Thursday, March 29, 2012

PLA: A Feast of Librarians

Elizabeth Zelvin

A couple of Thursdays ago, I drove from New York City to Philadelphia and back to schmooze with librarians, promote my work, and do a good deed by helping staff the Sisters in Crime booth at the Public Library Association’s biennial convention. Parent organization ALA, the American Library Association, stated in a March 6 press release:

“During this dynamic time of change, thousands of public librarians, library professionals, authors, publishers and vendors from across the country and around the world will meet in Philadelphia, March 13 – 17, for the Public Library Association (PLA) 2012 Conference to discuss a host of pressing issues affecting the future of public libraries, such as access to e-book lending, library funding, new technologies and advocacy.

“According to the American Library Association’s 2010-2011 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, more than 74 percent of libraries offer software and other resources to help patrons create resumes and employment materials, and 72 percent of libraries report that staff helped patrons complete online job applications.

“Public libraries not only provide free access to information, but also to e-books and other digital content. Over two-thirds (67.2 percent) of libraries now offer access to e-books, up 12 percent from two years ago. According to the e-book distributor OverDrive, library patrons checked out 35 million digital titles in 2011, up from 15 million circulations in 2010. Unfortunately, access to this valued resource is in jeopardy as several major publishers have decided not sell or license e-books to libraries, dramatically limiting the options available to readers.”

We mystery writers know that librarians are a writer’s best friends and that libraries are hard pressed, with cuts in funding and the whole book industry in flux and disarray. Sisters in Crime is now in its second year of offering its “We Love Libraries” grants: a drawing for $1,000 each month to a library that submits a photo of its staff members holding books by Sisters in Crime member authors, to be spent solely on acquiring books (not necessarily mysteries).

So while I hailed passersby—“Hi! Do you read mysteries?”—and offered them first-chapter chapbooks and bookmarks for Death Will Extend Your Vacation, my new mystery due out next month, free hardcover copies of my first book (I brought fifty, and I was determined not to take a single one home with me), and postcards promoting Outrageous Older Woman, my new CD (hey, why not? many of the librarians were in my demographic, ie old enough to appreciate my songs), I was also helping SinC Library Liaison Mary Boone and Liaison emerita Doris Ann Norris (who calls herself the Two-Thousand-Year-Old Librarian) encourage librarians to join Sisters in Crime themselves, let their digital name tags be swiped to enter drawings for goodie packets of mysteries (and incidentally join the SinC mailing list), and take information about applying for one of the grants.

I shared my two-hour slot at the SinC booth with fellow mystery authors Robin Hathaway, Elena Santangelo, and Merry Jones. I ran into Hank Phillippi Ryan in the blocks-long corridor before I even reached the exhibit hall and Jane Cleland at the registration desk. I left some chapbooks with the folks at the Cengage booth, the parent company of my current publisher, Five Star. Once my stint was over, I headed for the Booklist exhibit, lured by the promise of a wine and cheese party and encouraged by the fact that Booklist just gave Death Will Extend Your Vacation a good review. The corner area was packed. I spotted Otto Penzler and the Caroline half of Charles Todd, as well as Hank and Jane again, in the first thirty seconds.

But I hit the jackpot when I got to meet Tiffany Schofield, the Five Star person I’ve exchanged dozens of emails with but never met face to face before. She’s crucial to the launch of my book and getting copies to the right place at the right time (eg Malice), and I was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her in person. Luckily, she was equally thrilled. We were averaging a hug about every three minutes for a while there. I never did get any wine or cheese, but I drove back to New York a happy mystery writer.


Cindy Smith said...

Libraries are so important to the community. It's heartbreaking to see the funding, hours and personnel cut back. My husband and I visit the library regularly these days, and are lucky to live in an area where several small branches as well as the main library are maintained (although with reduced hours). Good job kudos to SinC for their support to libraries!

Cindy Smith

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Running into Tiffany, that is so cool! Also, congrats on the good review of your new novel. Wishing you every success. I'll request it at my local library.


Jacqueline Seewald
DEATH LEGACY--new release from Five Star/Gale

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Thanks, Jacqueline. Library requests for DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION are good. :) Five Star will be shipping to libraries around April 20, and the book will be available on Amazon etc on May 11. Thanks to my conversation with Tiffany, I should have copies at Malice too. :)

lil Gluckstern said...

Libraries have saved my life. When I was moving around a lot in my role as corporate wife, I always homed in on the library (after the pediatrician and pharmacy). I read far more than I can afford, but I am looking forward to "Vacation." Will it be available for Kindle? It's a good time, enjoy our good reviews and events.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Lil, due to the publisher's policies, e-books won't be available for a year. :(

Maryann Miller said...

I'm glad you had that opportunity to support the libraries. Meeting Tiffany was probably the icing on the cake. Congrats on the great reviews of your book.