In an age of continuous change, BookExpo, like the public library itself, is evolving. But what’s become increasingly clear in recent years is that despite shiny new technology and ever more competition for a reader’s attention, books in all formats are holding their own and remain core to the library mission. And BookExpo remains a vital show for librarians, providing them with a crucial opportunity to learn about the titles and authors their patrons will be clamoring for in the coming months.
“I clearly remember my first BookExpo, in 2002, and feeling overwhelmed by the setting—the Javits Center in New York City, and the seemingly endless exhibit space,” recalls PW library columnist Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio. “Over the years, my personal BookExpo highlights have included riding the elevator with Barbara Kingsolver, a quick conversation with Nick Hornby, and I also had a great moment with Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner, who were together signing prints from their Brundibar picture book.”
In the course of her career, Feldman has become a pro at doing BookExpo, and says that her BookExpo experiences have highlighted the importance of the library-publisher partnership. “We are fortunate to work beyond a traditional business relationship,” she says, “to jointly build readership and enthusiasm for books.”
PW contributing editor Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library, agrees. Librarians basically attend BookExpo for three reasons, he says. Collection development librarians are looking at the big picture, “what will be the bestsellers, the possible breakouts, and how should they align their budget over the course of the year.” Programming librarians are looking for events they can create around books and authors, “from a standard author visit, to keynoting a library foundation’s gala or luncheon,” or maybe titles that might work for a one-city, one-book event.
“Finally there are the rest of us, who talk to readers and suggest books,” Kenney says. “In my town, there are over 30 book groups, and many of the members are looking to the library for advice, and, often, copies of the book. So I’m on the lookout for next year’s A Gentleman in Moscow, Killers of the Flower Moon, Little Fires Everywhere, Hunger, The Radium Girls, and The Woman in the Window.”
Oh, to be a librarian at a book conference. “BookExpo is like a candy store for readers,” Feldman says. And with a little advance planning, she says, it can be one of the most productive—and fun—events a librarian can attend.
“Be sure to wear your walking shoes,” Feldman advises. “Be open to new authors and small events, and don’t put all your time into showcase breakfasts and lunches. Be choosy about ARCs. Keep your eyes open and know what your favorite writers look like and you just might score a great selfie. And above all, be on the lookout for innovative marketing tips, and connect with publicists, not only writers.”
And one final recommendation: “Plan a few days of vacation for when you return,” Feldman says. “You most certainly will need the rest—and the time to read.”
The Librarians’ Lounge
Librarians, we know how you feel: running from booth to booth with bags of ARCs slung over your shoulders can be a test of endurance. So whether you need to just get off your feet for awhile, or want to grab a drink, some food, and recharge (yourself or your phone), or maybe you want to chat with other librarians, be sure to check out the Publishers Weekly Librarians’ Lounge in the main exhibit hall, booth 1856.
Thanks to our sponsors—including Baker & Taylor, Disney, Harlequin, Penguin Random House Library Marketing, Random House Children’s Books, Rowman & Littlefield, and Sourcebooks—this year’s lounge is once again the place to be for librarians at BookExpo. On both days of the show, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., lunch will be served, courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield.
On Thursday, May 31, Random House Children’s Books is sponsoring the lounge from 11 a.m. to noon and is expected to have some interesting items to share with librarians. And following lunch that day, mingle with Harlequin authors, who will be on hand in the booth to sign books from 2 to 3 p.m. Scheduled to appear are Helen Cullen (The Lost Letters of William Woolf, Graydon House), Robyn Carr (The Summer That Made Us, Mira), and Annie Ward (Beautiful Bad, Park Row). Later that afternoon, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., don’t miss Penguin Random House Library Marketing’s #RefreshingReads Meet & Greet. Recharge and quench your thirst with some refreshing lemonade and treats, and mingle with authors Sam Anderson, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and Rebecca Makkai, who will give away signed advance copies of their forthcoming books.
On Friday morning, June 1, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Sourcebooks Fire author (and librarian!) Claire Legrand will be in the booth to chat with librarians and sign copies of her fantastical book Furyborn, the first installment in her Empirium trilogy. And later on Friday, from 11 a.m. to noon, meet Disney author Ryan Higgins, who will stop by to mingle with librarians and sign copies of his book Bruce’s Big Move. The first 75 librarians can get a free copy, one per person, while supplies last. Note: this is a selfie-friendly signing—taking photos is welcome.
Throughout the show, Baker & Taylor reps will be on hand in the lounge to talk with librarians about their latest offerings.
So, whether you just need a place to grab lunch and get off your feet, or you want to hear from popular authors and take home some signed copies and more, we hope to see you in the Librarians’ Lounge.