Libraries: Their Importance to Writers

On Saturday, October 8, 2016, I will be at the Bloomingdale Branch of the Van Buren District Library from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 1:00 p.m. I will be talking about my books, writing, and the various ways of getting published.

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If you don’t live on the west side of Michigan, you may never have heard of Bloomingdale. Even if you do live on this side, you may not have heard of the village. Yes, it’s a village, not a town or a city. The 2010 Census has the population at 454. It’s a farming community about 18 miles east of Lake Michigan. If you’re driving through on County Road 388 you might miss the library. I did the first time I was there. The library is part of the Bloomingdale Municipal Center.

It’s a small library but an important one to the community, as are most of the small, branch libraries throughout Michigan. Over the years libraries have changed to meet the needs of their communities and to incorporate the new digital age. No longer are they simply locations where people can find books and do research, they are also digital centers, gathering places for meetings (book clubs, writing groups), and sometimes shelters for the homeless.

Some writers look down on sales to libraries. They feel it’s like one person buying a book and then passing it around to all of their friends to read. And, in a way, they’re right. Most libraries will only purchase one copy of a book. (They don’t have the funds to purchase more than one copy or the space to shelve it unless the book is extremely popular.) However, if every library and branch library in the United States purchased a copy of my book (there are an estimated 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the U.S. today according to an ALA Library fact sheet), I’d be very happy. But, alas, only a fraction of that number would ever purchase one of my books, sometimes because of the focus of the library, but more often due to limited funds. Cuts in Federal funding for libraries produce a double negative effect because they’re usually matched with state funding.

For two years I was on the board and worked as a volunteer for the Lawrence Memorial Library (the only all volunteer library in Michigan) in Climax. During that time I saw how limited funds were and how difficult it was decide how to spend that money. During that time I also saw the value of interacting with librarians so my name and my books were more than a review in the Library Journal.

I love libraries. (For the last ten years I’ve been under contract with a publisher who sells primarily to libraries.) Libraries allow people who might never buy one of my books, due to the cost, to read my stories. And I’ve had readers who first borrowed one of my books from the library follow up by purchasing a copy for themselves because they wanted one to keep.

I’m always excited when asked to speak at a library or be a part of a library’s book-oriented function. If you are anywhere nearby on Saturday, do stop by and say “Hi.”

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9 Responses to Libraries: Their Importance to Writers

  1. Maris,

    As a retired librarian/teacher and library trustee, I second your comments. Libraries are the best bargain there is. They promote literacy and democracy. They provide books and magazines as well as audios and movies to the public. Not everyone can afford to buy pricey materials. As writers, we should support libraries and do presentations there when possible.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      You’re so right, Jacqueline, regarding not everyone can afford to buy pricey materials. I have one writer friend who works two jobs, but she still can’t afford internet service. The library is her only way to connect.

    • love your point as to libraries promoting literacy. If people can’t read, books are of no use to them.

      Over the years I’ve volunteered at, worked at, supported, and most importantly read books at libraries.

  2. My love of libraries goes back to when I visited the Benton Harbor library as a kid and always came out with stacks of books. It was my favorite place. Now, especially with librarians in the family, I support them wholeheartedly! Have a great time Saturday.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thank you, Lucy. I will. When I started writing, I utilized a bookmobile and the librarian driving it for help. I don’t know if they even have those any more.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    When I travel, libraries become the place for me to visit because I know I will always find a quiet place to work and get internet. I’ve visited libraries in the UP as well as various ones in the Lower Peninsula. They are always my go to places to visit! Good luck with your presentation.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thanks, Melissa. What’s nice is libraries still have that quiet atmosphere, but most also have a room or rooms where people can meet and talk. And each library I’ve visited seems to have its own personality.

  4. I love libraries. I started volunteering at my local library when I was 9 years old. I learned how to file books by author and title and how to shelf books.

    I used my local library all the time to write and borrow books. I used my high school library all through school and volunteered in my kids school library. I also volunteered for years at the Robert E. Lee Civil War Library and Research Center. Loved every minute of being in libraries.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Pat, I’m with you. I love going to a library, both as a patron and as a speaker. I loved those two years I was on the library board in Climax and saw first hand how much work was involved. I loved being on a committee that decided which books to purchase, and I hated the job of pulling books off the shelf and putting them on the “for sale” rack because no one had checked the books out for years and we needed the shelf space.