they've accepted your purchase request, it would be good to advise the author so he/she can publicize its availability. Active interest will encourage the library to make future purchases of that author's work.

Here's an example of how to make a patron recommendation at the St. Louis County Library, I select "Suggest A Purchase" under the "Library Links" on the Home Page:

I'll get things started with my book information, and look forward to seeing yours.


  1. Simple question: Do all libraries do this? I've been to a couple of out-of-state library pages and they had a "suggest a purchase" link. None of the libraries in my area have anything about recommendations, patron recommendations, or suggesting a purchase. I'll still contact them, though, and see.

    1. From the Library Journal article, it would seem to be very common. I never knew about library patrons being able to suggest a purchase until I was searching the library website a few months ago, looking for a contact person, and came across the form. I filled it out and several weeks later got an email saying the book had been ordered.