Libraries column: A bridge to readers

Sandeep Mahal
Opinion - Libraries Wednesday, 5th August 2009

Reading Partners shows a way to reach readers from all ages and communities, writes Sandeep Mahal Building a grass roots readership for writers through libraries is now a vital part of our strategy and serves the long-term commitment we make as publishers to this kind of work. Stephen Page, CEO, Faber A lot has changed in five years. In 2004, The Reading Agency set up Reading Partners - a consortium transforming the way publishers and libraries work together. Back then, we presented five major adult publishers with a way to engage in a dialogue with the complex library network.

We formed a crucial bridge between the two sectors, helping publishers to understand how much libraries can help to bring their authors and readers together in a more creative and interactive way.
Reading Partners is now a trusted brand and involves nine major adult publishers and seven independent publishers*. Last year, Reading Partners brokered over 250 author events attended by 14,433 readers, and generated book sales of over £36,000. The programme proved conclusively that libraries were getting huge audiences for events (often much bigger than bookshops), launching debut authors to keen reading groups and reaching new audiences.
By using the libraries regional diversity and contact with the local community, we re helping to broker relationships between readers and writers in new and different ways, like the Girls Night In a hugely successful tried and tested author event model.
In June, Hodder took Jojo Moyes, Penny Vincenzi and Fiona Walker to Birmingham and Winchester libraries. The events drew capacity crowds of 360, and generated book sales of over £650. This Girls Night In was the first event I'd been to, said Jayne Swallow, who lives in Ropley near Winchester. It was all very informal, and all three authors were really amusing and articulate speakers. It was like going out with a group of friends, and funnier than many stand up comedy events I have been to. I went up to the librarian afterwards and said that it would be great to have more of these sorts of events.
Publishers are responding to this huge growth and demand in author events by incorporating library audiences as a mainstream part of their marketing and publicity planning. It is with libraries that publishers can explore imaginative and creative ways of building a social reading experience in local communities with readers of all ages and from all communities.
Download the 2008 evaluation report and 2009 case studies here.


*Alma Books, Allison & Busby, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Constable & Robinson, Faber, HarperCollins, Harlequin Mills and Boon, Hodder / Headline, Icon Books, Little Brown, Orion, Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Picnic Publishing, Quaestor 2000 Ltd, Random House and Transworld.

Sandeep Mahal is Partnerships Project Manager at The Reading Agency