LibraryReads: A List from the People Who Know Books Best
Edelweiss is a proud partner of LibraryReads, the monthly nationwide library staff picks list for adult fiction and non-fiction. LibraryReads leverages the incredible power of public library staff to create audiences for all kinds of authors and books, and Edelweiss makes it simple for both publishers and librarians to participate in its nomination process. Edelweiss publishers can easily share review copies with librarians for their consideration and, in turn, librarians can submit their LibraryReads nominations right through the site.
We spoke with LibraryReads Executive Director Rebecca Vnuk to learn more about the history of the list and what makes it unique, their efforts to showcase debut authors, and why she is excited for the organization's future.
What was the biggest inspiration behind the creation of LibraryReads?
In 2012, Nora Rawlinson (of EarlyWord) gave a talk at Digipalooza, noting that publishers aren’t always aware of how much library staff do to promote their books, for many reasons. A group of readers’ advisory folks were brainstorming about this, admiring the Indie Next list (for independent bookstores) and wondering why there was not an equivalent for libraries. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and they decided to create one! The original group included Miriam Tuliao, Nora Rawlinson, Stephanie Chase, David Wright, Ruth Liebmann, Alene Moroni, Heather McCormack, and Kaite Stover. Over the past 10 years we’ve added new board members (you can find a list on our website) and have blossomed from a monthly list to a full not-for-profit organization that creates the list, maintains an archive of over 1400 library staff-recommended titles, sponsors author panels and RA programming, and offers support to libraries and staff for continuing education and training.
What makes the LibraryReads list unique? How is the list created each month?
Each month, we get vote data from Edelweiss and NetGalley and tally everything up. Two things that we think are special about our list: we don’t influence the votes—they are all from public library staff across the country; and, most importantly, our list is filled with personal reviews from public library workers. We think that’s what really makes us stand out. It’s not a best-seller list, it’s not a “who has more marketing dollars” list, it’s actual personal recommendations from people working in libraries: the people who know books best!
Could you share a little bit about the Hall of Fame designation and any other ways LibraryReads works to maintain diversity on the monthly list?
Yes! The Hall of Fame was created in 2018 to recognize those authors who appear just about every time they publish a new book. We wanted to honor them with something special, and also realized the benefit of making space on the list for newer or less-established authors. So when an author’s third book hits the list via capturing enough votes, they make it into our Hall of Fame. Then, in July 2022, we added a “Bonus Pick” to the list. This designation goes to titles that one of our board members read and loved but didn’t quite have enough votes. We’re hoping to showcase more debut authors or smaller imprints with our Bonus Pick.
On Edelweiss, users who register as a Public Librarian are automatically part of the LibraryReads Community, which allows them to nominate books for the list on the site. Publishers can also auto-approve this Community for their review copies. How has the use of Edelweiss helped LibraryReads in its work?
We feel SO fortunate to have this partnership with Edelweiss! It’s an easy-to-navigate system, our users love being approved, and they enjoy how easy it is to find and download upcoming titles. We truly couldn’t do this work without the help of the Edelweiss database.
Do you have any advice for librarians who may be new to nominating and writing reviews for LibraryReads?
Yes! First of all, we have an extensive set of instructions as well as a FAQ page on our website (libraryreads.org). Any if anyone needs assistance, I am just an email away! But my best tips for a new user would be: don’t overwhelm yourself right away, but you’ll eventually get into a “groove”: sometimes, with downloads, you can end up with dozens of books on your to-read list… and it’s harder to keep track on a device (as opposed to having a stack of physical ARCS staring at you!). Another good tip is to make sure you are hitting “Save” after checking that “LibraryReads” box under “Nominate”.
I would also highly recommend trying your hand at a review! You don’t have to; we will get your vote either way. But those review annotations are what truly make our list special, so we love seeing more and more of them! We have a quick video that walks you through what we are looking for, so please check it out!
Do you have any tips or suggestions for publishers looking to have their titles featured on LibraryReads?
We have a great section just for Publishers on our site and the biggest advice I always give when they email me is that they need to get those galley copies out 3-6 months before publication. Library staff tend to vote for books they have actually had a chance to read, though that is not a stated requirement. We are also happy to have publishers use our name and logo on their social media and in their communications when they are suggesting books.
What makes you excited about the future of LibraryReads?
I can’t believe it’s been 10 years (and I’ve been with the organization for the last 5)! I love that we’ve moved from producing a monthly list to becoming a full-fledged reader’s advisory organization. Now that we are able to get back to travel, I am really looking forward to meeting more users (and introducing more library staff to us!) as we attend and sponsor state and local library conferences. We are also back at ALA Annual this summer, with 3 programs. I’m particularly excited about promoting our 1400+-title archive this year both to library staff and to the general public. Everyone is pretty much guaranteed to find the perfect read!