What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
In my job, I focus more on patron trends than publisher trends. Don’t get me wrong, publisher trends are fascinating, but I’m more curious about what our circulation numbers are telling us about reader interests. (Then my job is to make the publisher trends work for the patron trends.) A few things we’ve noticed: E-book circulation, which previously reflected more Kindle use, is now evening out between Kindles and tablets. Audiobooks are still circulating really well, both on CD and digitally—digital audio circulations aren’t biting into CD circulation at all. Personally, as a big fan of crime fiction, I’ve been delighted by the blurring of lines between fiction and mystery, and I’ve loved the increased popularity of authors like Denise Mina and Louise Penny.
In general, when it comes to books, trends last longer in the library than in the publishing world, which I am guessing is because our circulation is so driven by word of mouth. Unbroken is a nonstop high-circulating title for us, and we still have people come in who are just hearing about Gone Girl. And even though many in the book industry are sick of talking about adults getting into YA, that’s still a very new trend in my library, and the books are pleasantly surprising many of our readers; the top authors changing minds are Veronica Roth, John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Every type of reader comes to the library, so although we stay on top of the new books and trends for our power patrons, we also have to be really careful not to neglect the needs of casual readers, which means not moving on until they do.
I have no data to back this up, but my gut sense is that adult readers are becoming more open-minded in terms of trying types of books they’ve not read before. I don’t even know why I think this, but I really believe it!
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
More than anything, I am always excited to read a book that surprises me in some way. I’m on the lookout for good sports novels because they are hard to find. (Recently, this led me to Red or Dead by David Peace, one of my favorites of the year.) More high-quality nonfiction in graphic novel format. More international fiction. Most importantly, I’d like to see more diversity in just about every genre I read.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
“Libraries are dead. Oh, me? I haven’t had a library card in 20 years.” Yeah, I’m pretty sick of that. Oh wait, did you mean book topics? I’d never say never. I do wish there was less trend-chasing in the industry in general, but that seems like a lost cause.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
What’s unique about readers’ advisory is our primary focus—every reader his or her book, and every book its reader (see Ranganathan’s Laws of Library Science). We don’t feel the same pressure other parts of the industry do to produce constant sales, and that’s a real luxury. It allows us to create relationships with readers and to see them as individuals rather than demographics. Also, since we don’t return books, we have a much deeper backlist to work with on hand, which has changed my relationship to book recommendations. When I worked in bookselling, I often imagined books as a constant waterfall crashing into the store. In the library, they feel much more like a (fast-moving) river. It’s a different perspective.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I wish everybody in publishing would be required to have a library card as a job requirement. If I hired in publishing, I’d ask applicants to show their library card in the interview. If you haven’t been in a public library lately, you have no idea what an incredible community of readers you are missing. Anyone in the industry can consider this an open invitation to come to my library and see what we’re up to!
Stephanie Anderson is the Head of Reader Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. Previously, she was the manager of WORD, an independent bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She serves on the Steering Committee of LibraryReads. Her website is bookavore.net.