A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Libraries Help Writers Succeed

by on July 12, 2015

With the boom in electronic publication and self-publishing, the world of writing is being transformed. Although traditional publication routes are still available, libraries are creating tools and spaces to make publication more of a reality for their patrons. Such a tool is Library Journal’s SELF-e™ program. This collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard allows independently published authors the ability to provide their work to libraries. Vice Versa it’s a benefit to libraries, too, giving them the tool to showcase the budding writers in their community.

One example of this is the partnership of SELF-e™ and Los Angeles (CA) Public Library (LAPL). LAPL combined resources for writers that the system already had but weren’t centralized. “We decided to create a portal pulling everything together in one place,” says Catherine Royalty, LAPL’s acquisitions manager. As a result, LAPL Writes was born. “We want the LAPL Writes portal to serve both as a useful resource for LA’s aspiring authors and also as a means to facilitate a writing community centered at the library. We hope to incorporate additional programming including a speaker series and projects promoting use of the SELF-e™ platform and the Indie California collection.”

On the other side of the country, the Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library (CCPL) had a prominent place in their writer community. “We already have a robust schedule of free writing programs and workshops, as well as an active author visit program featuring both local and touring authors. We see SELF-e™ as part of the larger picture of libraries moving into facilitating our patrons’ content creation,” says Laurie Kincer, reading communications specialist.

In addition, one of CCPL’s branches will cater specifically to writers, including a computer lab set-up so patrons can learn SELF-e™, laptops with writing software, and meeting spaces used for writing classes and author visits. The newest branch in the system, opening later this year, will have a dedicated Writers Center that houses writing reference books, magazines, a meeting space, and a full-time librarian. The center will also have a separate page on the CCPL website. “We see author and writing events as being vitally linked services. While author events increase the visibility of and excitement around reading, the Writers Center will provide a place where writers at all levels (as well as readers of all interests) can find and form community,” says Kincer.

Both systems have gotten positive feedback from their patrons about their writer-geared services. If thinking about starting such a program at your own library, Royalty has some suggestions. “I would suggest first spending time thinking about what you already have to offer in terms of useful resources for writers, across all your formats and platforms. Most of what is featured on our page was already available through the library, it just needed to be organized in a useful way. I would also caution libraries to take a close look at any of the outside author resources they may link to on their site—we evaluated all our linked web resources for transparency on any fees, etc., and linked to several helpful blogs that address common scams and legal pitfalls in the self-publishing industry.”

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