Librarians, Bloggers, & The Lines Between

Before diving into the heavy stuff, a glimpse at the books I picked up at ALA. I used “picked up” loosely because I’ve become a big believer in talking with publicists at conventions. I love hearing what their favorites are and why (because it’s not always the book getting the big publisher push and often it can lead you to a real gem). But yes — this pile is everything I picked up at Midwinter. It fit into my carry on luggage.

Over the last few conventions, I’ve posted the titles of books I’ve picked up, their release dates, and a link to GoodReads for more details. I’m not going to stray from that, but it’ll wait a couple of days. I’ve been told by librarians, teachers, and readers how nice it is to know about what’s coming out from the different publishers, so they have it on their radar. I like doing it because it helps keep me organized too.

Something that’s come up is blogger behavior at industry conventions like ALA and BEA. In fact, I’ve talked about it before, been cited about it before. Whenever this conversation comes up, I have to take a step back. The anxiety gets overwhelming. There seems to be some sort of belief there are only black and whites and not shades of gray everywhere. That there are, say, bloggers and there are librarians.

I tread a fine, fine line. I’m a librarian and I’m a blogger. I do both and I love doing both. I don’t think they’re necessarily different identities nor ones I need to keep separate. And in fact, the more I have become involved in blogging, the more I see them as things that cannot be separated. Being a librarian has made me a better blogger because it’s given me deep perspective on the idea of audience and readership. The more I’ve blogged, the better I’ve become as a librarian because I’ve forced myself to read well and read with the idea of audience.

These things just aren’t separate for me.

When I go to a conference where there is an exhibit hall, where there will be publicists and opportunities to pick up ARCs, of course I go in with a wish list of some sort. There are books I’m excited about personally and I’d love to get a crack at. Books I’d love to read and fall in love with so I can talk about how much I love the book and why I love the book. Books that in my job as a librarian I’d love to bring back to my teens because they’re excited to read them. 

But I don’t go into the exhibits with expectations of anything, either as a blogger nor as a librarian nor as a reader nor as a person who has red hair. It’s an experience, and it’s one best enjoyed by interacting, be it with publicists, colleagues, strangers. When I’m able to take home a book that is on my wish list, it’s a plus. When I don’t, it’s not a minus. It just is! I’ll still be able to purchase the book or borrow it from the library when it publishes a few months down the road.

I’ve never walked away from a convention thinking I didn’t get enough. Because the thing is, I don’t expect to get anything. Being a librarian and/or a blogger doesn’t entitle me to anything. Being a librarian and/or a blogger, though, does come with a set of expectations. A set of standards.

But this is something I’ve talked about before.

No matter what your title is, no matter what your goal is in attending an industry convention, the only expectation there is is for classy, professional, courteous, kind behavior. It means being thoughtful and considerate. It means behaving in a way that would make whatever you’re representing proud to call you a part of that organization (if it’s your blog, then it’s your blog; if it’s your library, then it’s your library; if you’re there representing yourself, well then that’s a pretty big role to make proud, too).

I’m not of the belief that we should close off cool experiences like ALA from non-industry members if it’s not necessary. But I am of the belief that there should never be bullying, there should never be swarming, there should never be name calling or teasing or stealing or rule breaking. Treating one another with respect is the only expectation, and that goes for not only attendees, but for attendees toward publicists, publishers, the industry as a whole.

I like to think of the book world as a type of eco-system. We all grow and thrive when we allow one another to do so. This means feeding and keeping one another in check. It means being respectful and thoughtful every step of the way. When you’re contributing the good, you get the good back. When you’re not, you’re only harming your environment.

Stepping back from this a second now, since I really cannot say anything more on that particular subject without sounding like a broken record, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what picking up ARCs means for me. Since I tread that slippery line of blogger and librarian, it means a couple of things.

As a blogger, I like to think my role in the ARC process is one of reading, blogging, and helping build buzz. I like to think, too, that by being a librarian, I reach a certain audience of readers who have a budget behind them — they actually purchase some of the books I talk about, either for themselves or their organization. And if they don’t have the funds, I like to think I’m able to offer to readers books they can talk about with readers in their lives. Either way, my role as a blogger is spreading the word.

Did you know for a lot of teenagers, owning a book is something they will never get to do?

Did you know for a lot of teenagers, the ARC a librarian brings them from a conference may be the only book they actually, truly own?

This was something I never thought about, never knew, until I actually worked with teenagers. Until I had teenagers tell me they’d bring the book right back to me because they didn’t want to lose something that belonged to me (an adult). Telling those kids they could keep that book illuminated something inside them. Disbelief. Shock.


I can’t even tell you what it feels like to hand a teenager a book you picked up for them at a convention. It’s what makes me LOVE being a librarian. Putting that book into their hands. Knowing it will change a life, even if it’s in a small, small way.

Moreover, many of the ARCs end up as prizes for various programs at the library, including the summer reading club. Most libraries — especially smaller ones — don’t have prize budgets. They don’t have money to give teens books to keep. After working on the Cybils and attending a couple of conventions, I can amass a lot of ARCs (and finished copies). For what it’s worth, I pay for shipping on everything I bring home from a convention. Sometimes upwards of $50, $100, often for books I’m not necessarily keen on myself but that I know will mean a lot to a reader at the library. No, I don’t get reimbursed.

But I get to bring books to the library in stacks this tall to give away to teenagers. Books they’ll get to peruse and pick from and keep. Books that will mean the world to them because it’s something they get to own. I reiterate — for many of these teens, this is the only time they may actually get to own a book.

The other thing I do with ARCs as a librarian is this:

I cannot possibly read everything being published for teens, so I often go directly to the teens and ask them to write up book reviews for me. In exchange, they get to keep the book (if they want) or they can trade with another teen (which they often do). My teen above writes excellent reviews which I use to promote the books when they’ve been purchased, and they help me decide whether it’s a book worth reading so I can book talk it. And often, I can book talk the book based on the teen’s review alone. I get feedback on what the book reminded the teen of (I can’t possibly know what all of their experiences are in their world and in their age, and this feedback is priceless to me as a librarian and, as you’d guess, a blogger, too!).

Let me say, I’ve never felt guilt about picking up an ARC I could put in the hands of a teen.

If you’ve ever wondered why we don’t do a lot of giveaways here at STACKED, this is just one of the reasons. Most ARCs never stick around long enough to give away. I’d rather spend my own money to buy a finished copy of a book I read in ARC form for someone else (and that is why if you’ve entered and won a giveaway here, the book often comes straight from Amazon or Book Depository).

All of this is to say one thing and one thing only, really: let’s be courteous, please. We are all part of the same eco-system, even if our end goals differ. Whether you’re a blogger whose goal is to build your readership and build buzz around books or whether your goal as a librarian is to pick up books for your own reading/collection development planning/prizes. What you pick up, what you take, what you demand. You can pollute or you can recycle. Either way, it reflects back upon not just you, but the environment as a whole.

I like a world that keeps spinning.

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  1. says

    Yes. This.

    Also: a couple of weeks ago one of my homeschooled teens told me that she thinks it's awesome that the only books she has on her bookshelf at home are library books or galleys I've given her at the library. While I didn't think much of it then, now I realize that as one in a family of seven kids, she might not own any books if it wasn't for being part of our teen advisory board and getting galleys from the library. It might not seem like that big a deal – she comes to the library all the time, right? But I think about how many books I read over and over again as a teen because I loved them and… because they were accessible to me. They were there in my home. I had ownership of those books. It goes a long way towards fostering a love of reading.

    • says

      Everything you said here, times ten, Abby. A lot of times the kids don't tell you these things, either, but when you get to know the kids — and you do when you work with them like we have a tendency to do — you figure it out. I had a girl who used to bring the books I gave her with her everywhere. There was one I'll never forget she used to carry all the time with her, pull it out, tell me how much she loved the book, then put it back until the next time she saw me. Because…it was hers. She was excited about the story and excited about the fact she had something like that TO have. These things break your heart but they also mend it.

  2. says

    This post…My first time at your blog. New follower and worshiper of Stacked Books.

    Reading Writing Breathing

  3. says

    And this right here is why I'm donating all of my ARCs (once I read them, of course) to my local library. As a blogger and aspiring librarian, I feel it's my duty to help promote a love of reading. Thanks for this post. It's nice to see someone who has an interest on both sides without bashing either side.

  4. says

    You are made of awesome-sauce (but I already knew that). It's a weird line to tread as a librarian and a blogger, but I think it's one we HAVE to tread, because we understand both sides of the issue.

    • says

      And it's doubly tricky when there are no right answers. Because…there aren't. It's all a matter of acting with class and having respect.

  5. says

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. All of The bullying going on is so sad and unnecessary. You are awesome for posting this, and I hope that some of the people who are doing the bullying will read this and realize what they are doing is wrong.

  6. says

    Great thoughts. I'm a librarian who has only been to our state school librarian conference, where I feel very fortunate to bring home maybe two or three free books. The conferece is great for many other reasons, though! I'm also a blogger, who usually buys the books that I give away on my blog. I give all my ARCs to the library or to students too. I really enjoyed your thoughts.

  7. says

    I love the idea of sharing ARCs with kids and getting their advance feedback. I'm sure that must be a part of what publishers intend for the ARCs, especially those given away at conferences geared toward librarians. So please keep that in mind as I bring up the following question and comment. I only want to learn, and to encourage a discussion in this line, because I'm totally new to this: 1. if you give an ARC to a child without reading it, picking it up with him in mind even, are you engaging in a sort of charitable use of the ARC that the publisher didn't intend? There is of course the potential of buzz from that teen, so it's again one of those "grays" you're talking about. But do publishers know and expect that librarians do this? 2. as an author, I strongly prefer that a teen read (and own, though I see your point that it's not possible for many kids) the finished copy of my book. I want every copy of my ARC to go in a landfill someday or get pulped, after it has been read by people who need advance reading to write their reviews. My particular ARC has a frustrating error (omission of three lines of dialogue) that leaves a crucial clue out of to the plot (find it and I will send you homemade cookies), as well as uncountable changes that add to the clarity and lyricism of the piece. I think, although I'm not sure because this is the first time I've thought about it, I would prefer that a child who can't afford the book read the finished copy from the library–yes, even rather than own the ARC.

    • says

      1: I'm pretty sure they know this, coming from a librarian conference. It's not really a secret that's what a lot of librarians do. And even in giving them away for prizes, the books still generate buzz (which in turn makes sales for the library/other kids/etc).

      2: I'm of a couple thoughts here — of course authors prefer their finished work to go to a kid. But do librarians often know about big errors/changes from arcs to finished copies? Most of the time, no. But they purchase finished copies for the library for a reason, and they never add ARCs to the collection for a reason. Teens who walk away with an ARC for a prize or for review or whatever…they read the same notes in ARCs adults do about the fact things change, there are errors, etc. And they care a whole lot less than I think they're given credit for.

    • says

      1. Pushing the mercenary envelope for discussion's sake (I wish publishers would weigh in, because I don't know how much is totally bottom-line for them, and how much they're willing to engage in charitable/academic outreach regarding ARCs, although I'm sure they've thought about this question): there may be more measurable buzz from a blogger taking an ARC at ALA, even if it only goes directly toward a "giveaway" or is traded without being read by that blogger, than an ARC that goes straight to a deserving teen. (Your using the ARCs as prizes of course probably generates more buzz in the library than a single reader, and I'm sure publishers expect that kind of use.)

      2. I feel the opposite about kid readers: they care a whole lot more about errors than they're given credit for, and if they even read the notice that an ARC is uncorrected, they fail to internalize it!

      This is such a great topic for discussion, and I really appreciate hearing your take on it, and learning more about the industry.

    • says

      Librarians using ARCS with teen readers is pretty established; YALSA even has a program that is all about that:

      On the conference floor, a couple publishers spoke about holding ARCs back for both BFYA committee members and also for the teens speaking at the BFYA teen session.

      What I've done (and I believe most librarians do) is educate the teen about what an ARC is and isn't, including pointing out the possibility of errors and changes. The teen feedback about the ARCs can be helpful for collection development, book talking, book discussion, etc. I've found that for the most part, teens are no different from other readers once they realize what an ARC is (not a final copy) and is not (a paperback version of the final book).

      Those teen readers who don't like that it isn't the final, polished copy stay away from the ARCs. For others, it helps build excitement for books and for reading. I'm not just talking about kids who are readers — they also help create readers. Overall, it's a positive interaction for teens.

    • says

      1. I think part of it is the audience. Book bloggers reach people who already love reading, which is important. Librarians create readers, and ARCs are important tools in that process

    • says

      Liz, I understand and agree with everything you said, and I had assumed that teen reviewers and focus groups (and ultimately library giveaways) are fully expected and endorsed by publishers. What I was addressing in this particular thread is the teens for whom Kelly occasionally grabs an ARC with them in mind. That's a charitable use of the ARCs (and a wonderful thing for promoting that child's literacy), yet I wonder how (in these tight times) publishers might feel about it. But perhaps it's addressed in that YALSA link, and I'll go look now.

      It's so great that you guys educate teens about the ARCs as you pass them on, not just so they know what to expect (which is what I want, as an author), but also because I'm sure getting an inside peek into the inner cogs of the industry may whet their appetites for a career in editing, writing, library sciences etc.

  8. says

    I remember student teaching at this one middle school and the English teacher would go to this one conference every year and come home with a book for every single student — and for some of those students like you just said, that is the only book they will ever own.

    As a book blogger, I am ashamed for my community and our behavior — because I believe what has happened definitely affects how people perceive us.

    Also, I just want to say thank you for doing what you do as a librarian to promote literacy to teens and young adults and your patrons. You provide a wonderful service. Thank you.

  9. says

    That's so cute giving the teens copy to review. I've only ever had e-ARCs but if I ever have real ones I'm totally asking my librarian friend if this is something her teens would be interested in.

  10. says

    Oh, one point. Midwinter is a meeting. It is not a conference. I know others have emphasized the business end of ALA Midwinter, with committee meetings, etc., but I just wanted to point out that even in its name, this event is not a conference. It's a meeting for the business of ALA and its divisions.

    • says

      You're right, Liz, and I'm glad you pointed that out. My hope was in tackling this on a bigger-than-this-one-time scale. And maybe your comment has more weight because of that.

  11. says

    Behavour on the exhibit floor is an issue, whatever the size of or origins of the event, and whoever is involved, whether it's bloggers or librarians or my Aunt Fanny. But it does help, I think, to keep in mind what the event is for because it tells us why people, including the exhibitors, are there, and what they are prepared for. What publishers bring to Midwinter Meeting, in terms of copies and staff, is different than what they may bring to Conference.

  12. says

    As we've discussed and you know, my community is in the same boat — my teens hold onto ARCs and carry them everywhere. They still make huge use of the library (and will check out the finished copy), but that book that they own? Matters in a way that no other can.

    • says

      Katie — I guess authors would prefer that somehow remainders could serve this function, because they're corrected copies that are undervalued (or even slated for pulping). In a perfect world. (I can't even imagine how to distribute them. How about the publishers bring them to the ALA meetings for librarians to carry home, and publishers take the freight cost off their taxes?! Just kidding, but still.)

    • says

      Oops, and when I say "authors" I mean me. I actually haven't polled any of my colleagues. Although I don't think any author would argue against remaindered books going to needy kids.

  13. says

    Absolutely fantastic post. As a teacher and book blogger, I fully endorse sharing ARCs with teens–they love it, pass the books around, recommend them to one another–it's amazing to see, really. 99% of the ARCs I receive go onto my classroom bookshelf, and my students adore it. Especially in the case of MG/YA ARCs, these books need to make their way to the hands of young readers. You can't sell them so donate them to your local library or to a middle school/high school teacher.

    • says

      That is something I wish people knew they could do too! I know teachers have essentially no classroom budget, so often the ARCs that can end up in the classroom end up helping build an important library.

  14. says

    Thanks for this. Not only does it make people think about their actions, but you've given me great ideas for when I'm a teen librarian myself. You have a new reader.

  15. says

    Thank you for this post. I'm an English teacher and I've won a few ARCs in contests here or there, and I always add the books to my classroom library. I can't tell you how excited some kids are when I tell them that "this book isn't out yet, but here's a copy of it for you to read." They love it. My school district encompasses a large, low-income area, making the library and classroom libraries extremely important. Just like Mary said, keep schools and libraries in mind when you have extra books.

    I plan to start working on my MLIS this spring and hopefully be a public librarian in a couple years. This post is inspiring and encouraging to me. Thank you.

    • says

      The kids get SO excited when they have a book that's not out yet. I think a lot of it goes exactly with the fact a lot of these kids just don't ever get to have such a cool opportunity (to read something before it's out!) and because there's a real sense of trust that's built between the kid and adult sharing the book (or giving the book). It's so important.

      And you're welcome! Just don't get it in your head what they teach you in library school that books don't matter. The truth is, they're always going to matter.

  16. says

    What a great, balanced post. I wondered a bit how other librarians felt about all the bloggers who went to ALA (I guess it just seemed like more posted about it this year). I'm happy to find a librarian-blogger with a balanced view. And I walk the weird line between academic librarian/blogger.

  17. says

    Excellent post. I originally discovered ARCs existed (which got me on the blogging path) through a librarian who offered them for reviews.

    I try to donate my ARCs to shelters and hospitals.

  18. says

    As a book blogger who just started library school, seeing this post on Twitter made me want to stand up and cheer. YES! This! Exactly! This was the first year I got to attend BEA as a librarian as well as a book blogger. Talking to librarians at past BookExpos is how I decided to go for a MLIS!
    Still don't know where I'll end up, public or corporate, teens or adult or some amalgamation, but I'll always be a reader and a book blogger, and now I"m learning to be a book talker, maybe even a collection developer, and a someday future librarian.

    • says

      I end up sharing my galleys with my local library for their teen summer motivation program. I've done this for a couple years now.

      As a former teacher I know how much a book means to kids. I used to buy books for my students all the time. What was sad is I'd learn that was the only book they'd get. Our first grade also had a field trip to the local library so our students could sign up for library cards.

      I'm a huge believer in libraries. When I was a teen, they were my salvation. Now that I'm older, I donate back to them.

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