Working with Libraries


Josie Leavitt - April 26, 2010

Bookstores and libraries can work together in a way that not only benefits all, but enriches all who attend. Yesterday, we sold books at the South Burlington Library annual Member’s Tea. The speaker was none other than Julia Alvarez. Elizabeth and I actually did Paper, Rock, Scissors to see who would get to go the event. I won.
Events at libraries, especially a member thank you tea, are great for bookstores because there’s no promotional cost associated with the event. The library did it all, and they did a great job. There were about 50 people at the library at 4pm on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I had advance notice of the probable attendance, 25-40, and ordered my books accordingly: 20 of Return to Sender, the featured book, and then eight of the others. The beauty of someone like Julia Alvarez is the richness of her backlist. There is literally something for everyone. The problem is guessing what books will be the hot sellers. I guessed right and it was a lovely thing.
Julia’s talk focused on her award-winning middle grade novel, Return to Sender, that focuses on undocumented migrant workers in Vermont. She told the story of writing the book, what happens when the parents of children get deported and two of their three children, who are American citizens remain behind. All she wanted was an answer to that simple question: what becomes of the children left behind? As she so eloquently put it, “I’ve got three little characters waiting in the novel for what’s going to happen to them.”
Julia wanted accurate information from the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration Control Enforcement. A ridiculous series of phone calls, background checks, forms filled out, drafts of the novel needing to get sent to the head of the Multi-Media division of DHS (Julia didn’t send her novel to them) and a multitude of emails to congressman and senators resulted in no one actually telling her what the policy was. Her three characters languished as she became more and more focused on the red-tape of a simple question. Finally, someone from ICE met with her off the record to fill in the gaps.
The talk was amazing: passionate, political, funny and ultimately, lovely. The library patrons bought books in droves and the signing line was lengthy. Julia, gracious as always, took her time with everyone who wanted to talk to her about the undocumented workers they’ve known and the struggles they’ve faced.
My favorite part of the event was the gratitude the library patrons felt about us selling books at the event. Being able to buy some of Julia’s books and get them signed enriched the event;¬†folks were very appreciative and they all took our upcoming event flyer and newseltter. The librarian and I forged a fast friendship after seeing how well-received a book sales table was at the event. Oh,and we got signed stock for the store, which is always great.
Effortless collaborations are a wonderful and rare thing, and Sunday was a joy.

1 thought on “Working with Libraries

  1. Maggie

    Our local Indie Store, Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO is totally awesome. Vicki Erwin has supported all of our author events by providing a sale table so our program participants may have books autographed. We purchase additional copies of books to have autographed and use them in other library programs such as Silent Auction items at our Trivia Night fundraiser. We support our Indie Book Store when we have library reading programs that provide gift cards as prizes. When Vicki wants a larger space for authors, we cosponsor programs. Our events would not be as successful without Vicki Erwin and Main Street Books. It’s a great partnership.

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