Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indies & Libraries- Bosom Buddies or Coke vs. Pepsi?


After being in business for five years, we've begun to etch out a partnership with libraries... in this case the Council of Friends for the Lancaster Public Libraries. In the past we have held fundraisers for our local libary, and offered a discount to their book groups with mild success. We'd love to partner more with the libraries as we feel it would be advantageous to both of us, Bosom Buddies of a sort. Their Buffy to our our Hildegard (a brief thanks to Jeff Burkholder and his comic Ouro Brothers for sparking this comparison!) ... but we fear that some out there may view their local indie as not a partner but money hungry competition, locked in a Coke vs. Pepsi epic battle for readers and funds. That is SO not the case and we (indies) are huge supporters of libraries. We both want to encourage reading and a love of literature. We both support young readers with programs, we both ignite curiosity and discovery with authorless events. So why not work together? Especially as library budgets are being decimated and online mega retailers are discounting so much that the lure of a community bookstore is dwindling.

There is so much both entities can bring to a table. Let's take doing an author event together as an example. A bookstore can work with the publisher to bring in nationally recognized authors on tour without paying a speakers fee, which libraries sometimes have to pay to bring in an author. A bookstore can front the cost of inventory to sell at the event through their contracts with publishers and distributors... libraries would not need to expend that money with their budgets so tight. What do we, the indie, get out of this then? The assumption from many is that we are in it for the money from book sales... not the case. Yes we would sell the books at the event, but we would not keep all the profits... the library would get some. In our case the major reason for doing such an event is exposure. We have a small store in a small town, publishers aren't necessarily willing to send out the bigger names to us... BUT by working with a library that has seating for 100+ and ways to reach thousands more people, we can secure a bigger name thus bringing in more people and selling more books... TO BENEFIT THE LIBRARY. For us there are only 2 places that will list our events- the Sunday News Book Section and Blue Ridge Cable 11...neither has a great scope of reach. BUT Library events get listed on all news station websites, all the local weekly newspapers, on public radio stations, and posters in their own buildings... outlets we can not usually get into. What does all this do? It brings more authors and readers together, it gives us a chance to be involved in "the big C" another way (see our blogs about community involvement here and here), it gives the library another way to raise funds with no additional staff hours or pre-event cash outlaid. It seems to be a win-win for all involved... so why the reluctance?

Indies across the country (and globe) are working hand in hand with their local library systems. In Kansas, Rainy Day Books partners with the Johnson County Library in producing author events in and; out of the library branches.

Skylight Books in California works with a library just blocks from their store in several ways.  When the new library opened they sponsored a book drive to increase the collection.  They also hold funds for the librarians to purchase books at a deep discount, and offer their extra Advance Reading Copies to the library to use for book reward give-aways.  In return the library does not hesitate to recommend Skylight as a place to buy a copy of a book that has a mega-waitinglist.

A neighbor to the north, Chat Noir Books in Canada is a model for indie-library partnerships. Here's what they had to say about all the ways they work with and help their local library:

We have a "frequent buyers" program where our customers earn points on all of their purchases and they can redeem them for store credit. We have a program set up with the library that people can donate their points to the library if they want and the library can use them to buy books.

The library has an early evening story time over the summer and we send store staff over to read their favourite children's books and sing some of their favourite children's songs.

We ran a "Library Wish List" program at Christmas that allowed our customers to get a discount off of their entire purchase if they bought a book to be donated the library. We got a"wish list" of books from the library and when people came through the cash with their purchases they could pick a book from the list and add it to their bill. We then took that title and boxed it up for the library and gave the customer a %15 discount off of their total purchase. (It would have cost us less to just donate the money to buy those books to the library but it was a great way to involve our customers in helping the library and have a pre-Christmas "sale" for our customers)

We are sponsoring the prizes for a reading contest in local grade three classes that the library is running. The students complete to see who can read and write a book report on the most books from a collection of books lent from the library for prizes and the classes as a whole receive a participation prize of books for their classroom library.

We also co-sponsor a float in the local Fall Fair parade with the library. They do a craft time with the kids making signs and sandwich boards that they wear and we provide bags full of bookmarks, balloons, posters etc for the kids to give out down the parade route and gift certificates for the store for the participants.(Jennifer Fournier, Chat Noir Books)

We hope indies and libraries will use their examples as models for building long term relationships that grow readers and fund book loving programs for years to come!

Happy Reading!


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  2. February is National Library Lover's Month and we always do a big display at our bookstore. We love our libraries!