You Can Get Anything You Want At The Library

To finish up my responses to the Letter (see Send A Letter, Maria and Oh, Volunteers), I’ve seen a few comments about the situation that says, “oh, don’t rely on review copies from libraries, just go to the library or buy a copy.”

You know what I realized as I prepared my response? That thinking — any book an be borrowed from the library or bought — is what the one percent thinks.

You’re part of the one percent if you live close to a public library. If that public library is well funded enough to have staff to select books. If that public library is well funded enough to be able to buy books. It’s 2011, and in public libraries, budgets are being slashed, staff is being reduced, hours are being cut, branches are closing, and in some instances, library systems are being shut down all together.

“Just go to the library” is getting harder; the library may not be able to afford to buy the new books or any books; and, it may cost you, if you now live in a town with no public library of its own.

As for bookstores. There’s the question of whether your town or area still has a bookstore. If there is one, not everyone can afford to buy all the books they want.

Online bookstores? There’s the money issue, combined with the payment issue. A person needs a credit card, debit card, etc.

Now, to tie it back to The Letter, that’s really not a concern of publishers, access to books. It’s not a reason for them to send review copies of books.

Unless, that is, publishers want reviews from sources other than readers who live in communities with healthy libraries, readers who live near bookstores, readers who can afford to buy all the books they want.

If publishers do want reviews or “buzz” from the ninety nine percent, then, well, sending review copies is an awesome way to get reviews from a mix of people, from all geographic areas and all socioeconomic areas. As I said in earlier posts, there is no guarantee of a review; but it’s much more likely that the book blogger who is an amazing blogger who happens to not be privileged will then blog about the book, adding to that elusive, uncontrollable, coveted “buzz.”


11 thoughts on “You Can Get Anything You Want At The Library

  1. One of the other problems with “getting it from the library” is that you have to wait for publication – not helpful to the publisher who wants advanced buzz to gin up sales! Also, if it’s a popular author (or series), the pre-pub holds list at a library may mean that a good, respected book blogger has to wait months to get their “review” copy – again, not helpful to the publisher who wants advanced buzz!


  2. Isn’t a bit of a stretch to write that pushing book bloggers to head to the local library rather than read review copies “limits” blogging to the 1%? For one, it draws this weird line about what that 1% is (is it REALLY a person who happens to have access to a decent local library?), and for two – it assumes that book bloggers are already drawing from all socioeconomic classes. For a number of reasons – for quality of education, for familiarity with creating and running websites, for free time not just to read books but then write about that reading – I’d guess that most book bloggers are already part of the middle class. That’s part of the 99%, sure, but doesn’t line up with your image of the impoverished book blogger who is unable to continue running his/her book blog without the free review copies being sent out by major publishers.


  3. Jennifer, if there are even libraries left.

    Laura, and then that is also library dependent: some libraries get a ton of copies with a purchasing policy of x holds = y purchases. Others, don’t, so have triple digit lists, if they even have the book.

    Ellen, I think it’s a good idea to consider the question of privilege, in and outside book blogging. My image is that of readers without access to books, period; and since bloggers are readers, that means them, also. “Get it at the library” makes an assumption about libraries and availability that reflects privilege.


  4. Reading this makes me feel lucky, in that I live in an area with an incredible library system. My library constantly has new books. They weed out books from the YA section that are only two years old, for example I saw The Everafter on my library sale table, and that just came out in 2009. I feel like if my library was in dire financial straits, it wouldn’t be purchasing new books every week and weeding out new-ish books. I don’t make anything even near what the 1% does and could be considered lower middle class, BUT I am lucky to live in an area that values literacy and libraries.

    Great post!


  5. You make good points about both libraries and book stores. More and more libraries are cutting funding, and the reality is, books are the last item on the mind of a lot of libraries (some by force and unfortunately, more and more by choice). There is an assumption of privilege in “going to the library” because libraries aren’t always an option. Likewise — and this is point overlooked quite a bit — a lot of book bloggers are also librarians. Many of those librarians make purchase suggestions or do the purchasing themselves. Not only is it a blogged review, it can often turn into a sale, then it can turn into a recommendation. I know word-of-mouth among librarians can turn more sales, too.

    As far as the book stores, you are 150% right on that topic. The closest book store to me, 30 miles away, was a Border’s. Guess what? Now the closest book store to me is nearly 40 miles away. Going and buying from the book store is an option, but not an easy one. It’s a sad reality but it’s a reality, and it is an assumption of privilege.


  6. April, one fascinating things about good library systems is that while sometimes it’s linked to the $ in the area, it’s not always true. I lived (rental, garage apartment) in a town of multi million dollar homes with a library that was pretty, quaint, and didn’t have much in the way of new books (and, also, no public opac). While the majority of inhabitants could afford their own books, renters etc like myself? Not so much. To join the county system would cost me about $100 a year. So the assumptions about public libraries are many.

    Kelly, one reason I stay on lists like yalsa bk and publib is because the librarians like you pipe up during discussions to remind those who are fortunate that not everyone is by libraries and bookstores.


  7. I love that you are bringing up the issue of assumptions of library access and that even with library access not all libraries are created equal. However, I think saying that having access to a library makes you part of the 1% is an extreme exaggeration. I work in a public library and let me reassure you that NONE of my patrons are in the 1%. I’m pretty sure that none of them are in the 25% I’ve worked in more than one library and I’ve visited many more. I have never seen anyone from the 1% in a public library.

    I think the conversation about access to books, access to libraries, and the reasons behind why “get it at the library” isn’t always helpful is a conversation that absolutely needs to be had. But I also think that overblown exaggerations do more harm than good. There are too many people who will read this and dismiss the argument because it’s obviously untrue that having access to a library makes you part of the 1%, missing entirely the point that it isn’t about one’s tax bracket, it’s about rethinking what it means to be privileged and questioning our assumptions about access to books.


  8. Alys, I’m thinking not that the 1 percent of wealth have the 1 percent of great libraries; I’m thinking that some people have very good library services and don’t realize that’s not true for all, and that when many factors are including, the percentage of people who have good library service is actually quite small worldwide. The privilege isn’t the wealth, it’s the access to the good library. Even in better financial times, one person’s neighborhood library is another’s not accessible because of the highway they have to cross. The one percent of wealth may actually not have the better libraries because there is the attitude that they can buy what they want so don’t need a library (ignoring that not everyone in their town/city/county is as well off.) I’m not talking tax bracket; i’m talking, again worldwide, access to good library services.


  9. Um…From the comments I can glean that you’re trying to address the privilege of good services, rather than conflating those who have access to good library services with people who actually make up the world’s richest 1%, but personally I find your use of the 1% term a little…off putting. I’ve got to agree with Alys, identifying privilege within socio-economic brackets is really useful, but your use of the 1% term evokes specific ideas about what is being discussed and it does conjure up ideas of extremly privileged people, specifically privileged people who are keeping the rest of us from things. In this post you’re talking about people who may be privileged in one way, but may also be extremly underprivileged in many other ways. Also people who use libraries don’t actively keep other people from having better library services (unless you’re thinking that the focus on prestige libraries like The British Library means a dilution of funding sources for smaller libraries – I don’t really know enough about funding to know if that kind of competition comes into play), in the same way that 1% of the worlds people having excessive wealth keeps many others from having a basic quality of life…So, although I think you’re pulling out a really interesting idea, I personally don’t think your wording is making an accurate comparison.


  10. Jodie, I’m thinking of some better ways to explain what I mean. And wondering if some of this is just beyond a simple blog post because of the various layers and tangents.


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