Thursday, June 30, 2011

Karin Slaughter, Guest Blogger

I am a big fan of authors. I admire their commitment, their creativity, their energy.  It's always an honor to host Karin Slaughter as a guest blogger. She could have come on here today to promote her latest book, Fallen. I know readers would have enjoyed her comments about it. Instead, Karin Slaughter is going to talk about the campaign in which she puts her commitment, her creativity, and her energy. She's the force behind the Save the Libraries campaign. I had the chance to meet her, and thank her, when I was in New York City at the Library Day of Dialog. I can't thank her enough.

*****
Last year, I gave a speech to a group of librarians in Portland, OR, thanking them for all they were doing while bemoaning the cut in funding to our nation’s libraries. Staff are being fired. Facilities are being closed. Hours are being cut. I compared what was happening with funding cuts to a tsunami eroding the shores of our education system. I said that funding libraries, giving children access to reading, was a matter of national security.

I still believe those words, but at the time, they felt a bit hollow to me, sort of like I was cheering on the troops to battle, only afterward, we all put down our weapons and had some tea instead of going to war. I felt really bad about that, and decided to try to think of something to do that would actually deliver real help where it was needed most.

By help, I of course mean money, because while America will spend eleven billion dollars building schools in libraries in foreign nations, America is loathe to spend money on building schools in our own communities. Politicians look for ways to save money, and libraries are an easy target. They forget that for eighty percent of kids in rural areas, the library offers their only access to reading and the Internet outside of school. They ignore that most companies only accept online applications now, and that adults without computer access are effectively left out of the job market. They don’t bother to find out that book clubs, community groups and literacy action organizations meet at the library. Most importantly, they don’t seem to understand that for every dollar spent on a library, four dollars is returned to the community.

That’s why I created Save the Libraries, which is an author initiative to raise money that will go directly to libraries. With the help of the International Thriller Writer’s association, I and fellow authors Kathy Hogan Trochek (aka Mary Kay Andrews) and Kathryn Stockett held the first Save the Libraries fundraiser at our local Dekalb County Library, which is just outside the Atlanta area. After expenses were paid, we raised $50,000. This represented the only money the Dekalb system had with which to buy books for the year. It was a lifeline for a system that has crashed on more than its share of rocky shores.

The second program will be held in Boston sometime in October. Linda Fairstein, Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen and I will host an event to raise money for the Boston Public Library system. As we did in Dekalb, we’ll open an eBay store where people from all over the world can bid on items such as having their name appear in the next Michael Connelly book or joining my agent for lunch in New York. We plan to reach out to the local Boston business community and ask them for sponsorship. We plan to tap into new donors who don’t yet know that their libraries are in danger of being lost.

I suppose the most important task Save the Libraries has before them is educating people about the great stress our libraries are under. My Dekalb system was closed several days in December because they could not afford to heat the buildings. There is a brand new branch that can’t be opened because there’s no money to turn on the lights. These are not isolated incidences. Libraries all across the country are in dire need. If we don’t do something to help them, their governments will end up spending the money anyway, whether it’s through lost tax revenue or ramping up their police force.

Soon, we’ll announce a national raffle to send ITW authors to four more libraries across the country. The details are still in the works, but please know that authors are doing everything we can to help our champions on the front line. I don’t know a single author who doesn’t have a story of transformation through their childhood library. They have done so much for us for so long. It’s time we gave something back.

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Is it any wonder I'm always eager to host Karin Slaughter? On behalf of librarians and library users everywhere, thank you, Karin.

Karin Slaughter's website is http://www.karinslaughter.com/

Fallen by Karin Slaughter. Random House. ©2011. ISBN 9780345528209 (hardcover), 400p.

16 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

I've been following Karin's blog of her library tour with immense pleasure. I, too, am a lifelong library fan -- and having recently been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the public library in our poor, rural county, I've seen first hand how dire are the straits.

Brava, Karin, for all that you're doing. I'm keeping an eye on you for ideas.

donna said...

I am deeply distressed by the struggle that libraries are going through. When I saw a comment recently that said in effect that libraries appeal to only a small portion of people, therefore, it doesn't matter if they exist, I just couldn't believe it. It seems that this is another case of not caring about something if it doesn't affect them - just like the health care crisis in this country. Very, very sad. Thanks for all of your efforts to shed light on this problem.
Donna

Kay said...

I am so pleased to see the topic of Karin's guest post. Don't get me wrong. I am a BIG, BIG fan of her books and enjoyed FALLEN tremendously. However, I am an even bigger fan of libraries. And, trust me, times are hard all over the country for libraries.

It's so amazing to me that these authors are putting their muscle behind events to support libraries in their own communities and in others. I am very impressed and will do my part to support their efforts.

Lesa, I know that you have shared with us to a certain extent the struggles your own library system has experienced. People reading this, Lesa's library is lovely, well run, and a major asset to the community it sits in. However, funds are hard to come by and hours have been cut, programs slashed and it is such a shame. The patrons that Lesa and her staff serve need the resources that their library system can afford them desperately.

I want to encourage everyone to be informed about their local library system, even if you don't use it yourself. Watch for ways that you can help out, either through your dollars or through your voice. And, if you are in your local library, tell the staff that you appreciate them. Trust me, they never hear that enough. They are likely underpaid (I'm positive about that!) and working with less money than they've had in the past, probably with more and more people needing their services. Let's all do our part to share some love with our local libraries or to support events such as Karin has described that benefit libraries in other areas. If we don't, I fear we will all regret what may come if everyone decides that libraries are "unimportant" and "unnecessary".

OK, down off my soapbox. And off soon to volunteer at my own library. Have a good day!!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Vicki. And, thank you for stepping up to support your library through your service on the Board of Trustees. Every person counts, and every voice in support of libraries is needed.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Donna. And, please, as Kay says below, talk to your local librarians. Find out what you can do to help. Karin's answer when people ask how they can help is to say, start with your local public library.

Lesa said...

Kay,

I appreciate the fact that you stepped up on that soapbox. It's important that readers hear that message from Karin Slaughter, from you, from Vicki, from Donna, from me, and from everyone else who knows how important libraries are to the community. On Sunday, I'll recap Karin's event at the Poisoned Pen, and, since I asked her to speak about Save the Libraries, I'll repeat a little of that again, along with her discussion of Fallen. She included other comments about the importance of reading and of libraries.

And, Kay? Thank you for all of your comments about my library. We're all in the same boat. We need people who love libraries to speak up on their behalf. Thank you.

Karen said...

Enjoyed the excellent post and the comments. Thank you, Karin, for your efforts on behalf of the library systems.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Karen.

jenny milchman said...

Karin, thank you for this post and for all you are doing for libraries. Lesa may recall some of the fervor I've expressed for libraries over the years--places that turned my often miserable school years into the stuff of dreams and escape--and at least in part, an eventual career in writing.

I would love to help in some way. I've recently joined ITW and hope that our paths may cross in the future so that I can learn more.

Thanks for a great post (I am also a fan :)

Jenny

L.J. Sellers said...

What a fantastic effort! It makes me proud to be part of the crime fiction community, and I'd love to participate.

London Escort Service said...

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Lesa said...

Oh, don't worry, Jenny. I'm sure Karin will find a spot for you. In the meantime, she's telling everyone to help their local library.

Lesa said...

L.J., You should be proud to belong to such a wonderful community, supportive of each other, and libraries. As I told Jenny, if you and Karin don't cross paths, she's encouraging everyone to help their local public library.

Lesa said...

Thank you, London Escort Service, for the quick summary of Fallen.

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