The Public Library and Romancelandia. Part 5: Asking Those in the Know

Soulmates: The Public Library and Romancelandia
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[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have Shanel Wermerskirchen write a series of scholarly articles for us about the relationship between the romance genre and libraries.]

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Previous articles in this series discussed ways in which we can make public libraries more romance-friendly by examining current research and practices. Now, I’ve reached out to folks who are doing 👏it👏right!👏 I reached out to two public librarians and a library student to ask questions about specific projects or general questions that included how they and their libraries serve romance readers, why they think it’s important to serve romance readers, how their Romancelandia accounts inform their work (if they blog), advice they’d give to librarians hoping to make their library more romance-friendly, and what barriers they identify to providing great library services to romance readers.

I’m obsessed with each of these all-stars, and have included some of their responses here. Glean all the wisdom. Soak it all up and meditate on it.

Lubnaa
Lubnaa, Masters of Library and Information Science graduate in Canada; blogger; bookstagrammer

Lubnaa recently completed her Masters of Library & Information Science at a Canadian university, is an advocate for the genre on her blog Romance Library, and shares her thoughts on her latest reads on her Instagram account @RomanceLibrary.

She believes that libraries can better serve romance readers in part by focusing on students. She wants to see future librarians trained in ways that prepare them for the roles they will occupy in their future institutions. Her program doesn’t have courses dedicated to the various tracts within librarianship, and she sees opportunity to instruct students in public librarianship and readers’ advisory. The research Lubnaa has done on information behavior of romance readers was done independently since there was no course specifically on public libraries and readers’ advisory. She believes that public librarians could better serve romance readers if librarians are given more instruction on service during their time in library school.

Lubnaa has sought out other information sources to assist her with future readers’ advisory duties and actively practices advisory work on her blog and bookstagram. She’s frequently consulted for romance recommendations and uses her own experience and research to direct readers to romances that best suit their preferences.

Some advice to libraries hoping to become more romance-friendly?: “More awareness and visibility–when creating displays, try to include romance novels so that everyone gets the chance to know that this library is romance-friendly, and it could even lead to readers discovering the genre for the first time.” She also suggests ensuring proper cataloging. If your library is going to have a special romance collection shelves, make sure that’s where they live. Don’t split series and sprinkle romance in general fiction.

Jacqueline Rammer, Library Director of Lakeview Community Library in Random Lake, Wisconsin; author; bookstagrammer

Jackie is the director of a rural public library funded by four communities with a service population of 5,884 in 2018. She’s the only full-time employee at the library, but that didn’t stop library staff from providing 344 programs and welcoming over 31,000 visitors in 2018.

How do I love thee, Lakeview Community Library? LEMME COUNT THE WAYS:

  • There are many options for readers who browse the “appealingly-decorated romance shelf” (😍) at the library. There’s a concerted effort to include many subgenres in the collection with monthly purchasing.
  • The library understands that if you like one book in a series, you probably want to read them all. They do their research and strive to have each series be a complete one. To help readers find the order, each book in the series has the corresponding number on its spine.
  • They have programming that is meant to serve romance readers! One example is the blind date with a book program hosted at a local pub where romance readers talk about kissing books and maybe donate some of their favorites to the library’s collection.
  • Lakeview Community Library also serves readers remotely by offering digital romance collections on the app OverDrive.

Jackie believes it’s important to serve romance readers because of the sheer popularity of the genre. At her library, people come in and check out armfuls of romance books at a time. Having a large and relevant collection not only serves the reader, it makes the library relevant as well.

In addition to being a library director, Jackie is also a romance author and Romancestagrammer. Her Romancestagram account at @JackieReadsRomance has given her another tool to use when making decisions about collection development. Her experiences with self-publishing her three novels (the Unconditional series) has given her new perspectives on the importance of public libraries supporting self-published romances. Readers often come to the library to seek out new authors and titles, and providing access to these titles is important.

Here’s some advice from Jackie on how to make romance-friendly libraries: Create inclusive romance displays with “gateway” to romance books included, and avoid terminology like “dirty” or “clean” when describing books. She also has given presentations to the Wisconsin librarians about romance and its subgenres so that librarians feel more confident on the subject.

Robin Bradford, Collection Development Librarian at Pierce County Library System; 2018 Library Journal Mover & Shaker--Advocacy; 2016 Romance Writers of America Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year

Robin’s work has helped to inform my perspectives on librarianship and advocacy. You should 100% give her a follow over on her Twitter, @Tuphlos. She has a BA in English from Monmouth College, an MA in English from Indiana State University, an MS in Library Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a JD from Indiana University School of Law.

I reached out to her because I wanted to know more about some of the work she’s done training fellow library staff about the romance genre. Specifically, I wanted to know about her presentation, Whole Lotta Love, the training in romance readers’ advisory she facilitated for Whatcom County Library staff. Since having an informed staff is a major step in creating a more romance-friendly library, I wanted to know more about how an expert addresses the topic with colleagues at her institution.

In her presentation, she gives staff a crash-course to the genre. She defines what a romance novel is, describes subgenres and tropes, and informs staff of the role that book covers can have in assisting librarians and readers identify subgenres. She identifies important trends in the genre, how the subgenres have evolved and diversified, and gives resources for continuing education if librarians want to know more. Robin saw a gap in information and created the resource herself. It’s inspired me to create something similar for the staff at my public library before the bananas of summer reading begins!

About the Author:

Shanel Wermerskirchen Slater is a Teen and Information Services Specialist at a public library in eastern Iowa. Before becoming a resident of Library Land, she worked in a cultural museum as an event and program planner and as a political organizer. She believes in espresso in the morning, radical empathy, romance around the clock, and the power of an HEA to cure what coffee and chocolate can’t.

Instagram: @bookish_nel

Twitter: @bookishnel

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