If you missed Free Advice Friday on November 19th, you can watch the replay on our YouTube channel, youtube.com/NewShelvesBooks. This week author and elementary school librarian, Beth Warstdat, gave us the inside scoop of what it’s like working as a school librarian as well as tips for marketing your book to libraries.
November 19, 2021 Free Advice Friday: Ask A School Librarian
Do librarians research the books you pitch? Yes, we research every book we purchase. Online searches for reviews, sites that cover what kind of content is in the books and more. We look for multiple information sources, including professional reviews and Amazon reviews.
Do librarians buy from Amazon? Yes, they do! Most librarians, including school librarians, will purchase books from Amazon.
Do libraries usually buy hardbound books? Yes, they try to buy library-bound books because they hold up better over time. However, they do purchase paperbacks and accept paperback donations as well. The covers of paperback books are laminated in plastic to help them hold up to wear and tear.
Where do school librarians usually shop for books? I personally order most of the books for my library from Follett* through the School Library Management System Destiny Library Manager. I can’t say that all school libraries order from the same system, but I do know that the Destiny system is widely used in the US.
*Follett owns Baker & Taylor, so there is a lot of crossover within the Follett brand.
Do you buy Indie books? Most of the books I buy are traditionally published and available to order from Follett, but I do purchase indie titles as well. Keep in mind that the indie titles must serve the children in the school’s population and fit the standards librarians are used to including great cover design, excellent and well edited content, etc.
Are you the sole decision maker for which books to buy? The choice used to be mine, but we are shifting to books being approved by a committee before they are purchased and added to our library collection. The committee will include a school media specialist (librarian), a parent and others. Many school libraries seem to be shifting to this model.
What is your main goal when ordering books? To find the best books for my kids. My job as a librarian is to consider the population I serve and meet their needs. Not just the “average” child but ALL of the children. I am on the hunt for books that embrace diversity, cover a broad range of topics, authors from many ethnic backgrounds and books that serve multiple reading levels.
How many books do you have in your library? 12,000. I have 600-700 kids and we generally plan for 10 books per child, but our numbers can be fluid and we expect more full-time students in the next year or two.
What was the biggest challenge of being a librarian during Covid? We realized just how few eBooks we had. We have been actively working to acquire as many new eBooks as possible for the past year and will continue to do so in the future.
What about audiobooks? No, we don’t have many audiobooks in our library. Little children are very tactile, so audiobooks are not typically a big need at the elementary level.
How do librarians decide when and what to cull from their collections? I regularly run reports on my collection to see which books are the oldest and when books were last checked out. The goal is to keep “classic” or well-loved books and series around while also keeping the library collection updated and current.
Is there a cut off from when books are “too old” for a library? Ideally a library collection is less than ten years old. However, many libraries – especially low budget or school libraries – still have books that are 15 or even 20 years old.
When buying new books how recent should the publishing date be? Typically, librarians are looking for books that were published in the last 2-3 years.
What should an author not do when pitching their book to librarians? Pester the librarian or book buyer relentlessly. Please pitch your books. You can also follow-up. But after that it’s time to move on. Accept “no” gracefully.
Is there a best way to contact a librarian? Emails are best. Phone calls are hard.
People don’t realize all the things a librarian has to do. Helping patrons, ordering books, re-shelving, creating displays. We don’t always have time for a visit or phone call but can check and respond to emails when we happen to have free time.
When is the best time to pitch a book to a school librarian? Beginning of the school year isn’t good, but a month or so after school starts is. Holiday months like November and December are a no-go. January, February and March tend to be slower and are ideal months for pitching books to school librarians.
What is your yearly budget? We, like many libraries, work with a very limited budget. The school, PTO and I partner to raise additional funds each year, depending heavily on the book fair.
Fundraising is an important part of my job, and so book donations are deeply appreciated.
Do you schedule author visits? Are they paid? Am I open to author visits? Yes. Am I willing to pay for an author visit? Maybe. It depends how much the author is asking to be paid for their time and how much interest there is from the students. Whether an author is paid an honorarium or not, we will make an arrangement to sell their books to the students. (All of this is pending approval of the book by the committee and approval of the event by the administration, of course.)
If an author wants to donate books, do you accept donated books? Yes! We have special stickers for signed books display those titles often.
What marketing tool do you consider effective for marketing to school libraries? Items for the kids or that grab their interest. Keep in mind that we are here to serve them and if they ask for a book, we are motivated to buy it.
A few favorites are bookmarks, pencils, stickers or brochures feature book excerpts. The giveaways create excitement in the kids. And, often, if a child gets tired of waiting for a book or if the library doesn’t carry it, their parents will buy it for them.
When authors are pitching a book, what should they include? The title, ISBN number, a short description, and the book cover. If the book cover is not attractive, the kids won’t read it, so cover design is very important.
How do you find books? Where do you look for new titles? Google! I often search for books on specific topics or interests and once I find a few options begin researching reviews.
Any last advice for authors as they pitch librarians? Instead of courting individual librarians, consider contacting the county or state media specialist and ask if you, the author, can speak to the committee who approves new books. If that happens, the book is usually approved for individual school libraries!
Beth Warstadt: From the first sentence of anything she writes, readers have no doubt that Beth Warstadt is a southern girl, born and bred in Nashville, Tennessee. She met her Connecticut Yankee husband at Emory University, where she achieved both BA and MA degrees in English. A lifelong bibliophile, she has discovered heaven as an elementary school librarian, where she is guided by the conviction that no child will leave the media center without a book. Sleuthing out just the right books for an extremely diverse population of students has proven a joyful challenge, but well-worth the time to encourage a new generation of readers.
Beth is also a writer of clean romance, since the tech-savvy students she works with have no problem finding her books on Amazon. She has published three books: Soul Lost and Megan's Christmas Knight are self-published; and Maisie's List is her first with Wild Rose Press. Learn more and connect with Beth at https://www.bethwarstadt.com.
If you have questions you’d like answered, join us next week, Friday, November 26th at 10am EST to get your questions answered LIVE or e-mail your questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org with “FREE ADVICE FRIDAYS” in the subject line.