A Chat with Mary Moore, 2012 RWA Librarian of the Year
Congratulations, Mary! RWA authors will want to add your romance-friendly library to their mailing lists. Where can they send congratulations or promotional items (and to whose attention)?
Reference & Adult Services
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
PO Box 443
Huntsville, AL 35804
Tell us about your professional journey, and how you ended up as the reference and adult services manager at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Huntsville, Alabama.
I was a Branch Manager for Huntsville's largest city branch when I first started working with the local chapter of RWA, the Heart of Dixie chapter. When running a full-service branch, you really get to know the reading habits of your community—infancy to golden years. From the moment we opened the Bailey Cove Branch Library, I knew we needed more romance fiction. I could never keep enough in stock—paperback, hardcover, large print. Plus, romance readers are fast readers. You always need new stock to keep the customers coming back.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to move back to the Main Library and run the Reference & Adult Services Department. It was tough to leave the Bailey Cove community, but I was ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately in my new position, I don't get to select the fiction. And the library liaison to Heart of Dixie position transferred to another branch manager. I was heartsick about my disconnect with fiction. So, I started a monthly Lunch & Learn series for writers. The “Write Right Lunch & Learn” features local writers discussing professional development topics related to the craft of writing and the business of writing. It has quickly become our most popular Lunch & Learn series, and I get to hang out with novelists again. It's a win-win.
Could you describe the type of events and educational sessions your library hosts to inform the public and other librarians about the romance genre?
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has a Main Library and eleven branches. As a system, we do a lot of traditional promotions like bookmarks, posters, NoveList access, NextRead newsletters, Reader's Advisory, and read-alike suggestions for romance. In recent years, we have been more proactive about promoting our collections, working with authors, and promoting local writers.
In 2009, we hosted a one-day conference to train Alabama librarians in selecting and promoting romance. To keep up our skills, we subscribe to Romantic Times, and we watch out for romance fiction webinars (like those offered by Booklist). We also have a “Demand Analysis Committee” that looks at patron holds each week and makes purchasing recommendations to all branches based on those requests. We can track both the popularity of an author and any emerging trends by closely monitoring those holds.
Besides the “Write Right” series, the main library sponsors Cupid's Café, a monthly book club that reads and discusses romance fiction. Whenever possible, they invite the writer to attend the discussion. Also, they time their spring selection to mirror the invited keynote speaker for the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon. System-wide, HMCPL sponsors 20 adult book clubs. Several feature romance titles on a regular basis such as “Forever YA,” which reads YA, and “Sister 2 Sister/Brother 2 Brother,” which reads African-American fiction.
What types of romances seem to be the most popular with your patrons? Do you see a trend with certain subgenres or authors, or does it vary? And does your library have e-books that patrons can check out? If so, how popular are romance e-books?
When I first started as a branch manager many years ago, the most popular romance genres were Regency, Highlander, and cowboy. In more recent years, the demand has stayed strongest for YA romance and paranormal romance. Because of Hunger Games, dystopian romance is especially hot. To my surprise, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is spurring interest in erotica titles. Erotica authors like Zane have been popular for many years, so I didn't think this was a “new” thing to readers. I was wrong. Readers at a branch library with the highest concentration of Christian fiction readers are asking the branch manager to recommend erotica titles. Anne Rice's old erotica title, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, has holds for the first time in two decades. Shelf-Awareness.com published a Reader's Advisory erotica list by M. J. Rose, which our Collection Development Specialist is circulating internally.
E-books are now part of our core services. According to our Collection Development Specialist, Annie Phillips, 32% of our e-book collection is romance fiction. It is our most popular genre after the “general fiction” category. As of this writing, 72.5% of the romance e-book titles are checked out, and over half of the romance e-book collection has holds.
Do you have any suggestions for romance authors who want to develop a relationship with their local librarian(s)? How can authors help you promote romance fiction to your patrons?
If your community has an active chapter of RWA, join it. Approach the Adult Programmer (in a big library) or Director (in a small library) as an organization wanting to partner with the library for programming, promotions, and/or fundraisers. Libraries are understaffed, and librarians are underpaid. Even when they would like to help you as an author, they simply may not have the time to consider individual requests for appearances or promotions. If you can approach the library as a group, your requests will have more appeal.
One way our library supported Heart of Dixie was to serve as the location for their annual Reader's Luncheon for the first few years. Once they got off the ground and outgrew us, they moved across the street to the civic center. But the Library still promotes the event to its readers through brochures and handselling. We have the same goals—we all want people to be excited about reading.
What does it mean to you to be chosen as the 2012 RWA Librarian of the Year?
I feel I am accepting on behalf of our library. Other librarians in our system such as Katie Kalil, Lesia Flynn (now an author herself), Irene Charles, and Lillie Cawthron, to name a few, have done so much to advance collection development and reader awareness. But I'm the lucky one who got the recognition and free trip to the conference. Sometimes I feel guilty, but mostly, I feel extremely honored. I also feel lucky to be in a position to promote reading and literature for a living.