A question for the Liberian Cabal
August 13, 2017 4:28 PM   Subscribe

I've been making it my goal to only read books by non-cishetwhitedudes this year. Yay for me! But I'm wondering, since I get most of my reading material from the library, is there any tangible impact on society? Besides adding my +1 to the amount of times these books are checked out, is there any greater significance? Do the authors get any benefits? Librarians, please let me know if checking out and reading books by women, people of colors, LGBTQ, etc is nothing more than screaming into the library void.
posted by Grandysaur to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
It is more than screaming into the void! Circulation numbers (checkout numbers) matter A LOT when librarians decide what to order more of, or what not to order. You're increasing the demand for those materials, which leads to the library ordering more diverse books and/or building displays or events around said books, which leads to authors getting more money and more attention.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:43 PM on August 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

I've heard from friends in the publishing business that library stats count for something, but I don't have anything more specific than that. That said, recommending books by members of underrepresented communities to the library for acquisition certainly can't hurt, significance-wise.
posted by quatsch at 4:44 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely it helps! Increasing demand for under-represented authors and genres is always a good thing, and I encourage you to make suggestions for purchase too if your library offers them (many do; most will have some criteria around actually purchasing them but ultimately we are here to serve the public and we want to be relevant). Giving thoughtful recommendations with reasons why they would be good to purchase are even better than just writing title/author on a bit of paper or in a webform.

My library uses a collection analysis tool which basically analyses the books that have been checked out and uses that information to create all different kinds of reports - from things that haven't been checked out and are "dead" so thus are more likely to be weeded, to identifying top authors and/or genres so that the library knows to increase purchasing, add authors to standing order lists, etc. By reading things you're ensuring they are not dead items and won't be weeded as quickly, in addition to actually building support for authors and genres.

Lest you underestimate the importance of your statistics, keep in mind that libraries do not make money, we spend money. We can't prove our worth by the profits we make, so we have to prove them by the number of people through the door, the number of books that are borrowed. It is important, not just for the authors, but to keep the libraries around!

You could also see if your library hosts any book groups, or has meeting rooms/meeting space available for starting a book group around reading any/all of these types of books. We've had suggestions for the very specific (feminist science fiction) to more general (queer book groups) and a group is an even more powerful way of creating demand and boosting those stats!
posted by Athanassiel at 5:14 PM on August 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Furthermore, once you have read the book, you can help increase its visibility by writing reviews on various sites such Amazon and Good Reads. Let your friends know what you are reading - if they read a copy too, then you have a created a +2 for the book!
posted by metahawk at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know about library stats, but I'd like to think there are societal benefits to reading books by more diverse authors, internalizing more diverse perspectives, and talking to other people about these books and ideas...
posted by noxperpetua at 6:02 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you in the US, or the UK, or elsewhere? There are different answers that range from what Athanassiel is saying (circ stats matter a LOT) to some countries (Australia is the one I am most familiar with) where an author actually gets paid for that book circing in a public library. Here are things you can do with your library checkout of diverse titles

- spread the word, either directly or indirectly about your project and the titles you are reading. If other people want to read the book, make sure they know they can check it out at the library, or their library, or interlibrary loan it to their library if their library doesn't have it
- book clubs and/or book groups? Maybe there are other people who are trying to read like you are... see if your library has or would consider reading about/by diverse authors/topics
- familiarize yourself with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks project and use their hashtag when discussing the books you have read
- pay attention to other diversity/iunclusion issues at your library and make sure they are representing a diverse group of speakers and topics for programming and encourage them (better than hassling them for not doing it) if they could be doing a better job
- Does your library have any ratings or review systems (mine sometimes has a way you can "rate" newer books by giving it a few word review on a sheet in the back)? Use this and give constructive feedback.
- On a wider scale, familiarize yourself with library groups at a local, state or national level that promote diverse reading such as the Feminist Task Force and their Amelia Bloomer Project, the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of ALA and their Coretta Scott King Award, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and their Stonewall Book Awards as well as the Rainbow Project Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table. Good reviews and addition to lists make books better candidates for purchase by libraries in the first place. Your library may be on top of this or it may not be. Requesting books to be added to the collection is another purchase for those books' authors.
- And yes review, review, review! Especially in places that might not be getting a good chunk of reviews of diverse and inclusive titles (you can decide where that might be)

Most authors are pretty well in favor of their books being in libraries and getting read in libraries. Helping that author sell more books and write more books is definitely something you can do even if you are not purchasing them yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 6:56 PM on August 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Wow, I am a librarian in Australia and did not know about lending rights! If you are in Australia you can read more about how it works here. So bear in mind that my earlier answer was in addition to the actual potential financial benefits for Australian authors/authors living in Australia with books in Australian libraries.

I am now going to do some collection development plotting with this in mind... mwahaha!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:02 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

And more generally, Public Lending Rights in many countries!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:05 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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