It’s National Library Week and I’ve inadvertently been preparing for it with visits to hundreds of library websites.
Allow me to explain.
Librarians often learn of upcoming book releases through reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or Kirkus Reviews. If a book receives a positive notice in one or more of these periodicals, the chance is excellent that book will be ordered and placed on a library’s New Release shelf for its patrons’ enjoyment. With the thousands of submissions reviewers receive each year, it’s easier for a book represented by a publisher to earn one of the few slots in a bi-weekly or monthly review column than it is for a self-published work submitted by its author.
Cast for Murder wasn’t selected for review by the journals, so I’ve had to come up with another way to make librarians aware of its release. A postcard mailing would be too expensive, as would advertising in one of the above mentioned publications. My choice is to build an email contact list of libraries that have one or both of the first two Veronica Walsh Mysteries, All Things Murder and Murder, by George, on their shelves. I’m tackling this task with the help of Worldcat.org, a website that lists every library (or library system) that has a specified book in its catalog. Over the last few weeks I’ve been going through Worldcat’s list and hundreds of library catalogs to build my contacts file.
My cyber tour of libraries has reminded me how important libraries are to the communities they serve and how similar they are, despite their geographic and demographic differences. A library offers much more than reading material to those of us who enjoy the pleasures of a great book. It is a place of learning for everyone: elementary school children struggling with reading (on more than one library site I saw photos of dogs participating in PAWS for Reading), high school students receiving tutoring in geometry or chemistry, and adults building their professional skills with lessons on Microsoft Suite. Mah Jongg classes are taught at my library and probably at many others. Libraries have book clubs for kids and grownups, genealogy programs to trace family roots, popular storytimes that enchant toddlers, resume advice for job hunters, and help on tax return filing for senior citizens. Plenty of libraries host weekly movie matinees, one-woman (or man) shows, and talks by local authors. They provide passes to local museums and hold food drives at Thanksgiving and toy collections for Christmas. You might even be able to get a flowering bush or tree at your neighborhood library; for the past few years my library has celebrated Arbor Day by giving 100 patrons seedlings to plant in their yards.
I’ve also noted on my tour the great beauty of America’s libraries. They come in all shapes and sizes, from charming old buildings to sleek modern facilities. Some libraries started off as churches or schools while others were specifically built to house books. Some are made of brick and others stone. There are the cozy libraries located on the tree-lined streets of New England villages and the sun-drenched buildings yards from the beaches of California and Florida (gives new meaning to “beach read,” doesn’t it?). A small-town library might consist of just two or three rooms while a library in Manhattan, Chicago, or L.A. might span a city block. I’m partial to the smaller libraries; they remind me of the tiny building that was home to my local library during my childhood. I researched many a science fair project and book report in that beloved space and still reminisce about those days whenever I pass by the building, even though it’s been renovated and has served as a plastic surgeon’s office for decades.
I know I can walk into any library in the U.S.A. and feel as welcome and comfortable as I do at the library I visit every Saturday. You would be given the same warm greeting, too. If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, go check it out this week and discover what it has to offer. I bet you’ll find at least one thing that turns you into a regular visitor. If you’re a frequent patron, pop in to celebrate the hardworking people who make your library such a special place.
Enjoy your visit and the week!