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This blog is the often amusing, sometimes dangerous den of two British writers of contemporary and paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. Most of our stories are based in the UK and our heroes and heroines are passionate Brits - yes, passionate Brits exist! Come on in out of the cold, pull up a chair and see for yourself...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Romance, Libraries, And Their Decline

First of all, you may want to read yesterday's [short] blog post on my blog site, about Paranormal Romance sectioning in one of my local libraries - http://www.blog.diannahardy.com/2012/04/paranormal-romance-or-horror.html

This post is an off-shoot to that one, and a bit of a ranty one, because I'm getting more and more disappointed about what I can (or can't) find in libraries.

I'm going to talk about the Romance section in libraries across the country, and lead onto why libraries are failing. Now, this may not apply to every single library (I've not been to every single one), but it applies to many across Britain - certainly all the ones I've been to in recent years. Whenever I wander into the Romance section, two things are almost always guaranteed: 1. it's tiny, and 2. all you ever see are Mills & Boon books.

This seems like such a great oversight to me. Libraries are suffering across the world, and certainly in this country, it becoming increasingly obvious to me why: they're just not moving with the times. Mills & Boon is not the only publisher of Romance nowadays; in fact, most people I know who read Romance, don't even read Mills & Boon - they go straight to the smaller independent publishers like Samhain and Ellora's Cave. Of course, the Harlequin label (of which Mills & Boon is an imprint) is still popular (yet, somehow, it's harder to find Harlequin in the Romance section - they're there, but you have to trudge through Mills & Boon first, and you don't get most of the sub-genres that Harlequin offer).

If you've read yesterday's blog post linked above, you'll see that I assigned a big #FAIL to the fact that that particular library had Paranormal Romance labelled as Horror and in the Horror section. WHY, for God's sake? Paranormal Romance is not a sub-genre of Horror; it's a sub-genre of Romance. Surely it should be in the Romance section, and fundamentally, the Romance section should be expanded to include the ever-increasing sub-genres of the subject. In most libraries that I've seen, the Romance section is not even shelved, but the books are on one spinning rack - that's it! Romance needs to include Paranormal Romance, Erotic Romance, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense, and so on, and it needs to include paperback titles from publishers that are actually read by anyone under the age of fifty.

If a library insists on keeping Paranormal Romance in the Horror section, then that section needs to be split in two: Horror AND Paranormal Romance, not just re-label the Paranormal Romance books as Horror (again, see yesterday's post). They are not the same genre.

No wonder people no longer go into libraries; surely they can't find anything they're looking for within a reasonable time frame, and when they try to order books in, they now have to pay a fee. Well, may as well buy online, don't you think? It's cheaper and quicker.

It's a great shame. I love libraries. I practically grew up in one. But as an adult, I find they're run in a similar fashion to the NHS: without intelligent management. I'm not convinced it's the number of online outlets that are putting libraries in danger, but the fact that the management don't seem to know what books people want to read. It's not just about the mainstream "bestsellers" any more. When I used to go to the library as a child, it was to search for something different and unique (if I wanted "same" or "bestseller" I would just go to the bookshop, because those books would always be checked out of the library anyway). But the only place to find different and unique nowadays is online. Libraries don't do it. All I seem to be able to find in libraries is recent bestseller titles (of which there are no copies left to check out), or very old titles that are outdated and no one wants to read.

Suggestion for libraries: instead of solely checking the New York Times bestseller list (or whatever list you check) for your potential stock, how about checking the Kindle bestseller lists, then ordering in the paperbacks of those Kindle books (and often there will be paperback editions). This is what the new generation want to read. This is where you'll find "different and unique". It doesn't have to be a huge range - just another small rack that swivels, titled Kindle Bestsellers, or better still, stick them into the correct genres (after you've expanded the genres on your shelves, of course).

The new generation don't even know what a library smells like - many have never stepped foot in one. I'm not surprised: they need a reason to.

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