Author Visits at Your Library

by Kelsey Dorado, NYLA Communications & Marketing Manager

Group photo with Becky Albertalli at the Wood Library
George O'Connor visiting the Half Hollow Hills School District
Jason Reynolds visiting the Greece Arcadia Library
 Daniel Kirk visiting the Groton Public Library

Albany High School librarians, Alicia Abdul and Kristen Majkut said it best “…affecting one or a handful of students might make the difference between engagement, a future writer or reader, or a library user.” By bringing authors and illustrators into your library you create one more reason for patrons to enter your doors. Having authors discuss their work and the process of writing, you are introducing a different way of interacting with the library and books themselves.

Choosing the Right Author

  1. Don’t simply focus on the big-name authors, “be open to hosting lesser known authors and illustrators. Even authors just starting out have stories and experience to share” says Emily Gibson from the Cooperstown Elementary School.
  2. Have a budget when choosing your author! Some authors who have a love for their local library may consider waiving the fee, but it is best not to count on that. Know what you fee you can afford and go from there.
  3. Look to your own community. Libraries across the state, like the Guilderland Public Library, host local author events that highlight the talent right in your backyard. This can also help when it comes to your budget, Neena McBaer from the Pawling Free Library explains how their self-published author “brought in a new, different audience and led a program on par with those led by programming specialists and more well-known authors, all at a fraction of the price.”

Getting Ready

  1. Bringing authors into your library will generate interest into their past work. Get your hands on some extra copies of their books so more patrons can check them out and get familiar with the author.
  2. Try and talk with your author directly, this may be easier if you are working with a local author or one who is self-published. Make sure you know if they have a preference about refreshments, if they will need a microphone, and other things like that.
  3. Advertise outside of your typical library user. Go through your system or work with other libraries close to you.
  4. If you can, find funding. The Greece Arcadia Library received the AASL Inspire Event grant and used part of it to host author Jason Reynolds. "The impact of award winning young adult author Jason Reynolds extended beyond the gymnasium filled with 550 students in grades 5-12 when he visited Greece Central School District in May 2018 and spread through social media, classrooms and libraries. The librarians and teachers in attendance experienced an increase of kids wanting to read, even the reluctant ones - all yearning for Jason Reynolds’ books.”

Preparing for Your Audience

  1. Pre-registration! Having patrons register ahead of time is crucial to getting an accurate head count. Knowing how many people are coming are necessary when planning seating arrangements and refreshments.
  2. With that being said, be prepared for walk-ins. The Smithtown Library hosted a program for a local author who brought 16 friends and family, none pre-registered.
  3. If you are having a big-name author visit your library, make sure you are aware of the limitations of your space. How many people can it fit? What space do you need to keep clear for emergency exits? Events can fill up and it is important to know what your space can comfortably hold.
  4. Have enough staff to cover the event! With any program, having enough library staff to help is vital.

The Program Itself

  1. Get creative! When authors come to your library for a program, they like to see that you took the time to showcase their work. When Becky Albertalli, author of “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” came to visit the Wood Library, librarian Katie Smith customized the space just for her. She made snacks and put them in little jars, both of which were mentioned in Albertalli’s book. She made copies of the cover to tie around the top. Authors appreciate the little things.
  2. Have clear expectations for your author. What do you want the program to be like? Do you want it to be a reading? A lecture? A Q&A? By having these set-up the program will run they way you both expect it to you.

Making a Difference…Together

  1. The Half Hollow Hills Community Library teen department partners with the school district English department and the middle school PTA to host authors Tim Green, Jordan Sonnenblick, and George O’Connor. “Two presentations to all the 7th graders in the Half Hollow Hills School District (over 400 students) author presentations took place in the middle school auditorium.  There was an author Luncheon held at the Library which included School District teachers & PTA Representatives and Library Staff.”
  2. Jeff Zentner visited both the Solvay High School LLC and Baker High School Learning Commons. “In Solvay, Jeff delivered an auditorium presentation to all students and faculty, then ran a writing workshop for interested students.  At Baldwinsville, he participated in a conference-style community event focused on mental health.” By having Jeff visit both schools, they were able to share the cost of his visit.