5 Ways Libraries Can Support Local Writers

Adams Free Library

Adams Free Library

Last month I had the honor of participating on a panel at the New England Library Association conference in Portland, Maine. In response to the numerous requests libraries receive from boomers and seniors for memoir writing classes, I’d been invited to talk about my experiences teaching memoir to those populations in libraries and elsewhere.

For that I was happily prepared. But a question posed by the coordinator of my session (Self-Publishing) surprised and stimulated me. She asked:

What can libraries do for writers?

We typically think of libraries as institutions that feed our passions for reading, researching, and learning. The flip side of reading, researching, and learning, however, is writing. Someone writes the books we love. Someone writes the research findings and textbooks we need.

When it comes to creating memoirs and family histories, most individuals have to figure out—without professional guidance—how to tell their stories in writing. Their solitary struggles can delay completion of their work for years; all too often the effort is abandoned altogether.

Some libraries offer free literacy classes. Several in my area, offer journaling, memoir writing, and even writing classes for youngsters.

But could more local libraries become the places where those in our communities go for free writing instruction? In addition to teaching memoir and family history writing classes at the occasional library, I teach talented writers through community education programs, senior centers, and in retirement communities. But I know equally talented writers who cannot afford even the modest cost of those classes.

What Libraries Can Do for Writers
1) Perhaps libraries could avail themselves of grants earmarked for memoir writing classes. It would make sense for libraries, those repositories and consumers of writers’ work, to underwrite writing instruction a couple of times a year.

2) Many libraries host public readings of local writers’ published work. They could also sponsor writing contests and readings of excerpts from works in progress.

3) Libraries could stock the best-written and historically significant memoirs written by residents of the area. My students have written about life in a small Italian village in World War II officially hearing that the war was over when it wasn’t; a dramatic liberation from a German POW camp; life in a 20th century New England orphanage; even a mystery novel loosely based on the author’s experiences.

4) Hosting a series of seminars on self-publishing would be helpful to librarians and writers alike. Some libraries are partnering with Smashwords as a publishing platform. Other companies, such as FastPencil, evidently are getting into the act, as well.

5) Writers who want to self-publish their memoirs and family histories often need computer classes that cover effectively using Google for research; scanning and inserting photos into documents; downloading and saving documents; and formatting their manuscripts for publication.

Writers: Does your library offer memoir or other creative writing classes? Would you take advantage such free classes if your library made them available?

Librarians: I’d be happy to talk with you about short courses for your writer patrons. Please use the Contact tab at the top of this page to get in touch. Thank you.

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6 thoughts on “5 Ways Libraries Can Support Local Writers

  1. Lynette,
    Thanks so much for sharing your passion for libraries and how they might help others to write. Libraries are not just about information. They are collectors of stories. The stories may be of individuals, of civilizations, of philosophy, of poverty, of death, of weddings. Best of all they are about literacy and children’s story times and science programs and community gatherings. In these days of high tech we need places of high touch. May our libraries touch us all!

    Your California sister,

  2. Mary, thank you for this perceptive comment! (For those who don’t know, Mary is a librarian and one of my cherished sisters-in-law. Two of them are librarians, by the way.)

    I love the richness of the way you describe the role and place of libraries. As you know, I’m a true aficionada of them!

  3. Dayton Metro Library is very good about supporting local writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction. I haven’t seen many memoirs, unless they relate to local history, but I bet they’d get them. I don’t think they offer creative writing classes, but they do have programs where local authors can do readings and panel discussions, one of which I’m participating in in Feb.

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