What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
The upcoming trends are that there are no trends, right? But seriously, the trend I enjoy the most is comics and graphic novels that are written for adults. It is so refreshing to read a series like Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Of course, all ages are reading Saga, but it’s nice to know that the comic world realizes their readers are growing up, and perhaps following a married couple with a child across the universe during an epic war is exactly the sort of thing we’re looking for right now. Saga is just one of many series that you can tell is written with a more mature audience in mind. I hope to see this trend continue.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
One of my absolute favorite books of the past couple years is The Shining Girls (2013) by Lauren Beukes because she so skillfully merged time travel with crime fiction, showing that time travel can be really complex and terrifying. I would love to see time travel make a comeback with a darker slant—Gone Girl meets The Time Traveler’s Wife.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
As far as topics go, we have a saying in librarianship: “Every book has its reader.” I try to always keep an open mind when it comes to books, no matter how commercial or controversial the subject matter. That said, a trend I would like to stop seeing is books that are published directly to e-book and only available through one seller. Limited access to books and technology is a serious issue, and the digital divide is the new illiteracy of our time. Every time I see an author go e-book–only or publish a book within his or her popular series in a way that forces patrons into one avenue for purchase, I feel very disappointed. Library books, in all formats, are so valuable and have even been shown to increase sales of all types of books. It’s a shame when someone must own a Kindle—and no other device—and then must have the disposable income and the Internet connection in order to read a book by an author they love.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
One of the biggest differences about librarianship is that we often find ourselves focusing on and promoting the backlist or relatively obscure novels in lieu of the best-sellers. In libraries, best-sellers promote themselves and have long waiting lists. Meanwhile, all our other books are just sitting in the stacks, waiting to get into the hands of an eager reader. Finding ways to connect people to these books—through shelftalkers, book clubs, displays or through the LibraryReads list (the library version of IndieNext)—is one of the true pleasures of working in a public library.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Access to information is such a vital part of a librarian’s job. Every day I see people walk through the library doors who depend on us to teach them technology—from the basics of using a mouse for the first time to figuring out how to get an e-book on their new smartphones. I would urge everyone in the book industry to remember that while, yes, access to technology is getting better and more widespread, there are still many people who depend on access to knowledge, literature and entertainment via traditional publishing methods. I’m not saying e-books are bad or even that they are not important. However, there is value in varied access points. There should be multiple options for the purchase and consumption of books, and this includes formats such as audiobooks, large print, print and e-books. Local independent booksellers and local public libraries are out in the trenches, ready to help promote books and a love of reading. It’s a shame when they are ignored.
Leah White is the head of popular materials at the Ela Area Public Library in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago and a member of the Adult Reading Round Table Steering Committee. She graduated from Dominican University with her MLIS in 2008 and won the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award in 2012. Leah’s forthcoming book on innovation in libraries will be out this fall. She enjoys reading comic books, Instagramming pictures of her pets and spending too much time reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. You can find her on Twitter: @leahlibrarian or check out her website: www.leahlwhite.com.