Let Readers Be Readers

Let Readers Be Readers

The question of what readers “owe” authors arises periodically in the book blogosphere. Often, strangely enough, this conversation is driven by book bloggers and reviewers themselves, many of whom believe that their purpose in life is to promote authors through their unpaid labor by posting reviews, participating in blog tours, Tweeting release dates, and convincing all and sundry to buy certain books. Some reviewers will even argue that readers “owe” it to authors to read a book in full, or to never post a negative review. This is because their primary goal is to “support authors” rather than to engage in discourse about the book or assist potential readers in deciding whether the book is right for them. Lately, however, the conversation on Twitter has taken a bit of a new turn, as authors jump in with the expectation that readers–all readers–“owe” them certain types of reviews and online engagement.

Previously, the discourse seemed to be driven mainly by individuals who presumably see themselves as bookish influencers. They run blogs, post on Bookstagram, make BookTook videos, engage on Book Twitter, and probably promote titles on Amazon and Goodreads in addition. They keep up with the book industry and maybe even have jobs in it or tangential to it (publishing, libraries, schools, etc.) Their presence on online platforms seems to have made authors forget, however, that not all readers are bookish influencers or want to be. Some authors are now on Twitter demanding that all readers review their books online and that, when they do, they review it in a certain “appropriate” way. For instance, according to some, no reader should leave a star rating on Amazon or Goodreads without a review. Any star rating seen to be negative is apparently especially egregious if the reader does not leave a review justifying their low rating to the author. Authors have forgotten that some readers…are just readers. They do not exist to market the book online. They just want to read it.

For years, authors and the publishing industry has treated book bloggers and bookish influences are their unofficial unpaid marketing team. They expected book bloggers to read and promote their books free–maybe for an ARC, if they were lucky–and felt empowered to make demands that book bloggers do things like not only review the book, but also do it by a certain date (maybe withholding the review till after publication, if it was negative) and then cross-post the review to several platforms like Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram, in addition to the blog. Book bloggers may have grumbled a bit about their time, talent and labor being unappreciated, but many did it. Perhaps this acquiescence has helped authors forget that the public does not, actually, exist to work as their unpaid laborers.

Goodreads, one might recall, started out as a social media site for book lovers to connect with their friends and see what they were reading. Others joined simply to use Goodreads for themselves so they could keep track of what they were reading and how they felt about it. The vast majority of people who use Goodreads presumably do not see themselves as bookish influencers and feel no obligation to support authors with high ratings and in-depth justifications of their feelings on a title. They just want to read a book! Reading is, one might also recall, a hobby. It is something people do for fun, to relax and enjoy themselves. The vast majority of the public has no idea that there are authors out there who think they are “owed” free marketing by their readers. They bought the book. They paid for it. That was where their obligation to the author ended. Now, they get to enjoy the product they bought as they see fit.

And Amazon reviews? Most people, presumably, see reviews as intended for the potential consumer of a product and not for the author. Reviews typically tell people what they can expect from the item in question, so they can make an informed opinion as to whether it will suit their needs. Reviews are separate from marketing copy because their purpose is actually not to sell the product. Or, not necessarily. A positive review could help sell the product. But, again, the review is to help the consumer to decide. A really good review will share pros and cons of how the product might be effective and how it might not. Some people will find its function satisfactory for their specific situation and others won’t. That’s okay. The review is functioning as it ought.

Readers should not be expected to provide automatic positive reviews on behalf of the author because then the review becomes meaningless. It’s just marketing copy. And readers, frankly, should not be expected to provide reviews at all. Some people do because they want to be useful or they like sharing their opinions. That is kind of them and could be considered going above and beyond. But if they don’t want to, that’s fine. The author isn’t paying them to write a review and they don’t owe the author their time to do it. And if they just want to leave a star rating with no review, that is also fine. Is a mere rating less useful to consumers than explaining the rating? Probably. But readers do not owe the author a justification of their reaction to a title. Readers are not the unpaid marketing team for authors.

Let us remember that reading is a hobby. Reading is something people do for pleasure. The vast majority of readers simply want to read a book and that’s it. They are not obligated to work for the author to promote the book online. They are not obligated to spend their time writing a review. The reader’s obligation to the author includes two things only: obtaining the book legally and being courteous to the author by not tagging them in negative reviews or personally insulting them. Let readers be readers, and stop expecting the world to do unpaid marketing.

Why I Believe It’s Important to Clearly Indicate the Age Category of Books

In December 2022, a photo of a Target bookshelf labeled “Young Adult Books” went viral because not a single book on the shelf was actually YA; indeed, the section was primarily steamy and explicit adult romance. This, of course, caused some consternation. Personally, I don’t think it was a weird conspiracy of store employees trying to get teens to read these books, as some people were arguing. I think the most plausible explanation I saw was that an employee was rearranging the shelves, put all the books that were meant to go there up, and simply forgot to change the sign. (Probably to something like “BookTok Books”?)

However, I think the wrong signage is a mistake that deserves to be fixed because there are people who are not familiar with the book industry who rely on such signage and shelving to choose books to buy. Yes, teens can read adult books, but the fact remains that some people might be specifically intending to buy an adult book and some might be specifically looking for a young adult book, and it should be obvious to them from the way the books are labeled and categorized in a store which one they are getting.

I raised this idea on Twitter, and I was met with some disagreement; more than one person told me that the onus is on the buyer to “do their research” before buying a book, and it’s completely their own fault if they buy a book for a twelve-year-old child that is actually BDSM erotica. But I don’t think that someone shopping in a physical store should need to either 1) spend 30 minutes researching popular YA books online to buy before they show up (something someone actually suggested) or 2) pull out their phone in the middle of the store to Google all the titles they see. If nothing else, this diminishes the convenience of a physical store; if I spent a significant amount of time researching before driving to the store, I might as well buy the book online! It’s also advice that pushes readers away from physical bookstores (yes, Target is not a bookstore) because it takes away the idea of serendipity and discovering books by browsing.

And I think one of the most important reasons that books should be correctly categorized in stores is because people who do not read themselves may buy them. I think the idea that some people don’t read at all, or that some people read but aren’t obsessively following the book industry and new releases, seem foreign to those of us who are Very Online in the book community. But it’s true! I think back to my grandmother, who knows I like to read, and when I was a child I would frequently receive books from her for my birthday or holidays. The selections were strange. One year in high school, I got a middle grade book I felt was too young for me. When I was twelve, I got The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I haven’t figured that one yet, except maybe my grandmother thought it was a kid’s book because there was a kid on the cover?

The point is that my grandmother is exactly the type of person who might have known, “Oh, my granddaughter says she likes reading young adult books,” walked into this Target with the incorrectly shelved books, and bought me a book that was entirely inappropriate for me. (I don’t care if you think steamy romances are appropriate for teenagers; I would not have wanted to read one in high school and would have been upset. And if my mother had found out about it, SHE would have been upset with my grandmother and started an entire family feud.) Similarly, parents who don’t read much themselves might take their kid (who may be a teen or even a tween) to a store and let them loose in the young adult section and tell them to pick something out, assuming that since the books are for teens they will be “age appropriate.” They are not going to pull out their phone and Google the book to make sure it’s not really accidentally erotica for adults because why would they expect that to happen? They might have no conception it’s a thing that could happen, and reasonable people don’t walk into a store assuming the employees are incompetent and that they must double-check every decision the employees have made.

Clearly differentiating young adult books from adult books (and doing the same for other age categories) is helpful to consumers in a variety of circumstances, but it is most helpful for those who aren’t intimately familiar with the book market as a whole but would still like to buy books. The Target bookshelf seems obviously like an accident, but it’s one that could have led to a very poor purchase for a buyer!

Briana

FAQs New Book Bloggers Have

FAQs New Book Bloggers Have

Are you new to book blogging? Do you have questions about blogger expectations, or just the way other book bloggers do things? Read on for a list of commonly-asked questions from new bloggers and our take on what book blogging currently looks like.

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How often should I post?

The simple answer is as much as you want! There is no right or wrong way to blog, and you will find many bloggers with many different schedules. Blogging is, for most book bloggers, a hobby and supposed to be fun, so there is no need to stress about posting.

However, if you are trying to grow your followers and gain traffic, a more practical answer would be that posting at least once a week would likely be beneficial in this regard. You want to post with some frequency so you have content for new viewers to engage with and explore–so they can see if they think your blog is a good fit for them–and so your blog appears to be active. If you haven’t posted in two or three months, old followers might keep your blog in their feeds, and thus see when a new post is published, but others might not click the follow button.

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What should my blog/sidebar absolutely have?

Our guide on How to Start a Book Blog covers this question (and others) more in depth. However, it is worth noting that your blog should absolutely have a follow button! While it is possible for other bloggers to add a blog to their feed manually, it is more likely that people will follow if it’s easy for them and they can just click the button. Other things to include are a small bio, a search bar, your social media links, and recent posts.

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Do I need to answer every comment on my blog?

Discussing books and bookish things is one of the best parts about book blogging, so many bloggers do make a commitment to interact with their comments. Interacting can also an effective way to grow your followers, if that is a goal for you. However, life happens and people understand that. So if you sometimes take awhile to answer comments, or answer only the ones you have time for, or just miss one by accident, that’s okay. It happens!

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Do I need to comment back every time?

Many bloggers do because they think it is polite, or because it is considered one way to gain more followers and/or traffic. People can find your blog more easily if they see you commenting around other blogs. However, blogging is a big time commitment and not every blogger is able to comment back every time. And that’s okay, too! Book bloggers are generally very friendly, and no one is keeping track.

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Should I answer every e-mail I receive from authors wanting book reviews?

The answer will vary from blogger to blogger, but many book bloggers don’t–especially if their review policy already clearly states that they are not currently open to review pitches. It seems like many authors or marketers have a, “Why not try?” approach and simply e-mail every blogger they can find. In such cases, they probably aren’t really keeping track of who hasn’t answered. Also, for what it’s worth, I used to e-mail back politely declining every request and some authors would just respond with different pitches the next day. So either they weren’t reading my response, or they didn’t respect it. Consequently, I now only answer e-mails when I want to respond in the affirmative. And this saves me a lot of time.

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Do I need to be on all the social media platforms?

A few years ago, there was a sense that book bloggers had to be on all the major social media platforms to stay relevant and get views. Recently, however, more bloggers have committed to staying only on the platforms they genuinely enjoy interacting on. It’s also worth noting that, at least here at Pages Unbound, social media does not drive a lot of traffic to the blog. It’s just another way to connect with fellow book lovers–if you want.

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Do I need to participate in memes?

Memes are a great way to interact with fellow book bloggers, create content when you are stuck for ideas, and get some traffic from others who are doing the meme. Here at Pages Unbound, we did more memes when we were just starting out and it was an invaluable way to find links to other blogs we could follow and enjoy! However, as with most things in book blogging, it’s really up to you!

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What are ARCs and how do I get them?

ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copies–books that may not be in the final state for publication, but that are given to readers to be reviewed ahead of the publication date. Publishers used to be more forthcoming with physical ARCs for book bloggers, but more and more seem to be moving towards digital copies only. Many bloggers use the websites Netgalley and Edelweiss to request digital ARCs for review. You can learn more about requesting ARCs on our Complete Guide to Starting a Book Blog.

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Do I need to request ARCs to stay relevant?

Not at all! Many bloggers do not request ARCs. Reading ARCs often means having to read to a deadline and feeling pressure to keep up with new, hyped releases. Many bloggers choose to read what they want, when they want to avoid the stress. Also, reviewing backlist and midlist titles is perfectly acceptable!

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Can I blog about topics other than books?

Absolutely! Many bloggers also write about movies, TV shows, music, and their personal lives. Some even have combination blogs like books and makeup, or books and running. It’s your blog. You get to write about the things that make you happy!

Do you have advice for new bloggers? Let us know in the comments!

Do You Collect Books? (Let’s Talk Bookish)

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme that was created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and then cohosted with Dani @ Literary Lion. It is currently hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits. The meme encourages participants to discuss a new topic each week and visit each other’s posts to keep the conversation going.

Prompt: Do you enjoy collecting books? Do you feel like physical books are overpriced? Do you buy books after you’ve read them to add to your collection? Do you buy special edition collector sets? How invested are you in your book collection? 

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Over the years, I have been pretty open about the fact that I do not collect books, usually for practical purposes. Books are heavy and take up a lot of space, and having to move them or find ways to store them typically is not easy. When I was younger, I had dreams like other bookworms about having my own personal library. But, it turns out, affording a house big enough to convert a whole room into a library is not as simple as my teenage self thought. Consequently, I have had to cut down my collect dramatically, and now I try to keep it from growing to an unmanageable bulk.

I know this sounds like sacrilege to many a book lover. But, I found that, once I took a hard look at my collection and assessed it honestly, it became easier to let go. The reality is that I owned many books I likely would not want to reread, so it seemed wrong for me to keep the books on my shelves when I could donate them to someone who would read and enjoy them. Now, my collection is primarily books I can see myself rereading, books I know I cannot obtain easily from the library, and books that have a sentimental value to me. The rest I typically donate to the library or to teacher friends for their classrooms, because that way I know they will be shared and read.

The price of books is a factor in my choosing not to buy as many. However, I hesitate to say that books are overpriced. Authors work hard on their craft, and they are aided by many editors, proofreaders, illustrators, marketers, etc. All those people deserve pay for their labor, and I accept that the price of a book should reflect the cost of that labor. I even accept the high prices of e-books because, even though the cost of paper is not being factored into the price, I see the product as the writing and the labor that went into it, not the paper. If the price of a book is higher than I want to pay, I will go to the library or find a used copy from the library book sale or a used bookstore. And, yes, sometimes I am sad I cannot afford to add a book to my collection. But my having a budget I need to stick to doesn’t necessarily mean the item is overpriced. It just means that I personally need to monitor my spending. Life is unfair sometimes, and there are plenty of things I cannot afford to buy, including, sometimes, books.

Going to the library for most of my books, however, does allow me to spend what money I have wisely. Because I have to budget, I do not spend money on many new-to-me authors, but tend to stick with titles and authors I am already sure I will love. The library gives me the freedom to take a chance on other books. Once I have read a book from a library, I may indeed choose to buy a copy of that book to keep and reread later. Or, even more likely, I will buy copies of the book as gifts for friends and family. Many publishers, it has become clear, see libraries as the enemies of authors, but I actually do use the library as a discovery tool that then leads me to purchase books. I do not think I am alone in this.

So how invested am I in my book collection? I am invested, but I hope that maturity leads to some sort of wisdom. I do not ever want to feel like I am overly attached to material objects in my life, or that I will not be able to give something away if it could do more good elsewhere. And, the more books I give away, the easier it becomes. Life goes on. Many of those books I have never thought about again! So I am invested to the extent that I want to build a personal collection that truly means something to me, and not just because I can’t stand to give a book away. But I also hope that, if I should have to, I would indeed be able to let go of my books.

Trends I Think We’ll See in Book Blogging in 2023

Typically, Briana guesses the blogging trends for the new year, but I thought I’d give it a try this year! Here are trends I think we’ll see in 2023.

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Less Stress About Working with Big Publishers

All the hype over BookTok and the swarms of publishers seemingly willing to pay for reviews led to a bit of shock for book bloggers, who had been told for years that publishers simply did not have the money to pay for reviews or promotional content. I think many book bloggers consequently accepted last year that many of the big publishers simply have little desire to work with bloggers. As a result, I think bloggers will focus a bit less on trying to get publishers to pay them. This may lead bloggers to work more with indie authors and smaller publishers. Or bloggers may choose to read more of what they want and less of what they think they “ought” to be reading to be current with an industry that seems like it is ignoring them.

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More Rereads

This ties in with my point above, but I think more bloggers are choosing to blog for themselves and not to stay relevant or to attract large page views that could get publishers to send them ARCs. I have already seen a number of bloggers committing to rereading the books they love and rediscovering a joy of reading, without the pressure to keep up with hyped releases. I think more bloggers will follow this trend.

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Fewer YA Reviews

YA book reviews used to dominate book blogs, perhaps because YA books also dominated the publishing industry, and bloggers wanted to stay current. However, I have seen quite a few bloggers saying they no longer relate to YA. I have also seen more bloggers branching out into MG and adult books, even though they have not said outright why they might be switching to other types of reads. I expect to see more diversified reviews and not just the same hyped YA fantasies reviewed on every blog.

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More Midlist Reviews

In general, I have seen fewer bloggers hyping all the same books. Even books that are being marketed heavily and seem primed to be all over my feed have not appeared! I think this goes with the general theme of my predictions this year, which is that bloggers will continue to commit to reading more of what they want to read, and not what they think they “have” to read. I also think more bloggers will commit to promoting midlist titles and books they see as deserving of notice, even if these books are being overlooked by more traditional marketing pushes.

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More Audiobook Reviews

Interest in audiobooks has been growing over the years, and I see no sign of this trend stopping. I imagine this trend might be even bigger than it appears since not every book review is necessarily going to note that the reviewer listened to the audiobook, unless comments on the narration seem relevant.

Let us know in the comments if you agree, or if you have predictions of your own!

Books as Gifts (Let’s Talk Bookish)

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme that was created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and then cohosted with Dani @ Literary Lion. It is currently hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits. The meme encourages participants to discuss a new topic each week and visit each other’s posts to keep the conversation going.

Prompt: Do books make good gifts? Do you ever give or receive books as gifts? Would you rather receive a book from your wish list or be surprised? What would you do if you didn’t like the book you were given? Would you expect someone to read a book you got them right away?

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Books make great gifts! I love giving people books because I feel like they serve many purposes, such as being entertaining and educational while preventing the world from being filled with more junk like plastic toys kids will use once and forget, or novelty items the recipient will end up throwing away. Even if the recipient does not want the book, they can easily donate it or, at the very least, recycle it. And books can be enjoyable even for people who describe themselves as “non-readers.” I’ve gifted nonfiction, cookbooks, coloring books, and puzzle books, for instance, to people who would say that they don’t read. They often do read–just not 800-page fantasy books, or whatever it is they imagine “real readers” read.

Because I love books, people often do gift me books–and the more the better, I say! I like receiving books for the same reasons I like giving them. I don’t really want more novelty items or knickknacks in my life. But since I am particular about what I like to read and what I want to devote space to, I would prefer that people gift me books I have expressed interest in–if only because there is possibly only one person who routinely manages to buy me books I actually enjoy. The others seem to gift me books they would like, but that aren’t my taste at all. But it’s not a big deal, and it’s the thought that counts. If I don’t like the book I was gifted, it is really easy for me to donate it to the library so they can sell it at their book sale and raise funds. Or, if it’s a children’s book, I can usually give it to one of my teacher friends for their classroom libraries, which they tend to have to stock themselves. I don’t feel guilty about this because I firmly believe that books are meant to be shared, and they are not doing much good sitting on my shelf unread.

Since I don’t always enjoy the books I am gifted, I am sensitive to the reality that the recipients of my books might not always like them, either. So my policy is generally never to inquire about the book once it has left my hands. There are some books I have gifted that I know have never been read at all. Others I later learned the recipient did not enjoy. But the same thing could happen with any gift, book or not. I just don’t ask and everyone can maintain the polite fiction that the book was read and enjoyed. Thus are friendships maintained.

Do you like to gift books?

How Many Parents Are Dead in YA Books?: Analysis of My 2022 Reads

Everyone knows there are a lot of dead parents in young adult books. People argue it’s easier for the protagonist to grow up faster or to do dangerous things if they have no parental guidance. Or maybe it just cuts down on characters readers need to keep track of. I’m not here to debate whether the parents “should” be dead or relitigate the reasons they all get killed off.

Instead, I’ve been keeping track for a few years how many of the YA books I read have dead — or just essentially absent — parents. I usually do the post in May, so it tracks the books I read for the first 5 months of the year, but I’m doing it later this year because I haven’t been reading as much and didn’t have a good sample size in May.

Time to analyze my 2022 YA reads so far and see how many dead parents there are this year!

Note that there may be spoilers for books if you read the information about the specific titles!

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Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty

  • Both parents are dead.

Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

  • Both parents are dead.

Forging Silver into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer

  • There are three protagonists/POVs. Five parents are dead.
  • The living father is abusive.

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

  • Mother is dead.
  • Father presumed dead/has never been in protagonist’s life.

Cinder & Glass by Melissa de la Cruz

  • Well, it’s a “Cinderella” retelling, so both mother and father are dead.

Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel by Eveyln Skye, Roshani Chokshi, and Sandhya Menon

  • It’s three short stories with three different protagonists. I admit I didn’t find the book memorable, but while a stepdad is mentioned for one of the characters, I don’t think any of the six parents are actually dead. A first.

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang

  • Both parents are alive! They’re not too in the book because the protagonist lives at school, but they seem generally supportive.

Seoulmates by Susan Lee

  • Both parents are alive, but the father is living abroad and largely absent from the protagonist’s life.

The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim

  • Mother and stepmother dead, but father is alive.

A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani

  • Both alive! And good parents!
  • (This is also one of my favorite reads of 2022, so go check the series out!)

Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet

  • Both alive! But father is absent.

How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislynn Brophy

  • Both alive! And involved! What is this trend?

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

  • Both alive but almost completely absent from the story.

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell

  • Both alive but protagonist is estranged from her mother. Has a great relationship with her father, however.

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrota

  • Sorry, both parents are dead.
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Analysis

I have 15 books, but there are two books with multiple main characters, so we’ll say a total of 19 pairs of parents for the analysis.

  • There are 9 dead mothers, or about 47%.
  • There are 7 dead fathers, or about 37%. Honestly, this is lower than I expected.
  • There is 1 abusive father and 3 that are basically absent from the book/the protagonist’s life.
  • That leaves 8 fathers who are alive and apparently decent.
  • There’s only 1 mother who’s alive but also a terrible person, leaving several mothers who are actually supportive. Wow!

Overall, I think this tracks with the last two times I did this survey, with nearly 50% of the mothers being dead in all 3 years I kept track. However, I think I saw a few more normal, supportive parents than in the past, so that’s a win for 2022.

Briana

Do You Use Your Local Library? (Let’s Talk Bookish)

Let's Talk Bookish

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme that was created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and then cohosted with Dani @ Literary Lion. It is currently hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits. The meme encourages participants to discuss a new topic each week and visit each other’s posts to keep the conversation going.

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Do you have a local library you go to often?

Yes! Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that Briana and are enthusiastic supporters of the public library. Even when getting to the library was difficult for me, I would walk, bike, or take the bus to make sure I was able to get my books because there is nothing more exciting than walking into a building full of stories–and being able to take them home free.

I also like to attend programs at the library since it’s a fun and free way to spend a night out and meet new people. I’ve been able to make crafts with materials I don’t have at home, win prizes at Bingo Night, attempt to solve a murder mystery, and enter the Summer and Winter Reading Challenges. Sometimes I invite friends or family to go with me since, again, it’s a free night out! Sometimes they even have snacks, which is a bonus.

Does/did your school have a library?

My elementary school had a library full of old books, mostly classics. I loved checking out books each week, though I was always sad we were limited to only one book per week. Later on, in high school, I was devastated to realize that the school library was only open for about a half hour after school–and I couldn’t go because I had to go home. But the library was mostly full of outdated nonfiction, so it wasn’t particularly useful, anyway. They later changed it to a computer lab because the administration decided libraries are obsolete. Well, sure–if it’s full of outdated books no one can access!

My college library did not have a popular fiction section, but I found it extremely useful for academic purposes, especially paired with interlibrary loans, which I took advantage of frequently. I also applied for a library card from the local public library while in college, and would sometimes walk there to check out books for entertainment. Also, a little-known tip is that sometimes the education majors are asked to read children’s books or popular fiction, so you can often find at least some of these books even in an academic library.

What are your favorite things about libraries?

Too many to list! I love that libraries are committed to equal access, and that they are always looking for new, innovative ways to reach more people and connect them with resources that can improve their lives. There is really nowhere else that feels as welcoming. I can walk in, with no questions asked, stay for hours, spend no money, and have no one bother me. And I always leave with a stack of books because there’s no charge, and if I don’t end up reading them all or loving them all, it doesn’t matter. I can always check the books out another time, or find a different book I’ll love. Lately, I’ve expanded to borrowing more movies because I don’t want to pay for a streaming service. And I regularly check out WiFi hotspots so I don’t have to pay for an internet provider at home. People always give me their tips to save money, and I always reply with, “But have you tried the library?”

Are there certain books you borrow more or less often from libraries?

I borrow almost all of my books from the library at this point in my life. I will buy classics since the public library does not tend to stock those, or books that my library is unable to purchase for me. But there are certain books I really couldn’t see myself ever purchasing if the library did not have them–graphic novels because they’re expensive and I can read them in about an hour or less, audiobooks because they are expensive, certain YA books that I don’t see myself ever rereading or that I am not positive I will really enjoy. My purchasing power is limited, like most people’s, so I obviously gravitate towards buying authors I already know I love, or books that I am 100% sure align with my reading tastes. The library allows me to try out new-to-me authors and other books I feel less certain about.

What do you love most about the library?

How to Access Academic Journal Articles Through the Library

Looking for access to scholarly articles? The good news is that most (if not all) colleges in the U.S. offer online access to their scholarly databases so you can browse and read articles from home. Even better, most (if not all) libraries in the U.S.–even public libraries!– offer Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services that will allow you to request articles not already available in your library’s online databases–and these are typically emailed to you so you never have to leave your dorm. Read on to discover some ways that you might be able to access academic journal articles through your library.

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If you are not currently a student, check to see if you are eligible to obtain a library card at a local college.

If you are currently a student at a college or university, you probably already have access to your school library through your Student ID card/number. If you are not currently a student, you can do research to see if you are eligible to receive a library card from a local college. For example, the closest community college to my hometown offers cards to community members for $10.00. If you don’t see this information online, consider calling, emailing, or chatting online with a librarian to see what they offer. But don’t worry! If you are not eligible to pay for a college library card, you can still use your local public library to borrow academic journal articles. And a card from your local public library should be free.

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Check the online databases.

Once you have a library card, check the online databases to find the academic journals and articles you are interested in. In most cases, you should be able to access these databases even if you are not on campus or in the library. As long as you have an internet connection, you should be able to browse from the comfort of your apartment or dorm.

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Utilize Interlibrary Loan–and you can have journal articles e-mailed to you as PDFs

If you do not see the academic article you are looking for, you can request that it be sent to you through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Most libraries now have an ILL request form online, so you don’t need to go to the library to ask for materials. Additionally, while books will still be sent to the library itself for pickup, academic articles are usually sent to students via email as PDFs. This means that you can do the whole transaction from home–and you don’t even need to return the borrowed article. Most libraries do make it clear, however, that the PDF is still under copyright, meaning it is for the use of the student only and should not be reproduced.

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Check your local public library’s resources.

Most public libraries offer some online access to scholarly databases, though the databases offered tend to be less specialized than those offered by colleges and universities. You can browse the online databases as you would at a college library. You can also use ILL the same as you would at a college library. That means that you can have books from other libraries sent to your local library for pickup. Or you can request articles that, again, will likely be emailed to you as PDFs. If you are looking for an online article, you probably never have to leave home.

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Apply for a public library card online.

Many public libraries were offering the ability to sign up for a card online before the pandemic, as a way to increase accessibility. Since 2020, the number of libraries with this option has likely risen. Visit your local library’s website to see if you can sign up online. In some cases, an online card might mean that you can only access online services. (You might need to go in-person to receive a physical card to check out physical items.) However, if you want the card primarily to search the online databases for journal articles, this should not be too much of an issue.

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Research if there are any public library branch locations, Bookmobile stops, or library kiosks closer to where you live or work.

Getting to the local library may not always be quick or convenient. However, most public libraries offer other ways to access the collection that not every library user is aware of. So if you need to stop in to pick up a physical item, to get your physical library card, or to speak with a librarian, research your options. For example, many library users might only know about the main branch of the library, and not realize that there are smaller branches located around the city or county. You can have materials sent to your closest branch for pickup. You can also check to see if there are other options, like a Bookmobile stop close to where you live, or a kiosk. Older kiosks worked like vending machines, where you were limited to checking out what was inside. Newer models, however, might offer you the ability to pick up holds. And, of course, many libraries offer homebound services to deliver materials to those who are unable to leave their homes. If you don’t know what your options are, visit the website of your local public library or speak with a librarian.

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See if you are eligible for a state library card.

Many states in the U.S. have one library where every resident of the state can apply for an online card and get access to digital materials (or physical, if you live close enough). So if you are not satisfied with your local collection, see what other options are available to you.

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Conclusion

Of course, every library is different and policies and services may vary from institution to institution. However, if you are interested in reading academic articles, it’s definitely worth doing a little research to see what might be available to you. Many of these services are free and accessible from your computer, so you never have to leave home. You might not know what you are missing if you have never looked for it!

What I Miss about How I Read as a Child

What Miss About How I Read as a Child

Previously, I have written about how my reading habits have changed over the years. And, in many ways, my habits have changed for the better. I learned that I could read what I wanted without fear of judgment. And I learned that it is not actually the end of the world if I cannot get my hands on a book the day it is released. Sometimes wisdom, or at least a bit of perspective, really does come with maturity. Even so, however, there are aspects of my childhood reading that I miss.

When I was growing up, I had no knowledge of the publishing industry. I simply strolled through the library or, if I was lucky, the bookstore, and picked up whatever I found interesting. Reading the most recent releases did not matter to me, because I had no idea what was a new title or what was a backlist title. If it looked interesting, I read it! I never felt a need to read to keep up with the hype or to appear knowledgeable and trendy.

In fact, even though classics have become a controversial topic, with many educators and librarians claiming that such books ruin children’s love of reading and should never be assigned or recommended to young people, I gravitated towards these books. Classics were the basis of my of my regular reading, and the books that made me fall in love with reading. When I was about eight, Little Women became my favorite book. When I was around eleven, it was J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings. My middle school list of repeat reads included titles such as Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. When I went to the public library, I searched for titles such as Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, or Louisa May Alcott’s lesser-known works like An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving. I discovered the magic of interlibrary loan in high school, so I could ask for some of the more obscure titles I was interested in.

And I reread these books all the time, a practice I sometimes feel like I have no time for as an adult. Many times I had to reread books, of course, because I could not take myself to the library as a child, and so my access to new books was somewhat limited. But I also loved rereading. Each time felt like returning to an old friend. And, each time I would discover some new aspect of the book that I had missed before.

The slow-paced feeling of reading as a child is what I miss the most. When I look back, I remember sunny days spent reading outside, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Adult life contains many pressures, and I often find myself trying to squeeze in a few pages here and there, trying to read quickly so I can make some progress before I need to stop. I have also found that blogging has introduced me to the world of publishing and new releases, and I end up having to prevent myself from putting 50 library books on hold. And reminding myself that I can go back to an old favorite, or a classic. That I do not need to keep up with every new release because that is actually physically impossible.

I miss the feeling of not having anyone telling me what I needed to read. Just the anticipation of entering the library and seeing the rows and rows of shelves before me. And knowing that adventure awaited.