It’s National Library Week, yay! Last year a kid threw up in front of me, probably because they were so excited about public libraries. This year I’m hoping for a calmer celebration.
I’m new to romance and libraries. I received my MLIS and have been working in libraries and archives for four years, and started reading romance regularly around that time as well. However, I can genuinely say both have become my passion. I’ve started to build my library career as “that tattooed, colored-hair biracial librarian who reads a lot of romance” and it’s incredibly satisfying.
All this being said, this doesn't mean that libraries curate spaces for people like me. Libraries have a lot of the same issues we see in Romancelandia - because of the high cost to receive an MLIS (and for various other things I won’t rant about), many librarians are cisgender heterosexual white women. In the ALA’s (American Library Association) last demographics study, 86.7% of its members identified as “white.” It’s getting better, though it feels like it’s a glacial pace. When I attend romance book talks in my area, the majority of the librarians there fall into the above category. And because of this (and more things that I rant about on Twitter), many romance collections follow suit.
I take a lot of joy researching new titles to purchase that reflect the needs of my community and also the world. Because of how my library system works, when I buy a book for our collection not only does it serve the local member-base, it’s also accessible to the 100+ libraries in our consortium and the United States. I relish the research reading and Twitter scrolling I do to find new titles to take a chance on.
Unfortunately, this does not reflect all people doing collection development for romance. I once had a librarian tell me, to my face, that finding diverse titles was “hard.” WE. ARE. LIBRARIANS! It’s our job to be educated and informed about what we do. It’s not hard to jump on Book Riot, Love in Panels, Diverse Romances Press List, or the multitude of places writing about romance to find diverse titles. A quick Google will even get you started.
It’s always hard to find a balance between the demands of your community and what you think should go into your collection to make it well-rounded and not blaringly white and hetero. Making an effort and not relying on traditional media outlets for book reviews is an easy way to ensure that. To say it’s hard means you’re lazy and don’t want to make an effort to be a good librarian or to serve your community. /endrant
I take great joy curating our collection for my readers. I know they’re not “my” readers, but I broadcast my love for romance loud and proud. When I see books I purchase for our collection going to locals, or a library in our consortium, or even out of the state, it gives me such a rush of pride. I like talking about paranormal romances with my favorite member (spoiler: all librarians have a favorite patron) and recommending new ones. I love finding new titles and reading them to become a better librarian. It’s moments like this that make the shitty moments in public libraries fall away.
For romance readers, the library can be a fantastic place to find new books and save a bit of money. We read. A lot. And buying all of those books is expensive! I sadly do not have any control of our e-book purchasing, so I can’t curate e-only romances for our collection. However between the print options in our library, the e-book and e-audio resources in Overdrive/Libby and Hoopla, and the option of Interlibrary Loan (getting print copies of books from outside of your consortium or out of state), you can get pretty much anything. Some libraries in my area even loan out devices with Audible Romance subscriptions! Though public libraries are limited by our budgets, know that we always try to buy the books you want even if it means going on Amazon, buying it, and creating a unique catalog entry to get it into your hands.
We’re in an exciting time where romance readers are loud, vocal, and voracious. And I’m proud to be your local librarian.
Tips for readers:
Ask your library what resources are available to you. Even if you think you know, ask. Often, you can get a library card at another library which has access to different resources, and sometimes libraries have less popular (especially in digital) collections that aren't on Libby and therefore less well known.
Use the Library Extension on your browser to see which books are available at your local library. This is great if you're on social media and click an Amazon link. (Though don't forget you can support your favorite blogs and websites by occasionally buying through their links.) The library extension is available in Chrome (what we've linked above) and other browsers and you can find it with a quick google for "library extension."
It looks like this:
This is the upper right hand corner of the item page at Amazon. Here, you can see that both the digital and print copies are owned by my local library, but aren't available at the moment. If you click "View," it'll take you to the item page where you can place a hold. (You can also see that it's not on Hoopla.)