Hmm… do I smell discrimination?

bannedbooksSo I was at my local library the other day, and I noticed that while they do have a romance section, they don’t have either of my books in stock. Many other Chicago Public Library branches do carry both of them, however.  Thinking I would be a nice person, do my part to support my local library, etc., etc., I returned the next day to donate a copy of each of my books.  The young female receptionist took the books, noted that they were both already in the Chicago Public Library system, and said they would be happy to take them.  She mentioned that I should call back later in the afternoon to make sure the books were processed by her manager.

Later that afternoon, I thus called and spoke to the manager, Dick.  (Note: as the story goes on, you may begin to suspect that I made up this name, but I swear, it’s really Dick.)  My conversation with Dick went something like this:

Me:  Hi, Dick.  My name is Julie James– I’m a local author and I dropped off my two books earlier this afternoon to add to your branch’s collection.  I just wanted to make sure you received those books okay?

Dick:  Umm…

Silence.

Me:  So… I’m guessing from that reaction that you have no clue what I’m talking about?  I dropped off the books with a nice red-headed woman, I didn’t catch her name.

Dick:  I haven’t seen ’em, but there’s one place they might be.  Do you want me to check?

Gee.  As reassuring as it is to know they “might” be somewhere…

Me:  If you wouldn’t mind checking, that would be great.

[Dick sighs, then there is a long pause.]

[Dick picks up phone, call resumes.]

Dick:  Okay, so I got your books here.  Yeah… I’m going to have to look into these.  I need to see if they’re appropriate for our collection.

[Note: the other party to this phone call would describe Dick’s tone at this point as “snotty,” but given how said other party will endeavor to tell this story in an objective fashion, said other party will let the dialogue speak for itself.]

Me: I saw that several other branches of the Chicago Public Library carry them– I just thought I’d donate the copies since you’re my local branch.

Dick:  I still gotta check to see if they’re appropriate.

Me:  Well, they’re contemporary romances.  You have a romance section, right?

Dick:  Yeah, but I gotta make sure they’re an appropriate fit for our readers.  You know, we can’t just take any books here that people want to drop off.  Every library manager should be doing this, and if they’re not, well, they should be.

Me:  Oh–what kind of information are you looking for?  Maybe I can help you.

Dick:  Well, I’m going to check the internet, see if I can find any reviews on your books.  If you’ve had any.

Me:  Actually, I think you’ll find that both of the books have been well-received.  In fact, the Sun-Times did great reviews for both of them [I throw this in thinking a local connection might help] and just a couple weeks ago Booklist gave Practice Makes Perfect a starred review–

Dick: [cutting me off]  Good for you.

[Note: the other party to this phone call would most definitely describe Dick’s tone at this point as “sarcastic.”   And at this point, it’s pretty safe to say that said other party’s tone is pretty damn sarcastic too.]

Me:  You know, I’m confused here.  For some reason, I was under the impression that I was trying to do something nice by donating books to the library.

Dick:  Sure, and we’re happy to have them.  Once I determine that they’re appropriate.

Me:  I’ll tell you what, Dick– you check your sources and decide whether you think my books are “appropriate” for your library.  And if you decide they’re not, you call me and I’ll come over and take them back.  How does that sound?

****

Okay– so what’s really going on here?

If I was a betting woman, I’d wager that Dick saw a book called Just the Sexiest Man Alive and got all crotchety about what might be in it.  I’m also guessing that Dick isn’t necessarily a fan of romance.  But maybe I’m wrong– maybe he’s really that thorough about checking into every book that comes into his library.  But come on, am I really supposed to believe he checks the reviews for every new acquisition?  Something isn’t right…

P.S.  I haven’t heard from Dick since.  My plan is to call this afternoon to confirm whether he did, indeed, find the books acceptable.  I will admit:  there’s a small part of me that’s kind of hoping he’ll tell me that he doesn’t think my books are appropriate for his library.  Now that I write full-time instead of practicing law, my work interactions are generally all very pleasant and I’m just itching for a good fight.

On another note, to focus next on people who are so much more fun (and welcoming) about books… the other week my book club had its monthly meeting and–ha– we read Practice Makes Perfect.  Surprisingly, no one said they disliked the book.  😉  It was a ton of fun for me to hear the reactions and thoughts of people who know me so well.  We had a lively discussion about the gender issues touched on in the book (many of which were articulated so well by Jessica in her review of PMP at Racy Romance Reviews); our personal experiences working in male-dominated professions; whether J.D. was or was not an asshole at the beginning of the book; and the steamier sex scenes on the horizon for Book 3.  I asked the waiter to take a picture of the group:

img_2424

The Book Club girls (sans Melissa)
(I’m second from the left.)

Next up, we’re reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I’ll start just as soon as I finish Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh.  AB is the first paranormal I’ve read, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  All I can say is… wow.  I’m definitely going to have to check out more of Nalini Singh’s books.

23 thoughts on “Hmm… do I smell discrimination?

  1. Liz V. says:

    Okay, I’m feeling rather upset and appalled on your behalf! Unbelievable….his attitude towards you. I do hope you follow up on this and let us know what happens. I know my library would be thrilled to have your books.

    Great picture of the book group.

  2. erika says:

    Kick his A$$ Julie! What a jerk. You handled it better than I would have. I would have asked for his superior, but I’m kinda difficult (wincing) to deal with sometimes so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me.

    Happy to hear the PMP reviews were good. Can’t wait for the 3rd book.

  3. Keira Soleore says:

    First of all, as a public community service institution, he should’ve been gushing with thanks. Secondly, you’re a local author, which meant he should’ve been supportive. Thirdly, even if he felt that the books were inappropriate for their branch, he could’ve checked with his manager, and then e-mailed you about it, if that were indeed the case. Why stomp on a gift horse?

    It’s far easier, I have found, to get libraries to order a book than to donate new/used copies. Heck, it’s even HARD to donate money to a specific branch for specific use. Sigh!

    Perhaps a copy of the reviews and other media material that you use for booksellers needs to be given to the library along with the free books?

  4. katiebabs says:

    What an asshole. Appropriate?? And his comment about “good for you” about any reviews of your books.
    I must say the the NYC Mid town library has an excellent section of romance as well as westerns, sci fi and fantasy. And they also have erotica.
    Dick should read some romance so he can remove the stick out of his ass.

  5. Dottie Taylor says:

    Hi Julie

    I donate books to our local library all the time. I’ve never had to get prior approval. We LIVE in the same state for heaven’s sakes! I live in a rural community where the people tend to be a tad bit prudish. I recently donated Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton, they were thrilled. The librarian actually gusted, she was so please. It was ..umm.. racy to say the least. Maybe you should have ‘Dick’ call my local library!!! (I won’t say his name describes his personality….oops! Just did.) I am so tired of the double standard for romance books. I mentioned that I donated Swallowing Darkness….I could find it anywhere around here, I had to go to Champaign to purchase it. I’ve been looking for your books in my area, and again no luck. I’m waiting to get to Springfield or Champaign to purchase them.

  6. Lea says:

    OMG:

    What a chauvinistic, misogynistic blowhole! You get him Julie!

    Maybe “Dick” should be asked who perished and made him book censorship poobah of the Chicago library system!

    I mean, this is seriously twisted Julie. I would be willing to lay betting money on the fact that they have a copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, on the shelves in that library, or “The Flame and the Flower”? And, “Dick” decides your delightful contemporary romance requires censorship?

    I surely hope you are able to get this issue resolved to your satisfaction.

    Warm Regards
    L

  7. Kati says:

    Wow! Dick is a well…you know. I do hope you kick his butt, Julie!

    Ah, Nalini. She’s in my top 3 favorite authors of all time. Her books are an absolute sure thing. Get Slave to Sensation next. I defy you not to fall in love with Lucas Hunter.

  8. rebyj says:

    You should have offered to tell him what pages the dirty parts were on so as to saved him some of his valuable, appropriate time. ( yes that was said in sarcastic tone lol)

    I’m astounded that this is occuring in Chicago and not Biblebeltville, Tennessee ! Find out where Dick is from , I betcha it’s the southeast USA or he lives with his evangelical grandma.

  9. Carolyn Jean says:

    That is so wrong! Of course it’s appropriate for his readership, since the author of those very well-loved books actually lives in the area. Grrr.

    However, it made a highly entertaining post. Can’t wait for the exciting conclusion.

  10. Tessa Dare says:

    Okay, don’t shoot me – I started reading this with just the teensiest bit of sympathy for Dick. I’m a public librarian, and you wouldn’t believe some of the books people bring in expecting the library to add to the collection. I once had a gentleman walk into my library and explain that he had an entire shelf full of old books on the history of his religious sect at home, and he would like to donate them to our library – but only if we would create a special shelf to display them, not check them out to anyone, and agree to give them back whenever he wanted them. When I tried to explain our donations policy to him, and that public libraries don’t typically do things that way, he was…a bit miffed. Sometimes people donate books that promote their political views, or their college biology textbooks from the 1970s. Etc.

    So authors, if ever you contact the library to donate your books and the librarian sounds a wee bit wary and starts saying things like “collections policy” and “need to check reviews” – it’s not that we’re ungrateful. It’s just that many times people do bring in books that are outdated, biased, or otherwise not in line with the library’s collection, and some of us have learned to speak in noncommittal language until we have a chance to check things out for ourselves.

    But none of that excuses rudeness. Dick’s attitude sounds awful, and no one should be spoken to in that manner to begin with–but the moment you told him the library system already owns copies and mentioned the reviews, he should have immediately realized you were the real deal. If I were you, I would write to/call the head of Adult Services or Acquisitions or something and describe your experience. If he’s openly disrespectful toward authors of romance, one can only imagine how he’s treating the readers. 🙁

    *sigh*
    Tessa, embarrassed for her profession.

    PS–I’m going to ask our librarian who buys fiction to order your books.

  11. Liza says:

    I donate books(lots of romances) to my local library every year. I’ve been told if they can’t put them on the shelves, they will use them in the book sale to raise money for the library. I have noticed a large number of my books on the shelves(I always put a mark in the front of the book so I know it’s one I donated).

    With the economy how it is right now, you would think a library would be grateful to get new books without having to dip into their budget.

  12. Julie says:

    Thanks, everyone! Your comments and suggestions are very much appreciated.

    Keira: great idea– I should’ve thought of giving him the press materials. I just didn’t think it would be so hard to donate free books. 😉

    Kati: I like this challenge. Slave to Sensation next. I will try my hardest not to fall for Lucas Hunter. It’s going to be pretty tough to be Raphael. I mean, he’s an archangel– can it get any better?

    Tessa: I’m definitely not going to shoot you! Actually, I think it’s great to have the viewpoint of a librarian. I do hear what you’re saying, and it’s very possible that’s all it was– a disconnect. Here I’m thinking, “Dude, I just want to give you free books,” but that’s probably what the guy who wanted you to set aside a special shelf for his books was thinking too, right? And thanks for asking your fiction librarian to order my books– that’s so nice of you!

    Liza: I, too, thought about the economy angle. But who knows…

    Liz: Thanks for the compliments on the book club picture!

    Erika: Oh, trust me, I have more than my fair share of difficult moments. 😉

    Katiebabs: You are lucky to have such a romance-friendly library by you. And you made me LOL with your other comment.

    Dottie: Strange, how these things sometimes work out… How great to have such a supportive library. And now I’m curious about this Swallowing Darkness book…

    Elyssa– too funny. I definitely want you on my side if I go to war against Dick. 😉

    Lea: cracking up over the “book censorship poobah” line…

    rebyj: also cracking up over the thought of him sneaking off to find the sexy parts of the books. And now maybe a little creeped out, too.

    Carolyn Jean: Thanks! I will keep everyone posted!

  13. Stacy ~ says:

    Wow. That just floors me. While on some level I can understand his decision to review the books for content, I found his attitude rude and condescending. It both saddens me and pisses me off.

    If he took 2 minutes to listen to you, he would have found out about your excellent reviews, as well as your t.v. interview with a local station, which should be more than enough to deem your work “appropriate”. Good grief. It’s not like you were asking to donate a book of nekkid pictures…though based on his personality he might have been more receptive (rolling eyes). Some people just don’t get it. I say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He should consider himself fortunate that people want to donate books. After all, isn’t that what libraries are for?

  14. Amanda says:

    Julie-
    You sound bitter and annoying. Does the library have to have a copy of your book in every one of their locations? You state that you dropped of the books and called in the afternoon to see if they were processed yet. Are you typically accustomed to people jumping for you? Don’t you think if there was such a great demand for your books all of the libraries would already carry them? From what I have read it doesn’t sound like there was even a hint of discrimination. In fact, you just sound obnoxious and annoying looking for some scandalous angle to blame…

  15. Julie says:

    Stacy: Agreed. I think that was when the conversation turned for me, when he cut me off as I tried to tell him more about the books.

    Amanda: My first negative blog comment! Well, it had to happen sometime. I will admit, there was a second on my end, when my hand held the cursor over the “delete” link when I first read your comment… but I clicked “approved” nevertheless. It was a nice moment for me, sort of Galadriel-esque from “Lord of the Rings” (“I passed the test.”)

    After reading your comment, I went back and reread my post and I don’t disagree that it is different in tone from the others I have posted on this blog. My other posts were peppy and upbeat, and that will continue to be the general tone of this blog. True, this current post was more of a rant. What can I say? That’s what I was thinking about yesterday, so I wrote it.

    I’m not bitter about the incident. Am I annoyed? Yes. Less about the fact that he wanted to check into the appropriateness of the books and more so because he was rude on the phone. If there was any expectation on my end, it was that anyone trying to donate two new books to a library would, at the least, be treated courteously.

    Am I perhaps more sensitive right now in looking for a possible condescension toward romance novels because that’s been such a hot topic lately? Possibly. Am I proud of my books and think it would be nice to see them at my local library? Absolutely. I think most authors would feel the same way.

  16. Kellie says:

    I find Dick’s behavior appalling. It appears that he did read the title of Ms. James’ book and jumped to an erroneous conclusion. He also sounds like an uptight snob who has a problem with women who assert themselves.
    Equally appalling are Amanda’s comments about Ms. James. Following up on books she donated to the library does not make Ms. James either bitter or annoying, nor does it suggest that she demands every library to carry her books or expects others to drop everything for her. She was simply being diligent, which I would think others would find appropriate. I believe that success is achieved through hard work and persistence. Amanda could learn several things from Ms. James. It sounds like Amanda is the bitter, obnoxious one with an ax to grind. Perhaps she is jealous of Ms. James’ success and is looking to create her own scandal. Great books Ms. James.

  17. Rowena says:

    Wow somebody named Amanda got drunk on haterade. Are you related to Dick or something? Did you read your comment before you posted it because your little comment sounded more bitter and more annoying then Julie’s entire blog post.

    Considering the way that most people look down their nose at the romance genre, it’s not all that uncommon for us lovers of romance to hear those snide remarks, that sarcastic tone so Julie has every reason to be annoyed. All she did was call and ask a question and I would have been just as pissed off if Dick said all that stuff to me. If I lived in Chicago, I would find him and kick hiss ass for you Julie because he sounds like an ass and so does Amanda.

    Chin up sweets!

  18. Julie says:

    Kellie and Rowena: you two crack me up. If Dick had realized he was about to get on your bad side, he would’ve built me my own shelf in the library. 😉

  19. Erika says:

    Amanda, are you telling me that if you made a simple call to follow up on a DONATION you made and received the same treatment you wouldn’t be bitter and a bit annoyed? I find that hard to believe seeing as how you reacted so badly to Ms. James post. Have you read her books or are you just here to be nasty???

  20. Seema says:

    That’s SO ridiculous! I can’t believe that! I hope they do end up putting it in their collection–I just can’t get over that! I miss the book club! Glad to see at least a few of the original members!! Say hi to all!

  21. Bridget Locke says:

    Idiots like that just aren’t worth the time or effort to let them bother you. Something like that happened when I went to Powell’s Books. Just to give you an idea, Powell’s is the largest bookstore in the Northwest…HUGE! I went in one day to look for a particular book and had the manager SCOFF at me because I was looking for a *gasp* romance novel. 25 aisles of sci-fi/fantasy and maybe 2 of romance.

    I had a hissy-fit and basically pulled the discrimination card PLUS I was a genius and went on about how romance was the largest single genre out there, yada-yada-yada. Needless to say they lost all of my business and I haven’t been back since.

    And if you knew how many books I bought in a month…well, let’s just say they lost a major customer. Yeah, I know, one person doesn’t necessarily make sales for a company, but I know one of my local B&N’s loves me because of how much money I spend in their store. 😀

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