5 Tips for Compelling Library Programs
By Andra Watkins
Are you an author who’s interested in working with libraries? Whether an author has one book or twenty, libraries are still one of the best ways to connect with engaged readers. In a world overrun with choices, library patrons rely on librarians to turn them on to new books and emerging authors.
Even though author programs are no longer a library’s primary focus, librarians want to host authors who offer engaging, educational, and entertaining fare to library users. A compelling library program is a still great way to connect with new readers.
Use these tips to build a library programming platform:
Get to know local librarians. A relationship with a local librarian is a great place for an author to start. An engaged librarian can not only stock an author’s titles, but they can also find creative ways to help an author get a library program on his or her resume. They give valuable feedback as to structuring a program to appeal to patrons. If they’re happy, a librarian will recommend a program to their colleagues, too.
Program for the Three E’s. Librarians want programs that fulfill at least two of the Three E’s: Engage, Educate, and Entertain. While sitting at a table and signing books may be every author’s dream, today’s patrons are drawn to interactive events. They aren’t necessarily impressed by an author’s book catalogue. Readers want to be engaged and/or entertained.
Develop a written program proposal. Libraries are understaffed and often underfunded. Librarians don’t have time to coax program descriptions from authors. They expect authors to sell them on an event. A written program proposal is a great way to stand out. Be sure to include the following: a catchy title, a brief program description, relevant promotional materials, a target audience, and a stated library complement. References from fellow librarians are a plus.
Always be professional. Librarians want all marketing materials well in advance. They expect confirmation of author attendance the day before an event, and they want to see an author on premises at least thirty minutes ahead of an event start time. Librarians share both good and bad experiences, but it’s human nature to share the worst author stories. A professional reputation will open more library doors.
Keep trying. Many librarians may initially reject program proposals. With their permission, use successful yeses as references for future program queries. A couple of key references can turn rejections into library programs down the road.
Compelling library programs offer readers a more intimate author interaction which leads to connection. By giving readers an unforgettable program, an author stands to convert both program attendees and librarians into passionate fans.
New York Times best selling author Andra Watkins wanted to major in musical theater, but her mother was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. She’s the author of four books, including Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, a 2015 National Book Award nominee and New York Times best seller. Hard to Die is Andra’s latest novel, an afterlife story of Theodosia Burr Alston, tragic daughter of Aaron Burr and subject of the song “Dear Theodosia” from the Tony-award-winning smash Hamilton: An American Musical. Her energetic library programs have been featured at multiple libraries in SC, NC, TN, LA, IL, WI, CA, and OR. San Diego Public Library’s acclaimed central branch featured her Make a Memory program in 2015. Programming director Erwin Magbanua called it the best adult library program he’d hosted in his career.