Libraries and New Books

Earlier today, an article on Salon was posted discussing Amazon shooting itself in the foot by putting brick and mortar bookstores–like Borders–out of business. The idea is that by shutting down the places people physically look at books, they lose business because no one is discovering anything new.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen articles like this (Amazon v. Bookstores), but it is the first time I realized there’s a group always absent from these discussions: libraries. Maybe it’s just my new job working in the circulation department at the Tippecanoe County Library (TCPL), but I’m actually surprised by how rarely libraries are mentioned in the literary and publishing community.

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I can’t count the number of times I’ve had discussions in classes about big box bookstores, indie bookstores, used bookstores, online bookstores, Amazon, e-readers, etc. On the other hand, I can’t think of a single time I’ve had a class bring up libraries in any discussion.

Yesterday I participated in the new employee group orientation here at TCPL, and as part of that orientation, I got to see the room in tech services where new books get processed and added to our system. The room smelled like new paper and ink, and every shelf had a long row of shiny new spines. Next to the door were even more books, not yet taken out of the UPS boxes they were shipped in. I don’t know exactly how many new books we process a year, but once I find out Monday, I’ll update this post–needless to say, it’s a lot.

The main library branch here has more than 301,000 items that can be checked out, and in 2011 alone there were more 500,000 people that passed through the doors–and this is just a small county library in Indiana. So my question is…

Why isn’t publishing talking about libraries? Are we too focused on simply the individual sales of books?

If we’re talking about Amazon making a mistake by eliminating physical bookstores–and therefore eliminating the way people discover new books–why aren’t we talking about libraries, locations that encourage and promote thousands of people a year to not only discover, but read new books as well?

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About jekcarter

Farmer/Writer/Editor/Advocate for the Imaginary
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2 Responses to Libraries and New Books

  1. Good question! I’d be interested to read a follow-up post on an ideas you have for how libraries can better fill in the gaps left by brick-and-mortar book stores. One thing I’m surprised hasn’t happened yet: why don’t we see more libraries develop attached cafes, the way bookstores have done in the past? I certainly wouldn’t mind knowing I could get a cup of coffee at the same time as checking out new books…. not to mention, it would be nice to know there’s a coffee shop in town with a built-in “shhhhh” policy!

  2. kylekap says:

    CCPL (Carmel Clay Public Library) has more of a budget to work with, but they also developed the building with “nontraditional” in mind. They have several meeting rooms for events or gatherings, a few dozen small quiet study rooms for groups or individuals, attached coffee shop and attached bookstore. It’s one of the big things in town, and it’s always full of people (especially students, since it’s across the street from the 4600 student Carmel High School). Biggest thing about libraries is making sure they are full of Librarians who are able to help any audience, not just ones of the librarians age/background, as well as making sure they have access to anything a reader would want in a timely manner.

    People don’t talk about their libraries because they usually aren’t worth talking about. Or a majority of people the library serves aren’t aware of how good it is, or what all it necessarily has to offer. Online databases, reading programs, notifications of due dates by text/email, accurate recommendations based on what you’ve read, downloadable Ebooks, AudioVisual materials, etc.

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