There isn’t a week that passes that we don’t learn something new here at the library or get confirmation that we are doing some things right. We have discussed the challenges of keeping our collection fresh, having to pull books from the shelves to allow space for new authors and keep up with those who continue to add to their shelf, like James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and Clive Cussler. And we have lamented over the fact that some new writers can’t find publishers who will take a chance on them, choosing the tried-and-true older authors who may or may not be able to keep up their quality writing.
So we are thrilled when we have books by new authors who really stir our readers into commenting. It’s the reason we have started a “Patrons Pick” shelf in addition to a “Staff Picks” shelf, so we can showcase some of those unknowns. Many times these selections don’t make the bestsellers’ list — as those lists are truly based on the number of copies printed and sold.
But it really warms my heart when the old faithful books get fresh eyes. The last few weeks I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of older authors whose works are venturing out of the library. Not only are the biographies on the endangered display getting viewed again, but we also are seeing classics, and renewed interest in the juvenile fiction. We’ve watched the books of Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew), Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie), Scott O’Dell (Island of the Blue Dolphins) and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) opened by our youngest patrons. It is a delight to see these wonderful stories find new readership.
But we also have some wonderful historical books, both in the non-fiction collection and with our historical fiction. A well-written account of historical events, like “The Monuments Men” by Robert Edsal, “Citizen Soldier” by Stephen Ambrose or “God’s Hotel” by Victoria Sweet, can help me understand the events that framed our current lives. Well-researched historic fiction can also enlighten us, with accounts from the Civil War, such as “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira or “March” by Geraldine Brooks. Or you can learn about people who died long ago, like Robert Louise Stephenson. In “Under the Wide and Starry Sky,” author Nancy Horan built this story heavily on the correspondence that exists between Stephenson, his wife and his many friends. Or you can read about those who have changed our lives such as Albert Einstein in his biography “Einstein, His Life and Service,” written by Walter Isaacson, or other biographies he wrote on Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs.
Hanging onto some of our older authors until the next generation finds them interesting is something not all libraries can do. We cherish our books so much, that periodically we rotate them to our back room until we get a chance to put them out for new discovery. And it pays off when people find them in the catalog and ask for them, or we get a request from another library, hoping we still have our copies, and they find their way onto another community for a temporary stay.
All authors are not created equal, and some of our finest have been gone for many years. But there are new authors emerging all the time, with heartwarming stories, eloquent phrases, full of imagery that pulls us into the story. These are the kind of books we hope to offer on our shelves where the story comes alive in the mind of the reader.