What are some upcoming trends?
Move over fan fiction—crowdsourcing is making headway. Or is it? We will let our teens decide as we watch what happens with Swoon Reads (an imprint of Macmillan) and its first novel, A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall.
Also, we have recently spotted a kind of reverse trend: Some patrons have started to ask the library to add print editions of items in our e-book collections—so don’t stop the presses yet!
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Fortunately, as U.S. publishers spot titles at international book fairs, we do get to see some of what’s being published in the rest of the world, but we would like to see more of what’s being published for children in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I just finished Bibi Dumon Tak’s Mikis and the Donkey, which I loved. Oh, and we need to see more of Atinke’s Anna Hibiscus and Oluwalase Babatunde Benson!
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
As a selector for two large urban library systems, one contends with the usual constraints most commonly mentioned by librarians: budget, shelf space, audience, customer demand, quality, accuracy—all factors that can play a role in shaping a public library’s collections. However, the NYC location allows us the luxury of being able to “go long,” if you will. We purchase widely to provide for the needs of the very diverse communities we serve. In library settings, books can be given a bit more time to find an audience. That isn’t a sustainable business model for most publishers, because it can take time—my standard guesstimate is three to five years—for a title to show up on a school reading list. This isn’t due to any lack of attention on anyone’s part. It has to do more with the sheer volume of what is published each year.
Any interactions with indie authors lately?
I confess I usually only meet indie authors via email and sample copies mailed to our offices. Submissions of self-published materials have increased tenfold, so we are no longer able to respond to each inquiry. Authors new to the industry may not be aware that most public libraries have acquisition policies for children’s collections that contain more stringent guidelines than bookstores and online retailers. Often, there’s a requirement of at least one review from a standard reviewing medium. However, we can and do add titles whenever possible. A wonderful story is a wonderful story, no matter the publisher.
I love the reviews of indie works in Kirkus. It can be a game-changer where self-publishing is concerned. This is where the broader community can be a tremendous help to librarians. We are not interested in creating roadblocks. Librarians are just one part of the equation. The more voices in the mix should lead to more opportunity for discovery—which leads to purchase, which brings more great works to the attention of our readers.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just want to give a shout out to all those wonderful editors and marketing folks that work so hard behind the scenes.
Jeanne Lamb has worked at the New York Public Library for over 20 years and currently heads the selection team for Youth Collections at BookOps, a recently formed technical services organization created by the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.