I love libraries. As a kid they were always my hideaway. I could spend hours there and did, happily holed up in a corner with a pile of books. I like the smell. I like the hushed atmosphere. Even the old card catalogs engender warm and fuzzy memories for me. It is one of those places that instantly improves my mood as soon as I step inside the doors.
Now that I have children, I have started to volunteer in their school's library. At first I chose to do it because I remembered how much I loved checking out books as a kid and I wanted to relive that experience a little by watching my children and their friends check out their books. But over time, I realized that my hours there had an unexpected effect. They benefitted me as a writer. Here's how:
1. I became intimately aquainted with all of the books housed inside the library. I started to get familiar with the authors and their series. I got to see which of those books were checked out most often and which ones the kids were most excited about.
2. I developed an important ally. The media specialist has become a friend over the years and a beta reader for my novels. She tells me what she likes and what she doesn't. She is knowledgeable about a large variety of books and has a good handle on what kids like to read.
3. I was offered speaking opportunities. I have already had two opportunities to speak to kids about writing because I volunteered. It was a great opportunity to practice my presenting skills and to hone my author talk before I actually had to do it in an official author capacity. And I have earned a recommendation as a result that will help me schedule more talks within our school district as well as within our county should my book get published in the near future.
4. I am already familiar to the kids at the school. Although they are not my target audience, they will be very soon!
Libraries are special places. Without volunteers, they can't function, especially now when their funding is dwindling a little more every year. We writers make the perfect candidates for volunteers. Show your love for you local library by donating your time. In the long run it will benefit you as much as it benefits them.