Special treat, folks. For the rest of the week I’m dedicating this page to an interview with my friend Kevin Smokler, editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in unreaderly times. I met Kevin while sitting on the floor at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. He handed me a slip of paper on which was written directions to dinner that night. “Paper email,” he said.
I’ll be e-interviewing Kevin all this week on subjects writerly and librariany as part of the Virtual Book Tour.
Erica: Kevin, as a long-time advocate of literature and literacy (real literacy, not that “cultural” or “visual” silliness) you and the Librarian Mafia (as we like to call ourselves) have much in common. What do you think librarians can do to improve our services to young writers like those profiled in Bookmark Now?
Kevin: Erica, first off, thank you for having me. The opportunity to speak and share ideas with librarians, the ball and socket joints of our profession, is one I don’t get very often.
A few thoughts: From a professional standpoint, libraries are crucial research centers for us non-fiction authors and many novelists too. But that relationship seems mostly a functional, transitory one, which ends with the book being stocked on the library shelves and the library and staff getting thanked in the acknowledgments. Hundreds of books owe their existence to the research materials afforded by any major library. Why not make hay from that? Why not find the authors using the library in their research and have them give midway seminars about their research and discoveries? Why not have a quarterly reception for all authors using the library to encourage community with the library as the locus? Why not make sure the library is a stop in the publicity efforts for that book? What all this requires, as you can already see, is some way for authors using the library to make themselves known to library staff. Perhaps a special “registration” for authors? There’s probably a less ethically thorny solution I haven’t thought of yet.
Specific to young authors, it comes down to a question of accessibility and convenience. Young folks keep later hours so wouldn’t it be great if fund were available for the library to be open late a few nights a week? Wouldn’t it be great if library announcements, events, new acquisitions were available via a series of rss feeds so I didn’t have to remember to go to the SFPL’s web site to remind myself when that Richard Rodriguez lecture I wanted to see was. Wouldn’t it be great if the library paid some kid on a bicycle to deliver reserved materials to requesters nearby so I didn’t have to remember to walk by the library on X hour and Y day when it’s open. The sad truth is that, with Google available on my desktop, if the library is less convenient, I won’t bother with it. However, unlike google, the library is a physical place. Highlight the benefits I get going to it instead of staying at home. Art galleries do a “First Thursdays” in cities across the country. What about one for libraries?