For most debut authors the dream of winning a highly coveted literary prize rarely becomes a reality; however, that is what happened last November to Johanna Skibsrud, when her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, won Canada’s most prestigious literary award, The Scotiabank Giller Prize. In fact, the award has the distinction of immediately creating “bestsellers” and demand by readers skyrockets as soon as the announcement is made.
For authors, this award guarantees that their work will be read by readers across the country. In this case, what is called “the Giller effect” meant that the book, which was published by a small independent publisher who proudly produce what one Giller judge calls “beautiful” handcrafted books, was now faced with a situation where there weren’t enough copies of the book to go around. Demand simply outpaced supply and libraries were scrambling to fill requests for the book; in fact, we hadn’t even received a single print copy of the book as the publisher was only able to produce a few copies each week.
Fortunately, The Sentimentalists was available in eBook format and the media both local and national had talked about the format. We just needed a way to get the word out that the title was part of our downloadable collection; this information wasn’t obvious to our community as the bibliographic record for the item wasn’t yet in our catalogue.
As with many things, timing is everything, and our monthly televised book talk segment was scheduled for the next week, and so The Sentimentalists, e-readers, and our download e-book collection became the focus of the spot. Television provided the library with an immediate way to get the information out not only about this particular title, but also about our downloadable collections and the depth of titles available in this format. Certainly, this was an extraordinary situation and it won’t always be the case that a print item is not readily available, but when this did happen, we were very happy to be able to immediately get multiple copies of the title and add them to our digital offerings.
Libraries looking to get the word out about their collections and services should consider partnering with any local media (print, radio, or television) to ensure that the community is aware of all the options available.
Sharron Smith is Manager of Readers’ Advisory Services at the Kitchener Public Library in Ontario, Canada.