Local Authors at Our Local Library

Local Authors at Our Local LibrarySue contacted our local library, The Rice Lake Public Library, to ask them about their policies concerning carrying local authors and self-published books. Below are her questions and the responses.

1. Will the local library carry books written by local authors? We will and do. However, in order to be purchased for inclusion in our general collection, local authors need to meet our general selection guidelines which include being reviewed by an authoritative source such as Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, VOYA, or Horn Book OR being requested by patrons and having received positive reader reviews on either Amazon or Goodreads. If a title meets neither requirement, the author may donate a copy to be catalogued and shelved on our Local Author Shelf. These items will still be available for checkout in-person, or via MORE, but must be donated.

2. Will the library carry self-published books? Usually not, but occasionally we will make an exception. Again, they have to fit general standards of the community, be appropriate for our collection in both content and format (for example, we no longer accept pamphlets, wirebound, stapled, etc.). Also, these books may be donated by the author for inclusion on our local author shelf. Generally speaking, it is unlikely we would spend collection funds on any self-published titles unless they were picked up for review by an authoritative source.

3. Why would you choose to, or choose not to, carry books by local authors and self-published authors? We choose to include local authors in this way, because we think it is important to encourage new writers, introduce readers to writers they may not otherwise have access to, and because we sometimes then receive titles of particular local interest due to setting or history. The limitation, particularly on self-published titles, have been put into place because self-publishing has become so rampant that we are inundated with requests that we purchase titles. Unfortunately, these titles are not available through our discounted book vendors, so they are often more expensive than popular, reviewed, or best selling titles. The writers are sometimes aggressive with the selectors in attempts to get their books sold, and we have seen many, many titles without even basic editing completed. When asked for information on genre, we have been told things like, “It’s both fiction and non-fiction together!” When asked if the title is reviewed, we’ve heard “My grandchild, wife, sister, or friend LOVED it!”

At the RLPL space is a huge consideration, as is budget. The ease of self-publishing has guaranteed that literally anyone can publish a book. While we know there are gems out there and want to support that, we don’t have the staff time to devote to reviewing or editing books for authors. In the past, when we have purchased self-published titles, those have usually languished on the shelf for a few years until they come up for deletion for low or zero usage-so the cost of purchasing them is really not feasible. Obviously, there are rare exceptions though, which is why we continue to offer a venue for the books as well as for author visits and signings.

11 thoughts on “Local Authors at Our Local Library

  1. Thanks Sue,

    That is helpful information. Even though I have good reviews I have yet to make an effort with libraries. With my present time constraints I’m pretty much limited to the efforts I can make online. I will keep that information and make use of it when time permits. I appreciate your efforts in acquiring this information.


  2. Hi Bill,

    I was prompted to contact the library when an author we were working with told us of his success contacting his local library. He’s written a children’s book so it’s a bit different from the non-fiction. For fiction many local libraries will offer a space for local authors – particularly if the fiction in some way is related to the area.

    Non-fiction related to the people or area in your locality may also be accepted.


    1. I was surprised (though upon reflection I don’t know why) that our library apparently gets hassled by every passing self-published author trying to sell their book.

      From the day we moved here and fell in love with our library, I simply hoped they’d allow me to donate copies of some of my books. Never occurred to me to pester them for a sale.

      Sigh. I guess far too many authors still need that book I didn’t write on commonsense zero-cost DIY marketing for authors.

  3. What a funny article and what a funny response from the librarian. Nothing has changed since the self-publishing craze started. Obviously, there are good and bad to both sides.

    The bad side of self-publishers: Poorly written books with bad editing and badly designed book covers.

    The bad side of traditional publishing: Poorly written books with bad editing and badly designed book covers.

    Yup…nothing has changed. But asking a librarian if she will take a self-published book is akin to forcing ham down a Muslim’s throat! But you really can’t blame them too much. Those poor selfless librarian are swamped with books!

    The positive side: At least they do have a self-published section…and having good reviews on Amazon as a qualifying factor is a step in the right direction.

  4. While I agree with most of what Alex shared in the comment I do have one issue. It is absolutely true that poorly written, badly edited, and poorly designed books can be found among both traditionally published and self published books. And, it’s also true that most libraries are still hesitant to take self published books. I don’t see the fact that some libraries are setting up self published sections as positive.

    I wrote an article some time ago regarding the stigma of self publishing and this thing about creating a separate section in the library for self published books is just more confirmation of what I stated in the article.

    It is long past time for books to be judged on their quality not on who published it. No one can deny that there are lots of really bad self published books. I believe part of that problem may be the idea that publishing a good book is easy for anyone. It may be true that almost anyone can learn to do it but it’s not easy to produce a quality book. It’s hard work and after really putting in that time and effort to produce a quality, positively review book, it doesn’t feel good for it to be relegated so some second class status based solely on how it was published.

    This is the reason I don’t spend time with libraries. I’ll be glad to donate books to any library that request them but that’s all. And I have my books in one bookstore of which I’m aware and that is also fine. I sell my books online to those who value their quality and aren’t concerned with who published them. Until attitudes change about self publishing I will stay where my work is appreciated for quality.

    1. I get your point, Bill, and I think some of it is how it’s presented.

      I’d rather see a “local authors” section in our library, even if I know they’re all self-published, than to have those local authors not represented at all, which might be the case if the library had to choose between vetting every book, or rejecting them out of hand.

  5. I agree that how things are presented makes a significant difference. I also realize that I am a somewhat reactive person even though I’m always working on that. I accept and respect your feelings regarding libraries even if I don’t share them.

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