A Librarian from Philly Swims with the Mermaids (And A Giveaway!)

4971733468_79bd541da1_oby Denny S. Bryce

I met Dena at one of my pop culture/fandom obsessions, a small but fabulous convention called Phauxcon, an annual gathering in October of fans of science fiction, romance, popular culture, Doctor Who and much more. Of course, after a few lively conversations, I invited Dena to hang at the Waterworld Mermaids pond and she said yes! She is a fan of Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, romance, reading and more reading (more than 250 books a year). She knows a lot (in fact this is part 1, and you’ll see part 2 at the Denny S. Bryce blog next week!). And yes, she likes to share, so be prepared to be wow’d!

Denny asked Dena: Hey, how did you end up a librarian?

I became a librarian because both my parents are librarians, although I spent the first 21 years of my life running in the opposite direction. I have a drama degree  but discovered quickly that while it was easy to get jobs in theatre, it was pretty hard to get paying jobs. Then one day at dinner with my parents, I was actually enjoying our conversation about libraries, and the next day I applied for grad school.

A few years later, I’m the Department Head of Philbrick Hall at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. My department houses the fiction, movie, graphic novel, and Teen collections. My specific collection responsibility is maintaining the Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror sections. A lot of what I do is keeping up to date on new releases and new trends in my collection area. I read about 250 books a year and spend a lot of time ordering books (both print and ebooks) for the collection. I also do a lot of reader’s advisory – recommending books to patrons. The internet is a huge help because I can use it to track down next books in series, find out when a favorite author is coming out with a new book, figure out the name of “that movie” starring “that guy”, and discover almost anything else I need in just a few seconds while my patron is standing at the desk. It’s amazing how often they think I’m magic… It’s also amazing how often I DON’T need to check online. My brain is stuffed full of book trivia that I don’t realize I have until I need to access it.I still wake up some mornings and giggle over the fact that I’m getting paid to do what I love.

Denny asked Dena: What is the most surprising trend you see at libraries or in the library industry?

This isn’t a surprising trend, but the rise of ebooks and other digital media affects the library hugely. Our ebook offerings have exploded over the past year or so, and not only local patrons are noticing. I’ve heard of a bookstore in Alabama telling their customers to get a Free Library of Philadelphia library card so they can borrow our ebooks. This then poses challenges to how we view and serve our community. We are a local organization, but we are all of a sudden becoming a national and even global presence. So how do we balance serving the people of Philadelphia with the demands of a wider community? I don’t think that this question has been truly answered yet.

There are other issues that are library specific in the ebook world. Lots of publishers don’t sell ebooks to libraries. There’s a huge issue in the library world right now surrounding publishers not wanting to allow libraries to lend their ebooks at all or limiting the number of times an ebook can be lent. For example HarperCollins only allows an ebook to be checked out 26 times before the library has to repurchase it. Some publishers quadruple the price of an ebook for libraries. And this is just the Big 6 publishers (if they sell to libraries at all). It’s also much harder to get self-published ebooks into the the library system. For example, my absolute favourite romance of 2013 was Courtney Milan’s A Kiss for Midwinter. It’s not available for me to purchase for the library at all, even though her previous books are available and circulate very well (I push her a lot). It’s a completely different delivery method – instead of just placing an order and having a book shipped to me, the author has to actively get their book in with one of the ebook library distributors (in our case Overdrive). I also fell in love with Gene Doucette’s Immortal series, which is published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop (who also first published 50 Shades of Grey) but their ebooks are not available via Overdrive. It’s so frustrating to have our hands tied and not be able to provide so much to our community. This article from Forbes outlines some of the basic arguments that are going on in the library and publishing world surrounding ebook distribution.

Denny asked Dena: What are fiction writers getting right, what are they getting wrong?

Denny's Mermaids

I think that fiction writers are getting far more creative with connecting with the community of readers and reaching their audience. There doesn’t seem to be the same reliance on publishers to do all the promotion for them. Authors are interacting with readers on a far more personal level via blogs, web pages, Twitter, and Facebook. When I couldn’t buy a self-published Courtney Milan ebook for my library (The Duchess War) I left a comment on Milan’s web page, she replied right away, and the next week the book was available in Overdrive (I’m still waiting for her latest to show up).

If they don’t have a traditional publisher, authors are getting far more savvy about self-publishing. It used to be that my knee-jerk reaction to anything self-published was that it was vanity press project and not worth my time to read or buy for the library. That’s definitely changing. Hugh Howey is an example of a very successful self-published author (and he’s now been picked up by Simon and Schuster). Courtney Milan and Sylvia Day moved into self-publishing. And there are different distribution models that are appearing and being successful as well.

Dena’s Top Pics for 2012:

Top romance books read in 2012: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney MilanNo Proper Lady by Isabel CooperA Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant.

Pick one of Dena’s top picks in your comment below and if your name is drawn you will receive an e-copy of the book!

One last gift from Dena for today!

She creates booklists for the Free Library webpage. Go here, here and here, to visit Dena’s lists! Enjoy!

Thank you Dena for joining us in the Mermaid’s Pond!