Sunday, May 4, 2014

Love in the Stacks: Romance at the Library

by Sean Gilmartin)

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Today we get to hear from Sean Gilmartin, Romance Writers of America's 2014 Librarian of the Year (Congratulations, Sean!).

From RWA's website: Sean Gilmartin, who works at The Anythink Library in Thornton, Colo., has been working in public libraries for nearly 10 years and scored his dream job as a teen librarian. Growing up, he would read his mother's romance novels, partially for the juicy parts, and knew that one day he would write a romance himself. When he is not doing school work, reading, or seeing new movies, you can find Sean writing one of the many stories that are constantly floating around in his head.

Sean is teaming up with Christyna Hunter of Loudoun County Public Libraries in Virginia to present HEA's twice-monthly Love in the Stacks column focused on libraries and librarians who love romance novels. (Check out Christyna's inaugural column.)

Introducing Sean …

Sean: I am a booklover; always have been and always will be. Outside of romance I love to read fantasy, specifically urban, and children's novels. I am a YA dystopian fanatic, having favorites such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Ally Condie. When I am looking for more light reading you can find me devouring graphic novels and manga alike. If you are anything like me then you feel the need to buy a copy of every book you love because you want to support your favorite authors, and because you secretly fear that book will go out of publication and be lost forever.

That being said, it can become pretty pricey when purchasing physical copies. I hate to ask this, but have you ever bought a book and realized 40 pages in that you were just not feeling it? Did you secretly regret the $13.34 that you paid for a novel you no longer wish to finish? Luckily, I am offering you a solution … a godsend, really: your local public library.

Every library district across the country is going to be a little different. Some libraries will be stuffed to capacity with books, while others may have less than a hundred items total. You will find that some libraries offer e-books and audio books and others may not be able to afford those services at this time. What I can tell you is that, no matter what, your local public library is free and open to all.

If you are finding it hard to budget a new book into your weekly or monthly expenses, then the library is definitely the place for you. If you are looking to be adventurous and try a new author, then the library is also the place for you. Perhaps you have never tried an e-book or audio book and you feel like it is time to see what everybody is talking about; yep, still the library. See, your local public library is really America's untapped source of possibilities. Everybody pays a little of their tax dollars to their public library and in exchange they are offered books, movies, music, classes, computer access, Wi-Fi, and a list of other services that roll out the door and wrap around the building. While I will save my "libraries are crucial for the survival of the human race" speech for another time, I will say that if you have not been taking advantage of your public library, then you are sorely missing out.

Switching gears here, I want to bring your attention to some statistics from our very own USA TODAY. According to a 2013 article, between 2011 and 2013 the percentage of people who have an e-reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) jumped from 10% to 24%, and the percentage of people who have a tablet (iPad, etc.) jumped from 10% to 32%. This means that in two years the percentage of people who use an electronic device has more than doubled. This also means that the way people are choosing to read their books has changed as well. Typically, the prices for e-books are cheaper than their physical counterparts.

For example, the paperback copy of romance author Jasinda Wilder's new release, Alpha, is selling on Amazon for about $12, while the Kindle edition is just $5.99. The publisher gets to erase the cost of making the book and transporting it, among other things, and so what you end up with is a cheaper alternative. Now, I get that reading on a mobile device is not for everybody, but if you have not given it a try, then I encourage you to experience it at least once.

If I have not convinced you yet, then let me introduce you to a mobile app called Overdrive Media Console, which is the country's largest digital distributor of e-books and audio books to more than 28,000 library branches. On top of that, Overdrive offers more than a million titles from more than 1,000 publishers, including favorites such as Samhain, Harlequin and Kensington. You will easily find authors such as Sylvia Day, Nora Roberts, Gena Showalter, Elizabeth Boyle and Maya Banks amongst the ever-growing list. Their titles are available to you at no charge (sensing a theme here?), and the great part is that you can read on the go. As someone who enjoys audio books, I love that I can download titles to my phone and listen through my car's Bluetooth.

You will need your library card to get into the Overdrive app, so make sure you stop into your local library branch to receive one. Not sure what you need to get a library card? For many libraries, a current photo ID and two recent pieces of mail are required to get you set up, but I urge you to check their website or give them a quick call to be sure. Once you have downloaded Overdrive to your device and log in with your library card, you will easily see the seemingly endless world of electronic downloading. In many cases it just takes a few simple clicks to borrow a title, but occasionally you might run into technology issues, such as verification steps and additional software. This is where I urge you to take advantage of my fellow librarians, or for the more independent individuals, check the library's website for a help page.

One thing you should always remember is that no matter if you are reading a book electronically or physically, you are supporting your favorite authors. Even if you still choose to purchase books from a retailer and swear to never read an e-book in your entire life, your public library will still be there. Since you have nothing to lose, why not give them a try?

You can find information about your public library, such as locations, website links and phone numbers, at

You can catch up with Sean on his blog and follow him on Twitter (@author_sean).