Libraries are—and always have been—an important part of communities, and according to a recent Pew Research poll, most Americans share the same view. From tech camps and Wi-Fi to increased ebook presence, libraries have been challenged to shift resources and services to meet the needs of the twenty-first-century digital world. As explained in the same poll, this transformation is working: “Around three-quarters [of the 1,601 surveyed Americans ages sixteen and older] say that public libraries provide them with the resources they need.”
The State of Libraries
“The media perception of libraries, as recently as a few years ago, is that they are in crisis,” says Cheryl Herman, director of the School and Library Marketing team for Penguin Random House Audio, “but being involved with this market intimately for nearly twenty years, I think the reality is that libraries are cool again.”
There are 119,487 libraries in the United States today, and library programming is at an all-time high, with more author visits and writing workshops, adult classes ranging from job counseling to knitting groups, after-school programs like coding classes and listen while you color, and more.
“Not only are libraries versatile community centers, but they serve a valuable role as tastemakers,” explains Herman. “Book clubs are a great example of how libraries promote a community of readers, and we have noticed a trend in libraries introducing family book clubs, in addition to their popular adult, YA, and kids’ book clubs.”
Our library teams throughout Penguin Random House collaborate with librarians every day to increase the reach of our titles and put books and audiobooks into the hands of the readers and listeners who need them most. Read on to learn about how the library teams of Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books collaborate with librarians and children to reach the most readers.
A Unique Market
In the young readers’ market, public and school librarians often play a major role, from interacting closely with readers to creating reading lists and contributing to distinguished awards. From the Best Fiction for Young Adults award to the John Newbery Medal, both presented by divisions of the American Library Association, these awards give libraries the opportunity to provide recognition for exceptional books.
Carmela Iaria, executive director of School and Library Marketing for Penguin Young Readers, also mentions that the young readers’ market is always changing. “Each year, there’s a new crop of children ready and able to read, and we need librarians’ help keeping quality, popular books in circulation and on shelves.”
Reaching Out to Libraries
There are many ways to get our books in the hands of avid young readers. For example, Random House Children’s works with teen reading groups across the country to read and review books, and they, along with Penguin Young Readers, provide access to their authors through book tours, conversations at conferences, or even Skype reading groups and events.
“This community is most hungry for events and promotional materials,” explains Iaria, “which ultimately helps highlight our titles with consumers. We arm [librarians] with the tools they need to put our books into parents’ and children’s hands.” The stronger the relationship with libraries, the more effectively this can happen.
Challenges and Opportunities
One primary challenge, according to Laura Antonacci, senior manager of Library Marketing for Random House Children’s Books, is that the library market for young readers doesn’t always provide quantifiable results. “A big part of what we do is word of mouth.”
In the end, relationships with librarians are built on trust and at times anecdotal feedback. Librarians have many stories of reluctant readers discovering books that turn them into avid readers, and these stories show how effective this kind of outreach can be.
“The word of mouth is the most important,” explains Antonacci. “It tells me that the message we are putting out into the world is resonating—and that is priceless.”
Making Our Books Stand Out
The strong brand recognition behind our books helps set us apart from other publishers. And our wide variety of books for all readers of all ages helps our young readers’ teams reach more readers and more librarians.
“As in every area of life, libraries are constantly changing,” explains Iaria. It’s important to understand the challenges and successes every library experiences, especially in how readers are consuming books. Penguin Young Readers, for example, is focused on marketing beyond annual conferences with the goal of finding more librarians—and helping them find our books.
How We Help Support Libraries
The Penguin Random House Foundation recently launched Library Awards for Innovation to honor and reward extraordinary public library programs across the country, and our annual Readathon Day benefits the American Library Association and supports early literacy development in libraries across the nation. Additionally, our resources help make librarians’ jobs easier, with helpful tools and publications and by offering easier access to authors through tours or reading groups. The benefits and opportunities are endless.
We’ll learn more about how the Penguin Random House Library Marketing team for the Adult Division operates in a future story—there is much to share. According to Jen Childs, VP of Library Marketing, in addition to the tried-and-true methods of building buzz among librarians who are key to breaking out new authors, they are successfully experimenting with connecting directly to library patrons through a national library marketing rep team, as well as through digital outreach. More to come!
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Manager, Publishing Development and Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.