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The Image of Romance in Libraries

Romance author Adrienne Basso is also a librarian. We asked her about the image of romance in her library and how she has changed the mind-set of her board of trustees. Here is what she had to say:

To my way of thinking, romance novels and libraries are a natural match, but due to elitist attitudes by some librarians and a lack of knowledge by others, many libraries don’t even carry romance paperbacks. Until I published my first historical romance novel, this was the case at the library where I worked.

I had always been a closet-writer. No one I worked with knew I was writing a book and only a handful of family members were aware I had completed a manuscript. After my first book was published I was overwhelmed by the support I received from my professional colleagues. Everyone bought multiple copies of my book and I signed more gift books for library staff members than for my large, extended family. Closet romance readers quickly emerged and both the library director and assistant director confided to me they read and enjoyed romance books.

Even the conservative library board of trustees didn’t bat an eye when my novel, with the clinch cover and lots of female cleavage, was added to the fiction collection. With the enthusiasm of a newly published author I continually tracked the circulation of my book and was astounded to see it was constantly checked out. Occasionally by patrons who knew I had written this book, but mostly by people who didn’t even realize I was a reference librarian. It became clear that our patrons were definitely interested in romance novels and we were not meeting their needs. And while the idea of adding 30 additional copies of my book to the collection was my first choice for solving this dilemma, I decided to write a proposal and outline my ideas for a romance collection.

Armed with RWA statistics on the popularity of the genre, I approached the library director with my plans for acquiring, budgeting, processing and displaying romance paperbacks. She was open-minded and enthusiastic, but felt it would be prudent to start with a six month trial period to test the popularity of the genre.

I started the collection with a mix of titles; historicals, regency, single title contemporary and series. I bought books from Loveswept and every Silhouette and Harlequin line. I selected books based on good reviews, but I also bought books by authors I had read and liked in the past, authors I had met at conferences and through the prodigy BB, and authors who were members of NJRW and the Beau Monde (regency chapter of RWA) Patron response to the romance collection was phenomenal. We’d put out a dozen new paperbacks in display racks in the morning and by early afternoon they would be gone. It amazed me how every single book circulated. I kept detailed statistics and discovered Regency novels were the most popular books in the collection, followed by Silhouette Special Edition and Harlequin Presents. Even short story anthologies, an area that seldom holds anyone’s interest in mystery or science fiction, circulate often.

The one area that seems to have a smaller following are time travel stories, yet these books far outpace the circulation numbers of the science fiction collection.

I’m happy to report that romance books have now become a permanent monthly acquisition in our library. We offer our patrons selection, diversity and quality and I must admit I really enjoy choosing the books for this collection every month.

Adrienne Basso

You can link to Adrienne’s web site from our Links page.