Pay It Forward

So, I am officially back from ALA/Anaheim. I’m going to try to post a wrap-up this weekend, but there is something more important I would like to talk about. And that’s paying it forward. I don’t want to discuss how many ARCs you got, but more about what you can do with them after and how to support ALA/YALSA via membership.

I’ve seen the posts and it looks like librarians, teachers, and bloggers alike had a blast at ALA Annual this year. Did you know you could support ALA beyond buying exhibit passes? That you could enjoy the resources they offer all year long? While ALA stands for American Library Association, you do not need to be a librarian to join. Even as a blogger/teacher you can join as an associate/friend and, frankly, it’s relatively cheap. For $84 a year you can get membership to BOTH ALA and YALSA. (You can do different divisions, too, but I know the most about YALSA) Here are some of the benefits of joining ALA/YALSA:

  • access to member only areas such as webinars, archived list-servs and access to ALA Connect where you can join discussions w/various interest groups
  • discounts on educational classes, webinars, and conferences.
  • the ability to get further involved in YALSA such as volunteering to be on a committee or various task/advisory groups
  • plus a whole bunch of other member only benefits

Even if you don’t think you’d use most of those resources, you’d still be supporting ALA/YALSA. This means you’ll be supporting the committee members who create the fabulous award lists such as Printz, Morris, and Best Fiction, those who give presentations, and those who create educational resources to be used by all. And I know some of you will say, but that’s a lot of money! But I hope you think about it a bit and come to realize how little it is. After all, $84 would barely (if at all) pay for a single night in a hotel room. This is for a whole year membership and would help support an organization that does so much.

The second thing I want to talk about is what to do with the ARCs once you’re done with them. I know there are hundreds of things you can do, but I recommend giving them to your local libraries or schools. And I know many of you do this, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to say it again. Teachers are always desperate for classroom books. While the ARCs are not finished copies, teens still get a thrill of reading something before it’s published (just as all of us do!) and could easily spark interest in reading among reluctant readers.

As for the library side, I want to talk a little about how I use ARCs. Buying books for libraries is a huge job. I can spend an upwards of 5 hours or more ordering teen books for my two libraries. I try to order 3- 6 months ahead. This means I have to find out what’s coming out, which ones I should order, and if any of them needs multiple copies. Do I order everything that is coming out? No. I don’t have the shelf space or the budget to do that. So, how do I decide what to order? Well, some of it is skimming review journals and blogs, knowing my population, and feedback from the teens.

One of the many ways I get feedback from the teens is via ARCs. I have a teen reviewers program, where teens have access to the ARCs I receive at conference. They get to keep them for two weeks and in exchange they fill out a short review form for me. Based on the teen’s responses I know if the book is going to be a big hit or not. If I get 6 or 7 teens telling me they all loved a book, then I know I need to buy more than one copy. Reviews are shared via our teen newsletter and blog (when our site is up), which creates even more buzz among the teens.

I, of course, read the ARCs as well. I try not to focus on the ones that my teens are requesting though since I get quite a bit of feedback from them. The market is exploding and it’s becoming harder to keep up. Sometimes a blurb and cover isn’t enough to catch my eye. In fact, I almost completely missed Divergent. I had the ARC for months before I read it and promptly kicked myself for waiting so long. It became one I’m still hand selling to my teens and the star of last summer’s book talks. Without the ARC, this teen favorite may have slipped under my radar for months before I caught it.

ARCs are also used as prizes. Right now, the focus has been on using them for the reading programs, but I hope to expand the prize use of them. One of my goals this year is to get a TAB (Teen Advisory Board) up and running and I plan to use ARCs for raffles as a way to thank them for their time. Of course, they aren’t the only way to get teens into programs, but they can be a valuable one and one of the reasons I spend my time on the exhibit floor to get print ARCs. (My personal preference is e-ARCs, but those are impossible to share with teens!)

This, of course, is just how I use ARCs. It may not seem like much, but believe me every little bit of feedback or excitement from the teens is worth its weight in gold. It helps me do my job just a little better. I am not saying that only librarians/teachers should get ARCs (far from it), I’m merely encouraging anyone and everyone to pay it forward. Many schools and libraries are hurting and those ARCs you’ve read/don’t want still have mileage to them.

I guess all I wanted to say is there are so many ways to further your involvement in the literary world. As always, if there is anything you would like to know more about, please ask. There are no stupid questions and I would love to give answers/information when I can.



  1. Drea, this is a great post and I’ll be steering a lot of people over here to read it. and Liz B, if you’re reading this, thanks for calling attention to it. I’d have written something like this myself, but still find myself feeling really defensive about the issue (as a blogger and non-librarian but current ALA Associate/YALSA member who bought books/picked up ARCs at ALA). I’m flabbergasted at some bloggers’ (and a few librarians’?) responses to the issue and I hope the conference committee can iron it out with better guidelines for future events.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.