A week ago many librarians (and some non-librarians) returned from the ALA Midwinter Meeting. And as expected, posts went up about ALA. A debate ensued-how should you act at events like ALA or BEA? Should you be greedy and take lots of ARCs for your blog? What about the librarians that are members of ALA and attend? And what to do with ARCs after you hauled a bunch home? Many bloggers have responded to this and they have said it all much better than I can, so I encourage you to check out their posts:
Kelly at Stacked on the line between Blogger and Librarian
Kelly also has a great post about the ethics of what to do with ARCs and selling them (which is unethical-I agree!)
Jennie at BiblioFile on greediness at conferences
Colleen at Chasing Ray on "Winning ALA"
April at Good Books and Good Wine on Professionalism and Blogging
Since there's been some discussion about ARCs, I thought I would share about what I do with ARCs. Most I get by attending ALA, but I also have built my blog up after four years of blogging that I am sent books from publishers as well. Not a lot, but enough to provide a good TBR pile. (Plus add in all my library books, books I buy and books I already have owned and I have a very large, ever growing TBR pile!!) I didn't start my blog with ARCs and I actually didn't start receiving ARCs until about two years into my blogging. I still feel weird about requesting a book from a publisher because I know I already have a million other books to read and I don't need to read it right now-I can wait until it comes out! So what do I do with the ARCs I do receive?
A few years ago, I attended my first ALA. It was overwhelming, and yes, it was easy to come back with a car full of books (that's the downside to driving-more space for swag!) I had noticed that attendance in our Teen Library Council was down and the teens were really interested in discussing books. So I made a galley check out list for the teens and if they attended TLC, they could "check out" an ARC from the YA Office. In return, they had to fill out a short review form. They could have three a month, and then each meeting they'd tell me what they liked, didn't like, who they would recommend the book to, should we buy it, etc. This was a great way to get feedback from the teens and it was the incentive the teens needed to attend TLC Meetings. It also worked well because I had some teens who had fines on their library cards and weren't allowed to check books out because they were over the limit, so the ARCs gave them a way to still get books from the library.
Word also got around to my co-workers that I had a stash of ARCs and if there was a popular book the staff wanted to read, they would pass it around and build buzz. This was a great way to get staff reading YA and it also kept the hold list lower because staff wasn't having to place holds on the book, freeing library copies up for patrons. We passed around an ARC of Divergent after the teens read it and loved it and it was so great to see my library staff talking up a YA book with each other and with the patrons who would come in looking for a new book to read.
Most ARCs didn't stand up well-after about three teens borrowed it, it would be falling apart (ARCs are not nicely bound copies so they are not meant to wear well). The ones that fell apart we would recycle. The ones that were still in good condition would sometimes be prizes and most would get donated.. My teens also love doing Read-A-Thons and I provide prizes for these events, some of which are ARCs so they can leave with a new book to read. I also use ARCs as prizes if we have a special program-like if we're doing a zombie program and I have an ARC about zombies, I'll give it as a prize.
After the teens have had a chance to read them and I've used some as prizes, I donate the ARCs. ARCs can not be sold and should not be sold to used book stores. They are also not supposed to make their way onto library shelves as part of the collection. So where can you donate them?
I donate mine to a Teen Crisis Organization in my hometown that works to help homeless teens, teens caught in domestic violence, and teens needing a safe place to go for respite care. When my mom delivered the boxes of ARCs-and some finished copies I had, the workers were so amazed that someone would think of them and their services to teens. This is an organization that doesn't get a lot of people thinking of them and donating them. These are teens who need books and may never have a chance to have a book of their own and now they can.
My mom also told me about a local juvenile court judge in her area that has bookcases in his courtroom. As he sees each case, he encourages the kids and teens to take a book from the shelf and keep it. She inquired about how they get books to put on the shelf and they come from donation, so I've started donating my ARCs and other books I want to clear off my shelves to this judges bookshelf.
And last, I donate some books to local teachers who are struggling to maintain a classroom set of books to encourage their students to read during free reading time. These teachers have no budget and are often purchasing books from their own personal funds to get their students to read.
There are lots of ways to donate your ARCs if you have them. And if you don't have an ARC, guess what? It's OK. The book will come out and you can check it out from your library. You'll still get a chance to read it. But if you have ARCs, think about donating them to someone in need-you'll make their day and you'll feel good about sharing the joy of reading.