The Public Library and Romancelandia. Part 4: Reach Out and Repair

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

In my previous articles I discussed the historically not great relationship between public libraries and Romancelandia and two suggestions for public librarians to better serve romance readers: get informed and do some collection work. This third chance to engage Romancelandia more deeply makes me SO. EXCITED.

Why am I excited? BECAUSE THIS ARTICLE IS ALL ABOUT PROGRAMS, REPAIRING RELATIONSHIPS, AND PR!!! This is my bread and butter, the stuff I live for in my public library. Planning programs (another word for library events), doing outreach to underserved community members, and repairing and building relationships with users is my catnip. It’s what I get to do every day with t(w)eens at my day job, and now I get to talk about it in terms of my other love, Romancelandia. Okay. deep breath. LET’S DIVE IN!!

Here’s how some libraries are providing services to Romancelandia outside of the collection as of 2013:

Promote Romance Novels Chart

(The table is from the 2013 article Promoting Romance Novels in American Public Libraries from May 10, 2013 in Public Libraries Online)

Displays and readers’ advisory services make up the bulk of the services provided to romance readers. Only 7% of libraries are engaging in “other” promotion, 6% have romance-oriented book discussion groups, 13% have romance author programs, and 4% have “other” programming. So there’s some work to be done to get these numbers up, but that gives librarians the incredible chance to use this latitude to get creative with programming and promotion!

Programs

Library services include more than having a relevant collection for users to check out. They also include dynamic and customized programming for their community users. Having programs deepens relationships between folks already engaged with the library, brings in new users, connects users and local organizations, and forms relationships between community members. It also tells users that their library cares about them and their needs. It’s an essential service in 21st century libraries, and cements their place in communities.

There’s incredible potential for librarians to flex their creativity when it comes to planning romance programming. Here are some examples of libraries and organizations serving romance readers with programs and events:

  • Romance, Wine, and Chocolate: Readers can sample wine, chocolate, and mingle with their favorite authors at the Chickasaw Branch Library in Orlando, Florida.
  • Romance Reader Night: Romance readers can sip on mocktails, eat snacks, enter giveaways, visit a blind date with a book station, and chat about all the romance recommendations at the Glenside Public Library.
  • Romance GenreCon: This event is a collaborative one hosted by the Mid-Continent Public Library in Kansas City, MO and a few romance authors. Attendees can purchase books from authors, attend signings, and engage in readers and writers conferences.
  • Romance Readers’ Social: This Texas public library allows readers to mingle with authors and readers, purchase books, nosh on cupcakes, get crafty, and play games.
  • Silent Reading Book Club: Introverts unite! My hometown new and used bookstore with a large romance collection invites folks to read alone, together.
  • Lunch and Love Romance Book Club: The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has a lunch-hour book club where participants can discuss the current book selection and enjoy the company of others during their midday break.
PR & Outreach

It’s not enough to do The Things. You have to be seen doing and promoting The Things. You might have the most fantastic romance collection and programming slate the world, but if you haven’t repaired or formed relationships with your local Romancelandia, does it do any good? Depending on the size of the library and resources available, this can be 100% scaleable. It can be as simple as thoughtful and intentional displays, bookmarks, and romance readers’ advisory webpages. If staff and resources allow, the engagement can be taken to a bigger level.

There’s something of a mantra within the library world: meet your user/patron/community where they are. In a nutshell, make your services and approach to librarianship mold to the user and community, not the other way around. A key to building relationships with Romancelandia folk in the community is finding where they are and supporting them. Is there a romance convention at a bookstore in town? What about a public romance book club that meets at the local coffee shop? Ask around, look around, and show up for Romancelandia. Finding your local librarians at a romance convention is going to be a marked shift in user perception of public libraries’ relationship to the genre. Outreach acts as a marketing arm for the library, a relationship-building tool, and flips the script. Your public library is no longer antithetical to romance, they’re a part of the Romancelandia community.

Want to read more about what informed this article?
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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