Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interview with a SLOB: Mindy McGinnis

Most of you probably know about Mindy McGinnis through her fun, informative blog Writer Writer Pants on Fire or because her awesome-looking debut NOT A DROP TO DRINK hits bookstores this September. (Enter to win a copy on Goodreads here) But when she's not writing or blogging, she's a school librarian aide. Once I sold THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, I realized that the library world is totally foreign to me, even though I use libraries all the time. I spend time thinking about selling books, but getting your book into libraries is also important. People check out library books and get recommendations from their librarians every day. But what happens before that?

OOOhhh...books (via Wikipedia Commons)

So today, Mindy is taking off her writer hat and putting on her librarian fedora to answer some questions about how libraries buy books. And in the tradition of her SAT, SHIT, and CRAP series, I'll call this interview with a SLOB (School Librarian on Books).

How do libraries buy books? 
That really depends on the individual libraries. My own library is a public school in a rural area, and we've recently had to go through some serious funding cuts. When I first started, we had three full time librarian aides (one in each building) and one district librarian. Right now I'm the only full time librarian aide, and the District Librarian is also a part-time English teacher. So, our method of buying books has changed. We used to have the time to browse through School Library Journal, Horn Book, the YALSA site, read reviews, and hit up major book blogs. With our time so restricted now we use a service through Junior Library Guild where they send you an age appropriate selection every month.

How far in advance do they order them? 
In my own library we typically don't pre-order unless it's an anticipated big-demand sequel or series addition. Most of the time we rely on JLG [Junior Library Guild] to stock our shelves and then we do buy single titles through word of mouth or titles that our own browsing have led us to.

How do you decide what to buy? 
Our budget is restricted, so we buy what we know will circulate. Sequels and series additions are easy choices when we know the first title circulated well. Also we pay attention to the trends of what our kids are reading - which may not necessarily be what's trending in the industry. Right when zombies were going hard, all our kids wanted to read were contemporary issues books. So hey - we found them.

What do you think makes kids at your school pick out the books that they do? 
Two answers on that:1) The cover2) UsCovers are HUGE for teens. I can't tell you how many great books with bad covers have totally tanked with my kids because they don't want to be seen carrying them around. Our kids have learned to trust us though, and it's such a great compliment when a kid comes up to me and says, "Pick a book out for me. You know what I like."

Do authors ever reach out to you directly to pitch their books? 
In different ways, yes. I do have people approach me as a blogger for help with a signal boost, but also I've had quite a few YA authors (Simone Elkeles, Liz Norris and Lenore Applehans to name a few) donate copies of their books because they know I'm a school librarian. It also never hurts when I pick up a copy of a book and hand it to a kid and breezily say, "Yeah, I know her." ;)

Is there anything content-wise (language, violence, sex) that restricts you from stocking a book in your library? 
Tricky question. I don't enjoy censorship, but I do enjoy having a job. My library currently serves grades 7-12 and next year due to a building closure it will be serving grades 5-12. Obviously there are some content that is perfectly acceptable for seniors that a seventh grader shouldn't be near, let alone a fifth grader. Typically, because it's a small town, we know the kids, and usually we know the parents, too. We know their maturity levels, but we do make sure there's nothing too terribly shocking going home with someone who shouldn't have it. 

I've always said it's possible to have everything from Doctor Seuss to Cory Doctorow to E.L. Doctorow on the same shelf in my library... and that's pretty much the case.

So much great information here. Thank you so much, Mindy! You can find Mindy all across the web like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her blog (link above).

And you can also find me there as well: FB. Twitter. GR.


  1. As an author, I, too, visit the library but haven't really jumped into understanding how libraries work - search and find aside lol!

    This is has been very helpful. Thanks for this interview.

  2. HA - thanks for the SLOB :) And yes, my librarian fedora is quite a jaunty cap! Thanks for the interview!

  3. I <333 this interview Philip! Awesome scoop Mindy! You wear the fedora well, of ye of many hats.:)

    Quite thirsty for your September YA debut.:) It sounds fabulous...congrats!