Are Libraries Good for Authors?

Kristin Laughtin

Guest blogger: Kristin Laughtin

Listen: there are buildings in every city that let you read books without cost. Literary pirate vessels? Nope. Though often manned by strange individuals, they’re just libraries. As a long-time library worker, I’m here to dispel the comparison of libraries to piracy and shed light on how much libraries help book sales.

The analogy of libraries to pirates stems from the idea that libraries buy one copy of a book that is then available for anyone to read, causing lost sales. By definition, though, libraries are the exact opposite of pirates. Libraries acquire, through legal channels, all the books they provide. Even if they are loaned many times, they are still paid for.

But people can borrow them for free!

That’s not really true. Tax dollars fund anything public. Patrons contribute a tiny portion of each book’s cost, which gives them the right to borrow, but not own, any of the library’s communal resources. A friend could borrow a book from you or from the library; either way, the author only gets paid for one copy.

But one copy is shared by so many!

This usually isn’t really the case, either. Most library books don’t circulate as much as you think. As few as 6 to 20% of the books drive 80% of the circulation. (Link.) The rest sit on the shelves, if they’re not weeded to make room for new stuff, having been checked out only a few times—or zero.

For popular titles, most libraries buy multiple copies to meet demand. Depending on the size of the library system, they might even buy 50 to 100 copies or more of bestselling titles, especially when you count all formats: hardcover, large print, audio CD, and now e-book.

It’s also a necessity for libraries to buy multiple copies, as books wear out quickly, often after 25 check-outs or so. One copy just won’t last for 1,000 uses.

For e-books, chances are libraries aren’t paying the same $10-per-book you would. They have to purchase lending rights, and the fees get higher as more flexibility is added to the license.

How much?

Publishers count on a significant portion of their revenue from libraries. In 2009, public libraries and educational institutions (which include school and college libraries) bought $14.6 billion of the $40 billion in books sold. Over a tenth of net book sales are to libraries. The absence of libraries would be noticed! (Link.)

But wouldn’t people buy more books if they couldn’t borrow?

Perhaps—there’s nothing to confirm what publishers might have sold. Experience inclines me to think that people who want to buy will do so anyway, and heaviest usage is by those who can’t afford all the books they want. Some might cave and buy what they can’t borrow, but more might pirate instead—in which case the author makes zip.

Libraries also provide a platform for discovery, allowing readers to try an author, see them at an event, or receive a recommendation, before going out to buy all their books. We can’t gauge the cause and effect exactly, but libraries are definitely not a threat to a publisher’s bottom line. They may even drive sales more than hinder them.

As an author, how do you feel about libraries? As a reader, do you use them?

# # #

In addition to being an aspiring SFF writer, Kristin Laughtin works in collection development at a large academic library while completing her MLIS. She serves on the committee for a local literary festival and has lectured on genre fiction at UCLA. You can find her blog at

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  2. Crys on November 9, 2014 at 12:05 AM

    But, the books used in piracy also involve the purchase of a legal copy of the book before it is shared. Someone somewhere had to buy it in order to scan it.

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  4. Kageki on September 5, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    Hosting sites cost money as well and I would say generally someone did buy it in order for it be pirated. I can buy a cd, rip it then share it then I would be acting as my own library at no expense to taxpayers. That is to say what makes you think a pirating site like piratebay doesn’t act exactly like a library? Maybe someone did buy that ebook or cd being shared on there.
    The same argument can also be made in regards to borrowing and discovery. People still buy books and cds even after pirating came onto the scene right?
    There’s nothing compelling about these arguments and all the more reason library are obsolete. Piracy sites are driven by ad revenues and you might as well turn Barnes & Nobles into a library so that people can coveniently purchase the book if they really like it while drinking Starbucks. These alternatives are no different and if not better because it doesn’t rely on taxes.

  5. […] Roney plays a little bit of a Devil’s advocate with his thought experiment in response to this post by Rachelle Gardner. He defends piracy, showing an example where library patrons are worse than your classical digital […]

  6. dj on January 20, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    Libraries are just an older, less efficient way of distributing information to the masses. It’s violating the same “information ownership” rights that online pirates violate, it does so much less effectively so it’s less of a threat to the owner.

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  8. Laura W. on December 30, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    I love libraries so much that I’ve posted about why I love them. 😀 Also, as a writer, it’s a great place to go and write, without having to pay for coffee at a hipster coffee shop.

  9. Colleen Jones on November 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    The library was my safe haven as a kid, a place that I could go to escape into a fantasy world of whatever mystery or adventure I chose to read. (It was also air conditioned, which was great in the hot Winnipeg summers!) I still borrow from the library because I can’t afford to buy books as much as I’d like and I don’t have room to keep more than two bookkcases full in my flat in Cork. Yes, libraries are full of treasures and information. I hope they survive all that’s going on and keep evolving to meet the demands of the digital ages and every generation of kids and adults who can benefit from them.

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  11. Joe Duncko on November 15, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    As a teenager, I don’t use my library much. There are very few things that the library has that I want. First, libraries rarely have the newest novel in a series. Second, if I’m looking for a reference guide, chances are it’s on the internet.

    From a writer’s prospective, libraries are a dying opportunity. With ebook readers and the internet, libraries are becoming less and less of a ground for teenagers (my audience) to hunt for new books. If I can get my stuff in there, great, if I can’t, it’s no big deal to me.

  12. Industry News 13 November 2011 » RWA-WF on November 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    […] To clear up some recently circulating misconceptions—like, public library = pirate’s cove—Rachelle Gardner hosts guest blogger Kristin Laughtin for an explanation of why libraries are good for authors. […]

  13. Debbie Watley on November 12, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I love to browse bookshelves, and I also enjoy to read older books. Many times I find books at the library that my local bookstore doesn’t carry.

  14. Carlo on November 11, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    I grew up frequenting my hometown library. I love libraries. I was upset when my town reduced funding to the library, necessitating the library to reduce their hours. Without libraries, think of how many children wouldn’t grow up to be book lovers who buy books.

  15. Michael K. Reynolds on November 11, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    This is an excellent topic! I posted your article on the Writing Platform Facebook page.

  16. S. F. Roney on November 11, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Great reasoning, and I can’t say I disagree. However, to play devil’s advocate, I’ll say that libraries also don’t have the same advertising/exposure value that libraries have, meaning that in some ways, piracy is helpful to authors.

  17. Cecelia Dowdy on November 11, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    >>>I believe your quote, copied and pasted below, is accurate. I received a letter from a homeless alcoholic woman. She told me that my book touched her life. She got a copy from the public library. I doubt she’d be able to buy all of the books that she wanted.

    Experience inclines me to think that people who want to buy will do so anyway, and heaviest usage is by those who can’t afford all the books they want.

  18. Samantha Warren on November 11, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    If all libraries were to suddenly up and close, I honestly believe that it would result in a decrease of book purchasing. I know there are a lot of people like me out there– unwilling to spend such a large chunk of their small budget on a book they were only able to read the first page or two of in a store or online. Libraries have played a key roll in many of my book purchases. I have been able to discover new authors and new series which I then went on to buy. I know without the library, I would not have bought those books. If someone reads a book at a library and loves it enough to want to read it again, or to read the sequels, there is a good chance they’ll then buy it. And that wouldn’t happen without libraries.

  19. […] Are Libraries Good for Authors? […]

  20. Kristen Joy Wilks on November 11, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Most of the time I will only buy a book if I have already checked it out from the Library. Therefore no libraries, would equal very few sales to me.

  21. Jenny E. on November 11, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    I just finished reading your post and don’t have time this morning to read all the comments. I apologize if I am repeating what everyone else is already saying.

    This was an excellent article. Years ago while in college I worked for the public library. I LOVE the library, and I am raising children who LOVE the library. You did a wonderful job of answering many questions and putting to rest a ridiculous comparison. Well done!

  22. Sally Bradley on November 11, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    I’ve always seen libraries as another sales option. It’s what I do when I want to read a book I can’t buy–ask my library to buy it for me. It’s another sale for the author which is exactly what it would have been had I bought it, and often the library buys more books from the author after that.

    I had no idea, though, that libraries represented that big of a market. All the more reason to sell to them.

  23. Cynthia Robertson on November 10, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Excellent post, Kristen! I adore libraries. When I was growing up I couldn’t afford to buy as many books as I wanted to read. I spent a lot of time in the library of my home town. Thank you for this post in their defense.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:54 PM

      Thank you for contributing to their defense with your support, as well. We need as many advocates as we can get!

  24. Kathy on November 10, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    Thanks for this informative and encouraging post. And thanks for taking the time to reply to so many comments. I don’t see many writers doing that, and I appreciate it.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:53 PM

      I wanted to show my appreciation for everyone who took the time to comment and to Rachelle for giving me this opportunity. I can see why most people don’t do it for every comment, though–it’s exhausting! Thanks for stopping by!

  25. Katherine Bolger Hyde on November 10, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    An author who doesn’t support libraries is like a painter who disapproves of museums. It’s just ridiculous. I could not exist without my library, and I wouldn’t dream of depriving thousands of potential readers of the opportunity of reading my books just because they can’t afford them.

    Although I would love to be able to support all my fellow authors by buying their books, the simple fact is that I can’t afford to. I borrow whatever the library has available and buy whatever I can’t get hold of any other (legal!) way—but only if I feel my life would be seriously impoverished by not reading that particular book.

  26. Tammi T. on November 10, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    I love books and I believe that love was first developed through my elementary school library. I’m currently a regular patron of my local library (along with my boys who have a great love for it as well).

    My bookshelves at home are full and overflowing, and as much as I wish that I could make room for every book I’ve read and loved, I can’t. However, I do see the library as benefiting to authors. My local library has offered writing workshops presented by local authors (for which they are paid). There are a lot of reference books that can be used for research by authors. Also, there has been many times that I’ll read a book and love it (wishing I had room to add it to my collection) but decide to purchase it as a gift for a friend or loved one! So though I might not be the recipient, a purchase is still made which benefits the author.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:51 PM

      Oh, interesting! I’ve not run across a writing workshop being offered by a library before, at least not one devoted to creative writing. (Being an academic library, we have plenty of essay- and proposal-writing workshops offered by our librarians.) I love libraries that have a broader artistic vision.

  27. Jill on November 10, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    Libraries are my refuge. What would I do w/o them? I’m always discovering new authors there–people whose books I might later buy (partially because it takes my library a long time to acquire new books).

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      It’s unfortunate your library takes a while. I’m sure they’d get them faster if they could. Do they have an interlibrary loan service? You could try that avenue (although if the book is really popular, the lending libraries might not have a spare copy either).

  28. Caroline Starr Rose on November 10, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Libraries are gold and an author’s best friend. It is a joy to be able to borrow books for free. Strangers trust I’ll bring back their books? I can request anything I’d like and have it set aside, waiting for me? My children can experience a wide variety of programs, books, and the like? What’s not to love?

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      I laughed at the part about strangers trusting you. I’m imagining trying to convince some random person on the street to let me borrow a book. But yep, that’s what we’re here for!

  29. Ramona Golden on November 10, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    I usually buy a book only after I have read it (or another one by the same author) at my local library. For me the Library is where I “test drive” a book to see if I should add it to my collection.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:47 PM

      Nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing worse than buying a book and then not enjoying it. (OK, there are plenty of things that are worse, but it’s still not a pleasant experience.)

  30. Alisa LaGroue on November 10, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    I am thankful for my library for many of the reasons you mentioned. It’s good to know how much libraries benefit the publishing world. Thanks for the information.

  31. Voni Harris on November 10, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Lend–or give away the book–it’s the same. There is “gleaning” to be done in every field of endeavor, writing included. It’s just an author’s way of allowing people to glean in our fields, as Ruth literally did in Boaz’s field.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:37 PM

      Even buying used books doesn’t benefit the author; the payment goes to the bookstore alone. It worked out well for both Ruth and Boaz, so who’s to say it won’t for writers as well?

  32. Danielle La Paglia on November 10, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    I use libraries as a testing ground for trying new authors. I’ve even read an entire series through my library then gone out and purchased it for my home collection. I like owning my own copies because I’ll re-read passages or entire books on a regular basis, but I don’t always want to put out the money for a book I won’t like. If I really like the author, they’ll get my money anyway.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      That’s a great way to look at it. We provide a testing ground with a more hands-on experience than Amazon and none of the awkwardness that comes from trying to test a book in a bookstore for more than a few moments.

  33. Dan Lawlis on November 10, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    We have a beautiful library in our city. It promotes reading in general just by being an interesting and attractive place. I want to go there and subsequently, am inspired to read. It can be a social thing like a club or a convention, and a positive meeting place for friends.. You see that there are other people that love what you love.

    As far as sales. If I love a book, usually I want to own it myself. I’ll go out and buy the book just to support the author.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

      Libraries can fulfill other functions than book warehouses, and I’m glad yours is doing it so well. In the end, it all leads to increased reading.

  34. Lise Saffran on November 10, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    As a reader AND a writer, I can’t imagine a universe in which I didn’t love libraries (it’s been great fun to see all the libraries in which my novel has landed). It’s just a little bit more difficult when someone comes up on the street and says delightedly (I love your book and I’ve lent it to 20 of my friends!). I say “a little bit” because I’m still thankful for the readers!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

      Honestly, I understand the feeling (in theory, at least, since I’m not published). We would all love to support ourselves off our writing. Just hope that some of those 20 friends went out and bought their own copies later.

  35. HopefulLeigh on November 10, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I love, love, love the library! I’m a heavy reader and there’s no way I could financially support my habit. If I love a book I borrowed from the library, I will eventually buy it so I can have my own copy. As a writer, I’m happy with any way people can get to my words and the library is a legitimate channel.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:31 PM

      I am glad you recognize this!

  36. Julie Hedlund on November 10, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I would not want to live in a world without libraries! I never, even for a moment, thought that libraries were bad for authors. Having one of my books in libraries around the world would be a dream come true!

    Long live libraries!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:31 PM

      I’m glad to be preaching to the choir!

  37. Veronica on November 10, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    As a pre-published author, the dream I fantasize about most often is seeing children excitedly pluck my book off the library shelves. In a bookstore, books are commodities, where the lowest price is often the deciding factor in which book to pick up. In a library, books are precious treasures, and there’s no price limit. I can’t wait to see my book bring laughter and smiles to the children who find it on their local library shelves!

    As a reader/book buyer, I love libraries, because they give me a chance to get to know a writer’s style before deciding where to spend my monthly book budget. When I find a book I adore at the library, I’ll go searching for other titles by that author at the book store. And when I find a book in the library that I want to read more than once, I always have to buy it for my home library, so I don’t run the risk that it might be already checked out the next time I want to lose myself in its pages!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      That’s a very good point. People may feel more comfortable reading that expensive hardback in a library than paying for it in a bookstore (and as many of the comments testify, they may cave and go buy it later, or buy other books by that author, or wait for the paperback, etc.). I think I’d be just as happy to learn someone read my book in a library and loved it as I would be if they bought it.

  38. Kate Larkindale on November 10, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    I could not live without my library. I read about 2-3 books a week, and I just couldn’t afford to buy that many books. Not to mention all my bookshelves are already groaning, so where would I put them?

    I buy books I absolutely love, the ones I know will go on my ‘re-read at least once a year’ list, but for my basic reading diet, I use the library.

    Plus, it’s a great place to go and write!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      I wouldn’t have room for the shelves if I bought all the books I want to read.

      I haven’t been able to try writing in a library yet. I think it’s because I work in one and am in grad school for library science, so it’s hard for me to switch out of work mode and into fiction mode, even if I’m not at *my* library.

  39. Julie Nilson on November 10, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Libraries create voracious readers! My parents couldn’t possibly have afforded to buy me all of the books that I wanted to read, so without libraries, I wouldn’t have read nearly as much, and probably wouldn’t have grown to love reading as much as I do. While I do use the library a LOT, I also buy a lot of books.

    Same goes for my kids now–they borrow huge piles of books from the library every month (I have to carry the little one’s bag because there are so many books in it that she can’t carry it!). That means that they often ask their grandparents and Santa and others to *buy* books for them as gifts!

    So I say: Libraries beget book sales. Libraries FTW!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:22 PM

      Definitely! The idea of buying any future kids I may have the number of books they will devour (if they are anything like me) is terrifying. I’ll be so glad for libraries then!

  40. Joe Pote on November 10, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Wow! This topic has generated a lot of comments which I’ve enjoyed reading!

    I’m not the first to say this, but libraries and used books are where I first learned to love reading.

    Even my reading at home was of books purchased by my parents years prior to my reading them, so it was still similar to the library concept of adding another reader without adding another book purchase.

    Today, I rarely visit the library, but frequntly buy books.

    Anything that fuels love of reading will ultimately result in adding to the number of readers who buy books.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      Very good point. Like I’ve said in a few comments already, libraries are an investment in several ways. One is creating future buyers. People who use libraries heavily at one point in their life may well buy many books later when they can afford them.

  41. P. J. Casselman on November 10, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Brick and mortar libraries are definitely good for authors. Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and whoever wrote that book on marine biology in Kansas. For breathing writers, most libraries do not cut deep into sales. By the time the library gets the book, the movie is already airing on HBO. Unless the book is on the NYTBSL, we have little to fear.
    E-libraries are another matter. These can provide free books in unlimited quantity as it costs .001 dollars to store them. As soon as a publisher or site gives them a book list, they can download in mass and pop the list up without even reviewing the material. Click-PING! Here’s your sales: .001.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:18 PM

      That’s not true for e-books at all! As I mentioned in my post, e-books are very expensive to acquire. The e-copy usually costs more than the print, and you have to pay for lending rights. Most of these limit it to one check-out at a time, just like print books, unless you pay a very high amount to provide access to simultaneous users, which is usually only done for very popular journals that are being used for research. In addition, it costs far more than you think to store that material, whether the library is doing it itself or (more commonly) paying a vendor to host the material. It’s a huge misconception that electronic information is cheap and easy.

      And I’d say authors on the NYTBSL have even less to fear than mid-list authors, etc., as they are selling in huge quantities outside of libraries anyway. Heck, more people might go buy them if there’s a long waiting list at the library!

      • P. J. Casselman on November 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        Kristin, you’re referring to municipal libraries, or? Have you seen the growing number of mom and pop E-libraries on the internet? Also, obtaining E-Books is only expensive if you pay list prices. Often the E-pub sites give libraries books at no cost with no copy restrictions. (eg. see Rachelle’s post and comments yesterday.)
        You mentioned that people’s tax dollars is how they pay for the books at the library. True, but how does that put food on the author’s table?

        Also, the point of the NYTBS author comment was that the average author’s work reaches the library after most of the sales have been made. The NYTBS group is in the library before the ink dries.

        On a side note. I enjoyed your post and like the way you write. 🙂

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 5:31 PM

          Yes, I’m referring to traditional academic and public libraries. I’m not too familiar with the mom-and-pop phenomenon you mention. Working in a traditional library, buying in large quantities through publishers or third-party vendors, we definitely don’t get e-books for cheap or free. We often pay above list price to get lending rights. I’ll have to look into these mom-and-pop e-libraries. What kind of selection do they offer? I’m not sure which post or comment you were referring to that indicated e-pubs were giving libraries books for free. I’m assuming you’re referring to a different phenomenon than the Kindle Lending Library, which is backed by a giant corporation. Can you share any examples?

          You mentioned that people’s tax dollars is how they pay for the books at the library. True, but how does that put food on the author’s table?
          That was the whole point of this post. The food is put on the table by 1) the library buying lots of copies, and 2) people going out and buying the books they love anyway, as many people are proclaiming in the comments, in addition to the normal sales through bookstores. At the very least, authors do get paid for the library copies, which I mentioned make up quite a sizable proportion of book sales.

          Of course, I’m not sure how authors put food on the table if e-pubs are giving away their books for no cost, either.

          Also, the point of the NYTBS author comment was that the average author’s work reaches the library after most of the sales have been made.
          This probably varies by library, but everywhere I’ve worked or visited has been very good about getting books on the shelves quickly after release. Maybe this isn’t so for authors who build up sales over time before earning a place on the list, but once demand for that author starts appearing, libraries try to get the books as quickly as possible. Of course, as has been said ad nauseum, it depends on budget. My aunt is a librarian at a tiny rural library with almost zero funding, so honoring patron requests requires a lot more juggling on her part.

          And thanks! This is turning out to be quite the interesting discussion.

          • P. J. Casselman on November 10, 2011 at 7:44 PM

            Hi Kristin,

            Here’s an example of the kind of libraries that are popping up all over. Notice they are mostly foreign, so pirating may be a source of their books.

            I love the local libraries in America, so my comment was probably a residual from the piracy discussion. The comment on the previous blog was referring to the practice of companies of selling 4 books for the price of 3 or even 4 for 2. Hence, there are free books.

            Hopefully this doesn’t sound patronizing, but you remind me of my daughter studying at Emerson. She loves a good debate too. That’s high praise from a dad. LOL I decided to follow your blog and watch for your writings.

          • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 8:46 PM

            It’s not letting me reply to your latest comment, so I’ll reply to the one before it.

            I did a quick search through the site you listed and found a mixed bag. Some are hosting public domain ebooks, some are hosting self-published books that the authors don’t seem to mind distributing for free, and some are torrents (pirating). In any case, these generally aren’t what libraries acquire, as we tend to like going through traditional channels to make sure there’s nothing fishy about our collecting. We certainly might link to collections of free, public domain ebooks online, though, such as Google Books.

            As for the “buy __, get __ free” deals, they aren’t given to libraries all too often. Perhaps for print books, since we do order from outlets like Amazon sometimes too, but ebooks in general are bought title-by-title or as part of large, expensive packages. I imagine as ebooks get more popular, though, that we’ll see lots of new models coming out and more variety in the way libraries can acquire these materials. Actually, we already are, but it’s a slow process.

            I do love a good debate sometimes! I’m sure we both learned things. I love when people stumble upon my blog, and hope we’ll have more exchanges in the future.

  42. J.L. Mbewe on November 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Hi! I love libraries. We don’t have leeway in our budget to buy books like I would like to. I have a long list of ones that I want to buy and will buy eventually. As a reader, I like to check out and explore new books and if I fall in love, I will buy them and tell others about them. Some day I hope to have a house with a room just set aside for books. 🙂 Anyways. Libraries are an invaluable resource. They help promote literacy and provide an opportunity to cultivate the love of reading. Like someone mentioned earlier, little kids learning to love books at the library will grow up to be adults who buy books. Libraries also make books available to those who cannot afford them. As a child, my family couldn’t afford them and I was able to read whatever I could get my hands on because of a library at my school. I remember something about Abraham Lincoln and the important role libraries played in his life. Libraries can change the world. Once my little ones get a little older, I plan to get involved at my local library and help cultivate the love of reading.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      They’re definitely an investment in the educational and cultural well-being of society. Great comment!

  43. Joanna Aislinn on November 10, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    My local library made it possible for me to foster my love of reading. No way my parents could have afforded the 10 books I took out time I went, lol. (They had to provide the transportation and late fees I somehow acquired almost every time.)

    Exposure to my first ‘live author’ (Leanne Pappas–Eternal Love) at my local library also fired the inspiration that I could become a writer myself. And attending a childhood friend’s launch party at another library (Paul Morabito–Plane Hell) fueled me some more.

  44. Elizabeth Varadan on November 10, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    I love libraries, and I use them. And I buy lots of books. Sometimes reading a library book introduces me to a story I simply must have fore my own. And, as a writer who wants to sell books, I especially want my books to be read by readers out there. I hate to think of someone who can’t afford to buy a book not being able to read one at all.

  45. Amy Sorrells on November 10, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Love. Me. Some library!!! Definitely my favorite place on earth outside my home. And I can confirm they help me buy books, because if I really, really love it, I’ll buy it. I love libraries as a mama, too. My kids started going to the library at least once–usually more–times a week two weeks after they were born, which is as soon as my OB & the pediatrician said we should go out. Now, my oldest son checks out the entire Clive Cussler section at a time. Even his Kindle hasn’t extinguished his love for the library. So, yeah, arrrrrrr, Matey, my whole family and I are the Jack Sparrows of the library in our town!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      We’re always open to those kinds of pirates.

      I don’t have any children, but if I ever do, I can’t imagine not depending on a library. Reading to me as a kid was one of the best things my parents ever did, but I can’t imagine being able to afford the sheer number of books I’ll need to do the same thing to my own kids!

  46. Michelle Roberts on November 10, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I use the library a lot myself. I read so many books in a month (think between 4 and 7) that I would spend everything I earned on books if I bought every one I read. Also, I use the library because I like to try new authors and genres, and if I don’t like the book I haven’t wasted any money on it. That said, I do buy the books of an author if I really like the series or their writing. An example of this would be Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, and Suzanne Collins.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:09 PM

      Libraries are good places to experiment with new authors and genres, and unlike bookstores, you’re not inconveniencing anyone if you sit down with a stack of books for a few hours!

  47. Marcus Brotherton on November 10, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    This was an informative post. Thanks for this insider’s view.

  48. Emily Wenstrom on November 10, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    I am a huge advocate for libraries. First as a reader, because I read a ton (two to four books a month in general) and as mentioned in this article I simply cannot afford to purchase every book I read. But when I like a book, I think the author usually gets a lot of payoff from me as a reader—I tweet and make Facebook posts about books I like, I talk about them to my friends and sometimes I blog about them. I’m a real PR machine for writers I love. And I’m not the only one who does that. Which is why I am also a huge advocate for libraries as an author.

    I’m also a huge library advocate just as a citizen of humanity. Anyone who’s read Farenheit 451 knows how critical access to literature is for the good of society.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      Goodness, yes. Libraries are devoted to free access and are staunchly anti-censorship. I’d be terrified if we lacked an institution like that.

  49. Adam on November 10, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Are there really people out there who equate libraries with piracy? Seriously?

    Libraries are an unknown author’s best friend. Easy to set up books signings, discussions, etc…and curious readers who can try an author without buying are more likely to expand their reading habits. I know I’ve discovered several new favorite authors because I ran across their books on a random library search. In may cases this has compelled me not only to buy the book I read but to buy others by that author I can’t get at the library.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      The comment that sparked this post was the first of its kind I’d seen, but sometimes it’s good to make a benefit known before people start questioning it. I’m glad you see so many of the good points!

  50. Beth MacKinney on November 10, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    We check out hundreds of books from our local library; however, we also buy books. I tend to read them in the library first, and then if it’s a book I love, I buy it. (Which is why I’m surrounded by shelves and stacks of books. My kids are the same way. Usually books are at the top of their Christmas and birthday lists.)

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      Same way! My mom used to ask me if I wanted anything else for Christmas or my birthday because she thought my lists needed more variety.

  51. Beth Ziarnik on November 10, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Not only do I love libraries and use them, but after reading a book, I might buy a copy for myself or to give to someone as a gift. I often recommend it to others, and some of those prefer to buy rather than borrow.

    Libraries are a boon. They not only have mercy on those who can’t afford to buy books, but they help spread the word.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      Exactly. They’re giant advertisements for books!

  52. Ruth Chambers on November 10, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I believe libraries are among the most generous gifts bestowed on us. I can’t find enough words of praise or thanks for access to their world of books. I’ve said many times before, I grew up in a small town without a library. I was exposed to my first book when I started first grade. When I was older I had access to a small school library begun by an enterprising citizen, but we didn’t have a public library until I was in high school. Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, didn’t have a library–due to racial prejudice–until sometime in the 1950s, I believe. My dad had a job and there was food on the table, but without books we were still impoverished. Today the tables are turned. People usually have access to libraries, but too many don’t have jobs or food on the table.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:05 PM

      Even libraries are threatened in times like these. It’s sad, because I think everyone has a right to food, health, and knowledge.

  53. Ann Bracken on November 10, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    It seems I share the opinion of most posters here, libraries are wonderful. I practically lived in the one at college. The librarians are a great resource when I want to find something new, often pointing me to an unknown author they feel deserves more attention.

    In truth, if I like the book well enough, I’ll go out and purchase it. I’ll even purchase copies for family members who might like it. Sometimes that first read came because of a librarian.

    I hope and pray my book one day makes it to the shelf of a library. I’ll probably take a picture if that happens. Then I’ll cross my fingers that someone actually checks it out.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:04 PM

      I’m glad to see someone appreciating the librarians! We have to get a lot of training to do our jobs, and even if we don’t know everything, we try our best to point people to reliable information!

      I’ll do the same thing if I ever see my book on the shelves, and probably post it everywhere with giddy emoticons all over the place.

  54. Eileen Astels on November 10, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I’m definitely for libraries. I don’t generally use them for fiction reads, though, but I do for research work.

    Even if it did come down to libraries cutting sales, I would still be for them. We need to have a giving heart. And wouldn’t it be sad if only the affluent could afford to get hold of wonderful literature and needed resources to broaden their knowledge?

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      I agree that they provide so much public good that it justifies potentially decreased sales, but I find it reassuring to know how much libraries help the bottom line anyway.

  55. Janet Bettag on November 10, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    I love libraries. Some folks can’t afford to buy every book they want to read, so the library offers an author exposure they otherwise might not receive.

    For those of you who share my affection for libraries, here’s a blog I wrote about a very special one.

    It’s ironic that today’s topic is related to libraries because I took a vacation day today just so I can go visit the one I describe in my blog. It’s about an hour from my home, so my plan is to head that way for a late lunch, followed by lunch at the most adorable little coffee shop and a couple of hours of writing. When the librafy opens, I’m going to go there just to breathe in the aroma of real leather-bound volumes and soak up the history that the place simply oozes.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      That library sounds intriguing! If I’m ever in Clarksville, I will be sure to check it out.

  56. Ben Whiting on November 10, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I understand why people are asking the question, but I’m not sure it is the important one. If libraries benefit society and hurt authors, perhaps the system can be modified or improved, but libraries should stay. Libraries are not for authors, whether they help them or not, and the culture at large, which is the target of a library, is more important than a single slice of the population.

    • Timothy Fish on November 10, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      In other words, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” In spite of Mr. Spock’s claim that logic clearly dictates that, logic neither makes it clear nor simple. Countless wars have started on the principle that the needs of the few is just as important as the needs of the powerful. Just because libraries are a good thing for the many does not mean that they justify the few being harmed.

      • Karen on November 10, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        Libraries do not harm authors. Not only are authors are compensated, but more importantly, libraries are where readers are born. They are the great equalizer, where children of every economic stripe can fall in love with the written word and develop literacy skills that will last a lifetime. As a child, I lived in the library. Now I can afford to buy any book I want and I do, because I am much better at borrowing than returning.

        As writers, it is in our best interests to support places that foster a long term love of reading. Worrying about a few sales is short-sighted. Think of all the children who have grown up on libraries and are now book buyers. Restricting book access to only those who can afford to buy them would ensure many people never become readers. Don’t blind the eyes that read you – your bank account will be poorer for it in the end.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      It’s not a concern I’ve seen raised often, so this post is really more a preemptive strike. Still, even if one was willing to harm the few to suit the many, isn’t it nice to know it really isn’t a threat?

  57. Amy Sisson on November 10, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I am (in no particular order) a voracious public library user, an author, and a librarian. I believe libraries are an essential component of democracy and educated society.

    Because my house is full to overflowing with books, and my reading tastes are becoming slightly more particular, these days I often check out a book from the library first, and then buy it if I love it. I make exceptions for authors whom I completely trust and buy first without going through the library, because I already know I will love those books. Having the library lets me be more adventurous and sample more diverse books without risk.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      I believe libraries are an essential component of democracy and educated society.
      I think one has to be.

      I’m much the same way in my philosophy of buying. I live in an apartment and realized space was becoming an issue, so libraries and my Kindle are becoming all the more important to me!

  58. Timothy Fish on November 10, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    Now that I’m out of college, I hardly ever go to a library (unless you count the one at church), though I loved spending time in the library in college. These days, I buy most of the books I read. From the standpoint of the public good, libraries are a good thing. It is important for all people of all social classes to have access to information.

    But as a writer and publisher, I can’t help but feel disappointment when a reader chooses to borrow from the library instead of making the purchase. I suppose I’m happy that people are reading my books, but it means so much more to me when people want a copy for their very own. An when people come to me and ask me to sign their book, that means so much more to me. Sure, libraries are great, but what we all really want is to be loved.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      It’s pretty typical for library use to drop off after college, as people in their twenties get jobs and begin buying the things they want, rather than borrowing. It tends to pick up again in middle- to later-life.

      I wouldn’t be too disappointed if someone borrows rather than buys one of your books. Like many of the comments have testified, a lot of people buy books after reading them at the library. Even if they can’t afford to do that, though, it doesn’t mean the love for your work isn’t there.

  59. Christina Baglivi Tinglof on November 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I wrote my first newspaper article–long hand in a notebook–while sitting in a college library! I always donate a copy of my most recently published books to my local library.

  60. Cherie Reich on November 10, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    As a librarian, I love libraries, and it was through libraries that I found my love of reading.

    As an author, I support libraries. True, who doesn’t like to sell thousands of books (or more) and make money at what you love to do (write), but I want readers almost more than sales. So many books I buy are from authors I first read from library books. In the end, I’d hate to think someone who wanted to read my book couldn’t because they couldn’t afford to.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:52 PM

      Exactly. I’d prefer to be read than rich. I don’t ever expect to make much money on writing anyway, and if I do, I will treat it as a pleasant surprise and be glad my words are accessible through many different venues.

  61. joan Cimyotte on November 10, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon here but my experience of late with the beautiful library in downtown Denver has made me a person who would rather go to the dentist than that library. It was a brand new facility several years ago, just an amazing building. For the last several years it has become a homeless shelter. I feel for the homeless, I do. But when every study table had a person parked there all day and the house computers were all being occupied it made it difficult to use the filing system. The last time I was in there I found the computers were broken down and not usable. Let’s not even mention the creepy feeling I got when I wanted to use the restrooms. I realize this is a problem for Denver. I think they do not know what to do. Maybe I’m the only one that has a problem with it or maybe there aren’t enough people using the library to notice. The thing is, I can find a lot of research information in the comfort of my home using my little lap top and the internet. Things have changed. I choose to buy a book more than barrow a book.

  62. Kay Day on November 10, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I’ve always been a library patron. As a writer, I can only hope that someday I will see my book on the library shelves!
    I write so that people will read what I’ve written and to know that many people are reading one copy of my book is exciting to me. Besides, if people are reading it and liking it then people will be buying it, too.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      I’m the same way. I care less about the potential sales lost, and just hope people will someday read my words.

  63. Lindsay Harrel on November 10, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    I’ve loved the library since I can remember. I even seriously considered becoming a librarian. As a kid, I’d go to the library and stay for hours–and check out something like 20 books each time.

    Like others have said, libraries are a great way to discover new authors.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      What did you end up becoming instead? I always loved libraries, but ended up sort of stumbling into librarianship myself.

      • Lindsay Harrel on November 10, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        Kristin, I ended up going to school for journalism and became an editor. I am also beginning to write my first novel.

        I think I chose not to pursue library science because I loved libraries so much and didn’t want them to become associated with work–purely pleasure! 🙂 But I am very grateful for librarians, that’s for sure.

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:52 PM

          That can be a challenge! Since I’m working full-time and in grad school in the same field, my love for libraries is definitely tested at times. I still love them and see a lot of value in them, though, or I wouldn’t be doing this.

          • Lindsay Harrel on November 10, 2011 at 7:27 PM

            Well, that’s definitely good! Are you wanting to work in any particular type of library when you’re done with grad school? University? Public? Etc.?

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 7:59 PM

          Hmm, it doesn’t seem to want to let me reply to your latest comment.

          I mostly want to continue working in collection development or reference, but I’m open to the kind of institution. I’m thinking it might be interesting to try a public library since I’ve been at a university for a while, but we’ll have to see what jobs are open next year.

  64. Connie Almony on November 10, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    I think libraries are good for authors. In fact, I’ve seen many discussions on developing platforms highlight getting your book on library shelves. I have a personal Christian fiction “lending ministry,” in which the goals include helping Christian authors get more exposure, in addition to helping readers find authors they will buy in the future. The point is to get readers to know about what’s out there. Many don’t know the breadth of Christian fiction that’s out there.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      Very true. And how awesome that you’ve started your own mini-library service!

      • Connie Almony on November 10, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        And it’s working too. I have fellow homeschooling moms who are now newly excited about several different authors they never would have known about before. One was so excited, she and her daughter lent my books out to friends and now they are excited too.

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:58 PM

          That is so fantastic, and rather heart-warming.

  65. Marla Taviano on November 10, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    The library is my favorite place on earth. All the reading I want! For free! Oh, that every library had a copy of each of my published books.

  66. Rose Gardener on November 10, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Visiting my local library every week was a habit instilled in me early in childhood and only stopped when I could afford to buy books to keep. I then frequented book shops and stocked my shelves with collections of my favourite books so I could read them again at my convenience. I think libraries drive sales- heck, even charity shops drive sales- I discovered a few good authors there too, bought for pennies initially and later replaced by new copies to keep.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      That’s a good point. Library use early in life helps build life-long literacies and habits, getting people invested in books so that they’ll support the publishers directly later.

  67. BK Jackson on November 10, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    I love libraries and it doesn’t bother me in the least that the same book gets borrowed over and over.

    I can’t afford to buy all the books I want and quite frankly, I use the library to weed out books I’m not sure if I want. But if I get a book at the library and love it, I will buy my own copy (usually applies to non-fiction. Now that I have a Kindle I refuse to buy fiction in paper).

    I still do most of my research through the library (they’ve got some awesome books in the rare books room and closed stacks), though that’s getting harder and harder because the current library hours only cater to the unemployed or second shift workers. If you have a day job, good luck with finding the library open when you need it, unless you can squeeze a library run in on Saturday.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:45 PM

      It’s a good place to try out authors before spending $10-ish on one of their books, for sure.

      Most libraries aren’t happy about having such limited hours, but funding has been slashed so much everywhere that it’s a necessity, and sometimes even mandated by the powers that be. Yet another reason to pray for the economy to turn around!

      Does your library have access to any online databases? If so, there is often a way to access them from outside the library, by signing in with your library card number or something similar. That could at least help you get some research done when the library is closed.

      • BK Jackson on November 10, 2011 at 2:25 PM

        Oh, I totally understand the reduction of library hours. What makes no sense is their choice of what hours to be open.

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 2:30 PM

          It can be a little puzzling. I’m lucky enough to live in an area that wasn’t hit as hard, and at least the major branches of the local public system are open into the early evenings some days and in the afternoon on both weekend days. The academic library where I work adjusts its hours according to student needs (open longer during heavy test periods, for example). I understand wanting library staff to have somewhat standard working hours, too, but it does surprise me when some systems have no evening or weekend hours whatsoever. I have been hearing about more and more trying to change that, however. Maybe yours will be next!

          You should definitely make your desires known. The more demand there is, the easier a time we have making a case for things.

  68. Wendy on November 10, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    I love this perspective. I’ve always been a strong advocate for libraries. On more than one occasion I’ve taken out a book and have enjoyed it so much I’ve gone out and purchased one or more copies to give as gifts. My local library is also excellent about notifying people about book signings and readings.
    Libraries promote literacy. What’s not to love?
    It’s probably obvious at this point I adore libraries.
    ~ Wendy

    • Cynthia Herron on November 10, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      “…I’ve gone out and purchased one or more copies as gifts…”

      Amen, Wendy! Well said. Everyone benefits–libraries, readers, AND authors!

      Yay for libraries! 🙂

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      Author events are definitely a big thing at some libraries. Like I said in my bio, I work on the author committee for our literary festival, which is coordinated by my academic library and the local public library system. It’s awesome!

  69. Susan L. Anderson on November 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    We live in a rural town and our library is small. It’s always a thrill to find a book I’m looking for on a borrowing shelf. If I enjoy the book, sometimes I’ll have to have it for myself and end up buying it at our local bookstore. I recommend it to others and lend it out. Many times, I can’t find a particular story, so I end up ordering it from Better World Books.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      Not that I’m going to discourage you from buying books, but you might want to see if your library can get some through interlibrary loan. Most libraries are able to borrow from other branches within the system, if not outside it.

  70. Catherine Johnson on November 10, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    I think I single handedly give our library a fresh budget with the amount of picture books I take out every week and those fines – yikes!

    I can see all the time that they are acquiring new books and its fantastic. And if I find a friend’s book on the shelves I move it on the top facing out. Ssh! They have just recently improved their craft book selection too, which means I get more knowledge and can save my pennies for my favourite authors.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      We thank you for it! Well, maybe we want the books back on time. But either way, we’re all winning.

  71. Sharon A Lavy on November 10, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Both husband and I grew up in public library using homes. Our intellect and our lives would have been diminished with out public libraries.

    Yet, our fathers died leaving behind very large personal libraries. And husband and I have three rooms with at least one wall lined with a large bookcase filled to overflowing.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:39 PM

      Sounds like a paradise of a home.

  72. Emily Horner on November 10, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    As a librarian and an author, I feel very strongly about libraries — and that they’re good for authors. Libraries aren’t just about getting books for free. Libraries are about creating readers. That kid who takes out a wagonload of books from the library every week — who could never afford to read that much without libraries — is going to grow up to buy books.

    Librarians are also hugely important as advocates for books. It’s the American Library Association that created the Newbery Award, which is a big driver of sales and also has done a lot to develop American children’s literature as literature. Now that so much bookselling is done through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, where else but a library are you going to get book recommendations from someone who really knows their stuff, someone who’s in love with books?

    A world without public libraries is a world where learning and reading are not accessible to the poor, and I think we’d all be worse off for that.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      Great points about some of the other benefits libraries provide. They’re too many to name, really! At the core of it, libraries are an educational and cultural investment that strengthen societies, in addition to funding the publishing industry.

  73. s.p.bowers on November 10, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    I feel so bad for the poor books that never get checked out.

    I love libraries. I buy books too but I like to read them first. At a library I can try new authors or genres and often that ends up with me buying the book. I also tell others about any books I like.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      Me too, although I think the percentage checked out may be slightly higher at public libraries than at academic. What I notice most often, though, is that certain books simply fall out of favor after a short period, getting a few circs up front but then fading into oblivion.

  74. Erastes on November 10, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    Had a library card from the moment I was allowed to have one – five years old, I think, and never looked back.

    However, don’t you have the PLR in America?

    We UK authors get paid for every time someone checks out our books. I think Canada has it, and Ireland

    • Timothy Fish on November 10, 2011 at 10:07 AM

      No, in the US, if you sell something, you don’t have the right to limit who the new owner transfers (not copy) the item to. Or put another way, the owner who has obtained a book legally can sell or lend it to whomever he wishes without the original owner’s permission.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:33 PM

      No, we don’t have that, like Tim said. I think it’s a Commonwealth thing. It sounds like such an interesting system, though.

    • David Monteath (aka Pat Monteath) on November 10, 2011 at 6:58 PM

      “We UK authors get paid for every time someone checks out our books. I think Canada has it, and Ireland2 as posted by Erastes.

      I can confirm Ireland does have their equivalent to the UK’s PLR system, in fact in recent times anyone who was registered with the PLR here in the UK was invited to submit their details to the Republic of Ireland so that they could also be registered there 🙂

      As I said in my earlier post the PLR runs along similar lines to that of the musicians equivalent the PRS.

  75. kiff on November 10, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    I only joined the library last month because I cannot afford to buy all those books.if a book is 11US on the shelf in the United States it is actually about 25 – 30 US in my local bookstore. a library in a third world country is NOTHING like the ones in the US. While there are thousands of books available, I have been having difficulty being able to find books (at the library or bookstores for purchase) on writing a memoir or actual memoirs to read and identify with writing styles. though there is the resouce to check online for book availabilty at the local library, most times when I get to the library the book is online but not on shelf. it makes the process all too frustrating. so i’m left with no choice but to buy books on amazon and ship them to my grandmother in the US and collect them whenever I next visit.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:32 PM

      The quality of libraries within the US varies as well, but that’s unfortunate you can’t find the books you need. Does your library have a system for suggesting books? Librarians are usually willing to buy what their patrons request if the funding is there, because we do want all our books to circulate.

  76. carol brill on November 10, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    ditto – great info on library economics.

    I’ve loved being in libraries since I was a kid, and with fewer bookstores, their even more important.

    like others, I research different genres and often sample authors before buying…and more than once, I’ve bought a book after I read a library copy because I loved it so much I had to own it.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:31 PM

      Glad you enjoyed! I’m glad so many of the comments are adding to my anecdotal evidence. (Of course, there could be confirmation bias at play, and I doubt many people will come in to claim they’ve never bought a book after reading it at the library.)

  77. Peter DeHaan on November 10, 2011 at 6:59 AM

    Thanks for sharing these realities about libraries. These facts help me see libraries as more supportive to authors than I realized.

    My daughter is a voracious reader, relying exclusively on libraries (and the occasional gift) to feed her insatiable habit. While she doesn’t directly buy books, she does talk about the books she reads, thereby indirectly promoting the authors and their works to other potential book buyers.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      That’s a good point. If your daughter borrows a book and tells two friends about it, one of them might buy it, adding to net sales.

  78. David Monteath (aka Pat Monteath) on November 10, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    In the USA I believe that the library system is set-up a little differently to the UK. Perhaps I am wrong, but I was led to believe that each town/city funded its own library out of its own budget and some are even privately funded, whereas in the UK the library is funded at county level and comes out of our Council Tax. In addition to funding from Council Tax – which goes towards stocking the library and staffing we also have a system called Public Lending Rights (PLR) – somewhat similar to the Performing Rights Society (PRS) which collects money from any public area providing music whether it be Television/Radio/Nightclubs or Dancehalls. This money then goes to whoever is credited to writing the score or lyrics etc. The PLR operates in a similar fashion by collecting money from ANY library/book lending source whether Public or Educational. However that is where the similarity ends insofar as the PLR does not have returns from every single library in the UK, instead it takes a sample from year to year which differs each year. If in a particular library stock return it can be shown that an author’s book has been taken out on loan, for example a sample for 2010 may look at say Tonbridge library (Kent County Council), Wembley (Middlesex County Council) and Leeds (West Yorkshire County Council) and so on and so forth – for perhaps twenty different libraries throughout the UK. The PLR then notes which County Council is responsible for which sampled library. The next step is to look at how many libraries exist in each county in total i.e. for the library in Tonbridge – financed by Kent County Council the PLR would then look at how many Public Libraries existed in Kent County, there may well be a total of 30 or more. They would then look at how often an author’s title went out on loan from Tonbridge library (each time it is loaned out the author provided they are registered with the PLR receives a small amount as payment say £0.01 per loan). Now it could be that Tonbridge library is the only library within that years sample that has that author’s title on the shelf so if it has been loaned out say 30 times in the year the author gets a payment – but again this is where it differs from the PRS. Not only does the author get £0.30 for the 30 times that the book was loaned out, he/she gets 30 x £0.30. The reason for this is the PLR assumes that if only 1 library within there sample batch – which is a very small sample – loans out the book then to baloance the odds they assume that every Public Library, in this case Kent County Council Libraries, all have the book available through their reservation system so in theory each of those libraries could lend the book out 30 times i.e. 900 lendings. It also takes care of the fact that there will be times when a sample is taken within a county but that particular library sampled does not carry a particular author’s title yet in the next own they may have a number of copies constantly out on loan.

    If you are lucky enough to be an author whose books turn up in all libraries sampled then you get quite a decent payment into your bank. One other thing the system only applies to those authors who are registyered with the PLR and also on those titles that have been registered either by the author or on the author’s behalf.

    So libraries are not only a source for research, borrowing books but also can be a second income even if it is small.

    So as an author I vote for the library, not only does it help me reach a wider audience, help me to build a platform through book reading groups but it also provides a small constant income.

    • Timothy Fish on November 10, 2011 at 9:43 AM


      I didn’t make it all the way through your comment, but I will say that in the US there are some libraries that are funded at the city level, there are some that are funded at the county level. The big research libraries are typically on college campuses and their funding may come from a variety of sources either private or government. Of course the Library of Congress is funded by the national government. There are also private libraries. Many churches have libraries. In some of the larger churches, the library may be fairly large. In smaller churches, the library may be little more than a few shelves with books on them.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      Most public libraries in the U.S. are funded on the county level, although some cities have their own library systems as well. Public universities receive funding from the state and school fees, whereas private schools and universities, corporations, churches, all operate out of private funding. There isn’t a PLR system in the U.S., so authors only get paid for the initial sale. The PLR system sounds interesting, though! I’ll have to do some research on it.

  79. Jodi Aman on November 10, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    I LOVE the library and am there two or three times a week. My kids love the library, too. I love books and could not afford to quench my thirst for them if I paid for each one. I do contribute to my library financially though. So I pay it forward. 🙂

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      You’re all the more awesome for it.

  80. Sra on November 10, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    Some girls buy shoes compulsively and own hundreds of pairs. I buy books compulsively. It’s almost like some outside force is controlling me like a zombie.

    When I’m broke, I have to fight really, really hard to not do this. But it’s much easier if it’s just a random book at a store that looks interesting.

    If I’ve read it first, (usually at the library since I work there and am there ALL the time) and love it, then these inhibitions drop almost into the negatives.

    Libraries exponentially increase the amount I personally spend on books, simply because I was able to fall in love with them first. Love makes you do crazy things.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      Libraries exponentially increase the amount I personally spend on books, simply because I was able to fall in love with them first. Love makes you do crazy things.

      I really love this.

  81. Elizabeth M Thompson on November 10, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    I had no idea libraries contributed so greatly to publisher’s revenues. Wow.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      I was a bit surprised myself, even though I work daily with an overall book budget of over a million dollars (plus several million more for serials).

  82. Jane Steen on November 10, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Libraries are the biggest champions of reading on the planet. They are run by people who love books. What’s not to like?

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      Agreed, although I can see why, in this tough economy, some might question their contributions. Unfortunately, they tend to be the first thing to get slashed, and only then do many people realize their usefulness.

  83. haley on November 10, 2011 at 2:30 AM

    one more thing you’ve forgotten…. the library was how I found John Green, Madeline L’Engle, James Patterson, Suzanne Collins, and JK Rowling. I now own tons of their books, bought with my hard-earned money. Yes I’m a broke college student buying books. But I wouldn’t have bought them if I hadn’t found those authors at the library. Also, my librarians give me ARCs, and that’s what gave me a boost in Book Reviewing!

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      I made this point at the end, but it’s definitely deserving of a post of its own. I discovered at least half of my favorite authors through the library, and am quite adamant about buying the rest of their books when I can.

  84. Adam Heine on November 10, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    “[Without libraries,] some might cave and buy what they can’t borrow, but more might pirate instead —- in which case the author makes zip.”

    Even worse, those who would be really hurt without libraries are the poor — those who can’t even pirate books, since a computer and an internet connection costs about the same as buying 10 books per month.

    It’s easy to forget there’s a HUGE class of people for whom libraries are their only means of reading, using the internet, and (in some cases) staying off the streets during the day.

    • Timothy Fish on November 10, 2011 at 9:32 AM

      Good point.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      Very true, and another point for the benefits of libraries.

  85. Nancy S. Thompson on November 10, 2011 at 2:02 AM

    I’m a writer, yes, but I’m a reader foremost & I simply could not afford to buy all the books I want to read. The library enables me to explore new authors I wouldn’t otherwise read, let alone spend my money on. But having said that, if I find an author I love, I will go out of my way to buy every book he or she has ever written. I love the public library & borrow on average 4 books a month. I even blogged about just this subject last spring.

    I think every writer should support their local library.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      Great post! (And your blog’s background is FANTASTIC.)

  86. Shawn Brook Williams on November 10, 2011 at 1:44 AM

    After i gave a copy to my daughter and then my parents, a copy of my self published graphic novel about becoming a parent called FIVE POUNDS & SCREAMING was proudly donated to my local library! I love being able to say by book is available at the Sole to Soul gift shop and/or you can check it out at the library.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      Congrats on your graphic novel! That’s something I look forward to someday–seeing my book on a library’s shelves (or at least in their catalog).

    • Joe Pote on November 10, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      Wow! I hadn’t thought of donating a copy of my self-pub book to the local public library. I donated a copy to my church library, but never even thought about the public library.

      What a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

      • Catherine Johnson on November 10, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        I tried to get my library to put The Doctor’s Lady in their prime spot on the desk and they wouldn’t saying they didn’t take donations. I thought that was cheeky since I intended to take it back at some point lol.

        • Joe Pote on November 10, 2011 at 3:05 PM

          Hah! I like your sense of humor, Catherine! =^)

  87. Olivia Newport on November 10, 2011 at 1:22 AM

    My library card is 15 years old, bent, wrinkled, soft. It barely scans correctly. Every time I got in they offer me a new one, but then I would have to learn a new number! When we bought our house 15 years ago, a huge plus was it’s location–barely half a mile from the library, my second home. Thanks for a great post that put some numbers behind what I’ve always thought anyway–as a reader and a writer.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      Glad to provide objective evidence!

  88. Robin Weeks on November 10, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    I read over 100 books a year. No way can I afford to purchase that many books. My library is absolutely essential to my well-being.

    I do purchase books, though–especially the ones I plan to lend out to all my friends! 🙂

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Definitely! I often buy books just so that I can shove them on other people. Then they go out and buy everything else by that author!

  89. Natalie on November 10, 2011 at 1:00 AM

    My husband, as a teenager, convinced his local library to buy a huge range of fantasy fiction that they would not have otherwise purchased. He could never have afforded to buy so many, but the authors still got paid. Win/win.

    I have, at various times in my life, used libraries a lot to borrow fiction; but I still have a houseful of books. I mainly borrow non-fiction like cookbooks, magazines, and nowadays children’s books and DVDs. I sometimes take my laptop and work there (free wifi) and I take my children to storytime there. I generally visit once a week.

    I will sometimes borrow the first in a series to see if I like it, then end up buying them all if I do. I also request that the library buy books that I recommend.

    As a book reviewer and judge I rarely have to buy books any more anyway, but I still love my local library. I think any institution that enourages people to love books can only be good for the industry, and the authors, in the end.

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Libraries are how I got into fantasy as well. My love for nearly all of my favorite authors, like Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, and Jean M. Auel (OK, she’s not really fantasy, but her books are set in such a mythic past that it feels like fantasy anyway), began through finding their books on the shelves of my middle and high school libraries. I’m pretty sure I read every book in my elementary school’s!

  90. Jo Lawler on November 10, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I would DIE without my library!

    For one thing, I can’t afford to buy every book that I’m curious about. When I find an author I love, then I buy every book of theirs I can get my hands on. But I generally borrow first.

    Also, the non-fiction section is a life-saver for a writer. I couldn’t house all of the books I’ve referred to over the years for the hundred or so hobbies I’ve had, not to mention research for writing.

    What about buying used books? Book swapping? There are so many ways readers can get their hands on books that they either didn’t pay for or didn’t purchase retail. In the end, I think the deciding factor is that an author who writes really fantastic books, ends up staying on the buyer’s shelf. In the end, the quality of the writing is what determines the financial success of the book (right after marketing genius, of course, I think…)

    • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      To be honest, I use libraries in much the same way. I tend to buy a lot of the fiction I read anyway, but borrow most non-fiction, research material, theology, and so on. I’ve been trying to downsize my print collection at home as well, so everything is either bought on my Kindle or borrowed from the library now!

      • Sharon A Lavy on November 10, 2011 at 1:51 PM

        I am more apt to buy the non-fiction as I read and re-read my reference books.

        However, lately, my shelves overflow with fiction too.

        • Kristin Laughtin on November 10, 2011 at 1:56 PM

          Oh, definitely. Anything I’ll read more than once gets bought!