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The Library Project

The story of how I offered my book to every library in Connecticut

The first five libraries that I visited were very local, and I visited them when convenient, usually on my way to or from something. I wasn’t making much progress at that rate. Connecticut has 169 towns, and 165 of them have libraries. Even if I visited one per week, it would take me over three years to visit them all.

If I had stayed with my original plan to visit libraries in decreasing proximity to my house, I’d be driving back and forth, across where I live, and that would be a lot of time spent driving. It made more sense that, after I had visited a library, my next library would be in an adjacent town. The driving time from one library to the next was anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on the size of the towns.

So, I took a vacation day, put a ton of books in the backseat, a box of doughnuts in the front seat, and I headed out. Once I got into the groove, I was averaging about half an hour per library. I hit my first library at noon, and I decided to take a beeline away from my house. It was summer, and most of the libraries closed at 8:00, so I was astounded at how far I could get. Geez, I could hit the New York state border and then maybe head north. Then I realized time wasn’t my only constraint, when I saw my phone was (and hence my GPS) was at about 6% remaining charge. (Note to self: Bring a phone charger for the car. But first: Buy a phone charger for the car.) I returned home. The phone lasted long enough to get me to where I knew where I was. Whew. That first run, I’d visited 8 libraries.

I learned some things. When I donate a book to a library and they accept it, they don’t necessarily add it to their collection. Librarians will ask me if I want the book back if they don’t add it to their collection. If the library is close to home, I will, but usually the library is far enough away that going there again to pick it up isn’t worthwhile. In this case, I will allow the library to sell it. Sometimes they sell it in their annual retired book sale. I’m okay with this, because if they sell it, then I have still contributed something to the library, and also that means someone bought it and will presumably read it. Some libraries have sold Xylene online. I’ve bought back a couple of my own books this way. It’s cheaper per book than having more printed. (I try not to think about the implications.)

I also learned that libraries all have online databases of their collections. So I can look up my book to see if the library has added it to their collection. I’m glad I didn’t do this right away, because the answer would have been quite discouraging. Only one out of the first 5 libraries added Xylene to their collection. On that first run of 8 libraries, only two added it to the collection. If I’d known that, I might have called it quits.

I also learned that, not only do libraries keep their books in a database, there are databases that unite many libraries. I can go to the Guilford library, who doesn’t have my book, and make them order it from Wallingford, who does. In Connecticut, there are three major online catalogues: Bibliomation, LCI (for Library Connections Inc.) and LION (For Libraries Something). Here’s where this is relevant: Suppose a library belongs to the Bibliomation club. When I donate a book to them, they look it up. First, if it is there at all, that’s a shortcut for the librarian. They only have to check a box that says, “Yeah, we have it, too.” The first librarian who puts Xylene in the database has to do all the work. The other factor is every library who has added Xylene to their collection has, in a small way, advocated for my book. So my chance of success increases.

CT towns library collections 11-9-23.png

A few weeks later, I went on another library run. On this one, I started earlier and I continued until dark, which was probably about 7:30. I visited 16 libraries, and I gave away 12 books. Four libraries wouldn’t even accept it. Three of the libraries have a procedure involving filling out an online form and then returning to the library. I’m not doing that. The fourth librarian said something along the lines of “Self-published books suck, and you’re not from our town, so unless you have good reviews, beat it.” At that point, I didn’t have ANY reviews, so I beat it.

On the other hand, some librarians treated me like a celebrity. I’d be introduced to the library director, or I’d be asked to sign the book. At one library, they took pictures of me for their newsletter. After a visit like that, I’d be walking on air, to use a trite, shopworn expression.

The thing is, anybody who is stubborn enough (or perhaps egotistical enough) can write a book and self-publish it. If a publishing company publishes it, then professionals in the field have invested their expertise and money in your book. That’s a powerful tribute. But for self-published books, what distinguishes good books from bad?

Anyway, I’d go on a library run about every month, on average. I’d start when the first library opened and I’d keep at it until dark. Except one time, I pulled the plug because it was snowing pretty hard. Another time, I was so successful that I ran out of books. One time in the summer, I found myself with plenty of daylight, but all the libraries in the sector closed at 6:00.

I really wanted to keep up my strategy of visiting adjacent towns, and this lead to some interesting geometry problems. In general, I tried to work the outlines of the state and work my way in. There are only a few ways across the Connecticut River, so it formed a natural division of the state. I alternated runs between the east and west sides of the river.

CT towns library runs 11-9-23.png

Not all libraries are open all day every day, so occasionally, I’d encounter one that wasn’t open. I’d change my route so I could pick it up in a later run. It added a random element. Another consideration was I never knew how far I would get on any particular run. So I had to be flexible and think on my feet. In the end, there were about a dozen isolated towns scattered around the state. I mopped them up in my final two runs, which were virtually all driving.

 

The Library Project is like life. You’re kind of relieved when it’s over? No. The Library Project is like life in that you learn as you progress, but you have to work around your earlier mistakes. And you only get to do it once.

CT towns donation status 12-1-23.png
List O' Libraries

Here is a list of the libraries that have added 'Xylene' to their collection

  • Ansonia

  • Beacon Falls

  • Bethany

  • Bethel

  • Bolton

  • Bridgeport

  • Brookfield

  • Canterbury

  • Canton

  • Chaplin

  • Chester

  • Columbia

  • Coventry

  • Danbury

  • Darien

  • Deep River

  • Durham

  • East Hartford

  • East Haven

  • East Lyme (Niantic)

  • East Windsor

  • Ellington

  • Enfield

  • Fairfield

  • Farmington

  • Franklin

  • Granby

  • Griswold

  • Haddam

  • Hebron

  • Killingly

  • Madison

  • Manchester

  • Mansfield

  • Meriden

  • Middlefield

  • Monroe

  • Montville (Oakdale)

  • Morris

  • Naugatuck

  • New London

  • New Milford

  • Newington

  • Newtown

  • Norwalk

  • Old Lyme

  • Old Saybrook

  • Oxford

  • Plainville

  • Plymouth (Terryville)

  • Portland

  • Preston

  • Prospect

  • Putnam

  • Salem

  • Salisbury

  • Scotland

  • Shelton

  • Simsbury

  • Somers

  • South Windsor

  • Torrington

  • Trumbull

  • Vernon (Rockville)

  • Voluntown

  • Wallingford

  • Waterbury

  • Watertown

  • West Haven

  • Westbrook

  • Weston

  • Westport

  • Wethersfield

  • Windsor

  • Wolcott

Don't see your town here? No problem! You can order it from the libraries listed below

  • Ashford

  • Avon

  • Berlin

  • Bloomfield

  • Branford

  • Bridgewater

  • Bristol

  • Burlington

  • Canaan (Falls Village)

  • Cheshire

  • Clinton

  • Colchester

  • Cromwell

  • Derby

  • East Haddam

  • East Hamptom

  • Easton

  • Essex

  • Glastonbury

  • Guilford

  • Hamden

  • Kent

  • Killingworth

  • Lebanon

  • Ledyard

  • Litchfield

  • Marlborough

  • Middletown

  • New Britain

  • Norfolk

  • North Branford

  • North Canaan

  • North Haven

  • North Stonington

  • Norwich

  • Orange

  • Redding

  • Ridgefield

  • Rocky Hill

  • Roxbury

  • Seymour

  • Sharon

  • Sherman

  • Southbury

  • Southington

  • Sprague (Baltic)

  • Stafford

  • Suffield

  • Thomaston

  • Thompson (North Grosvenordale)

  • Tolland

  • Union

  • Warren

  • Washington

  • West Hartford

  • Winchester

  • Windam (Willimantic)

  • Windsor Locks

  • Woodbridge

  • Woodbury

Still don't see your town? Check back soon! This list is updated weekly!

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