Writers–Did You Know Your Library Can Do All This?

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 7.01.12 PMOur guest blogger today, in honor of National Library Week, is—you guessed it—a librarian!

To all the writers out there: I wanted to remind you of a few of the wonderful resources that libraries offer and most are free.

Local Author Readings. Many libraries invite local authors to speak either individually or as part of a panel of three or four. This can be a great way to get your book out in your community and meet other local authors. Another benefit is librarians are very good at spreading the word. When we have a good program, we like to share it with other libraries across the state.

Writer’s Groups. The South Portland Public Library and many others in the state have writer’s groups that meet monthly or more frequently. These tend to be groups where members share what they’re writing if they feel comfortable and encourage each other. They are often lead by a library staff member and have an annual event where members who would like to read some of their work in front of the public do.

Interlibrary Loan. Through your local library you can borrow things from around the world. It can be Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 6.59.09 PMbooks, dissertations, movies, books on CD, or microfilm. If you are writing about Detroit in the 40’s you could request a copy of the Detroit Free Press on microfilm and, using the pictures, see styles and places you are including in your work. This is almost always free but sometimes there is a cost associated with it.

Local History. In most towns, the public library is the keeper of the local history. High school yearbooks, local newspapers, city directories, plot plans and local family histories? We’ve got that. At the Portland Public Library, we have the Portland High School yearbooks dating back to 1921 and city directories which show who lived at an address starting in 1823. Most libraries also have a few employees who are long time residents and would probably be able to put you in touch with other residents who could answer almost any question about local history.

Reference. There is nothing we like better than a really tough reference question. Last year we received a call from a writer with a series of questions about mythical beasts. It took three of us a number of days but we got the answers and we still talk about how much fun it was to track down the correct answer. Earlier this year the writer sent us a signed copy of his book and it is proudly displayed in a shared office.

Databases. Kathy Lynn Emerson did such a great job covering that I’ll refer you to her entry on Monday.

Quiet Space. We are a lot livelier then we were in the past but I’m sure you can find a quiet corner if your usual workspace gets taken over for an afternoon or weekend. And remember: most libraries in Maine have free wireless connectivity.

PPLExteriorNightJoy and Pride. When you go in and see your book on the shelf right next to all the greats, make sure you let your local librarian know so we can celebrate with you.

I’d love to hear from you about other great things that libraries have done for you.

Lisa Marie Joyce is the Outreach Librarian at the Portland and South Portland Public Libraries. She is a graduate of U of Maine and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She is a native of Portland and began her work life as a Tax Accountant.

And if you’ve read this far–here’s a treat: One person who comments on our blog this week will win a pair of these:

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28 Responses to Writers–Did You Know Your Library Can Do All This?

  1. Linda says:

    Librarians also buy the authors’ books. Usually in several formats if available. I know I do for our 26 branch library system! Would, obviously, love the socks!

  2. Poetry parties! TIme travelers (historical group)! Kids’ activities! Photography pros! Any of these activities/groups are great resources for writers either in research or promo. Join the Friends and you’ll be surprised at what comes up. Working on a drain restoration project for my 100+-year-old library gave me a great idea for a mystery as well as all kinds of contacts.

    Those socks would be great raffle prizes. Where can I get them?

  3. Gram says:

    In our town the library is the “meeting” place. We all are seen at that wonderful building. We have the best library and librarians in the state (at least).

  4. I continue to be amazed by libraries and librarians, especially their willingness and ability to adapt to the changing needs and wishes of their patrons.

    I regularly haunt Walker Memorial in Westbrook, Baxter Library in Gorham, the Portland Public Library (main and its branches), Glickman Family Library at USM, Abplanalp Library at UNE’s Portland campus, Friend Memorial Library in Brooklin and Blue Hill Library (the last two when I am on vacation). Each is wonderful in its own way.

  5. Peggy says:

    Oooh, love the socks…. here is another thing that libraries do: makerspaces and places for teens and Young Adults –
    Libraries come in all sizes and shapes with all kinds of missions for all kinds of patrons. What a genius idea to share so much.

  6. John Clark says:

    There are days when I’m not sure if I’m running a mental health clinic, a pawn shop (I buy tons of DVDs from local people), A video store, or what, but the bottom line is that almost everyone walking out the door feels better than when they came in, and plenty take something from the free corner. Best profession in the world most days.

  7. Ben Blackmon says:

    Librarians can do all those things and more. Most librarians I know will bend over backwards to help in ANY way they can. If they can’t find the answer to your question they often find a way to get you in touch with someone that can.

    Yippee for libraries!

  8. karla says:

    John is right, almost everyone who walks out feels better than when they walked in. Cape Elizabeth’s Thomas Memorial Library has half+ their collection in storage while undergoing construction, so South Portland and Scarborough libraries have opened their doors to TML members.
    In March, South Portland’s library waved over-due fees for food donations for the local food bank. Books, absolution, and good deeds all rolled into one library.

  9. Jeanne Benedict says:

    While books and movies still circulate in record numbers, our little library has also become a great community center, with concerts, dinners, movies, and more happening throughout the year. My favorite part of the job is connecting people with the books (and movies) they want. I love seeing the look on a child’s face when I hand him/her a book they requested and they realize that I bought it because they asked for it. (True for adults as well.)

  10. Rebecca Dauphinee says:

    The best thing in the world is having a patron say “this was the best book, I’m so glad you suggested it!” THe second best is being able to pull a rabbit out a hat (figuratively) by coming up with *the* book someone’s been looking for.

  11. Kathy Upton says:

    Libraries offer all the above mentioned services and more. We are currently working on starting a Seed Bank and having ebooks available to our patrons through the downloaded network. I think another unique thing about libraries is they work together rather than being in competition with each other. Libraries Rock!!

  12. Charlie says:

    Being a librarian in a very creative community I see many different people from all walks of life finding inspiration and success using our resources.

  13. Jennifer says:

    And don’t forget that librarians offer readers’ advisory! We help readers discover new authors by matching our patrons with genres we know they enjoy.

  14. Here in Bar Harbor, the Jesup Memorial Library also hosts Poetry Slams and Story Slams (inspired by “The Moth” on NPR), as well as writers’ workshops (I’ll be presenting one on Building Your Author Platform in September).

    If I won, I would definitely donate the socks to our Library Director, Ruth Eveland, who so loves socks (and knitting) that she makes them for herself and various other lucky souls! 🙂

  15. Amber Foxx says:

    I love my library in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. And when visiting Maine, I have been in the Skidompha in Damariscotta, and get a certain pleasure out of recognizing it in occasional posts on this blog. Love the socks.

  16. Betsy Paradis says:

    I’ve had a few opportunities to assist local authors both at the UMaine library and here in Belfast. It’s great fun to watch the process you all go through and to feel like I’m some part of it (and I love those socks!) Thanks for the article and for pointing out what we have to offer.

  17. We camped all over the Northeast when our children were young. Local libraries were our favorite free places to go–especially on a rainy day or as a rest stop along an all-day biking excursion. The library on Southport Island (near Boothbay in Maine) has a really neat butterfly collection. Many of the libraries we visited featured small exhibits of local artwork, local artifacts, and local writers. Whenever I am traveling, I stop in at the library and can’t wait to allow the librarians to guide me to the best local historical sites, grave sites, or even upcoming lectures and events!

  18. Love the socks!

    However, the past tense of “lead” is “led.” As a librarian, you have to set a good example!

  19. Great post. Our local library has all these services, and I’ve made use of almost all of them. You’ve got to love libraries. And I have to thank my mom for introducing us to libraries when we were quite young.

  20. And please don’t discount small libraries. My library serves about 2000 people from 2 small towns. If you want to feel like a rock star, come do an author’s visit at a small library. Only about 20 people will show up but your audience will listen with rapt attention. The goodwill you help spread for the library is far-reaching, especially when Town Meeting time rolls around. We can’t pay much, but you can help us pay-it-forward. It feels good!

  21. Robert says:

    Our library offers all the amities stated in your blog and more. For young readers, there is reading help in the form of teen mentors. Teens can get help from college interns. Adults who want to read better get help from other volunteers. Also, objects de Art are available to be borrowed for three weeks ‒ same as books.

    The best part, for me anyway, is my ability to request novel in large print.

  22. Mary Ann says:

    I love my libraries interlibrary loan feature- I can do it from home! The Rockland Public Library also has a lot of great talks, films, and other programs that enhance our town!

  23. Donna says:

    I agree with John (that some days you don’t know what you are running) but it is a nice job and very gratifying to please the patrons. Jeanne nailed it, too! The look on a patron’s face when you give them a book they requested. It is wonderful to be in a position where you can bring enjoyment to others… whether it’s a book, a dvd, a concert or some other activity. Libraries and librarians rock!

  24. My local library (where I also work as a cataloguer), the Greater Victoria Public Library in Victoria, B.C., Canada recently began an Emerging Local Authors collection. Authors living in the region who had been published by small presses, or self-published, contributed copies of their books. The books were catalogued (by me) and are prominently displayed with stickers identifying them as part of this collection. Last week the library hosted a launch event for the collection. I wrote a blog post about it on my blog (which is helpfully called Audrey Driscoll’s Blog). This is a great way to encourage and publicize the work of local authors who have not yet become widely known.

  25. Becky says:

    At our little library RA, Reader’s Advisory, is a favorite. Patrons come in and ask for suggestions, new authors, or read-a-likes. I love one turning on patron’s to new authors. One patrons’ remark, “Wow, Ms. Becky, when you said Kay Hooper’s books were a thrilling ride and it’s hard to figure out who done it, you weren’t kidding.” Then we have the crafters who come on Thursday nights for a night out. Great fun, they discuss books, local events and solve the world’s problems. Got to love libraries.

  26. I love libraries. Since I am virtually home bound and without transportation, I like that the library can be accessed from my computer.

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