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Marketing to Libraries

ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 5

Companies and products listed in this Fact Sheet are named for informational purposes only. ALA does not endorse specific products or companies. Contact companies directly for further information. 

FYI: Please be aware that individual libraries are responsible for their own collections. There is no one place that distributes books to all libraries -- and that includes ALA.

The Library Market in General

Libraries provide a significant market for publishers and vendors. According to Book Industry Trends 2005 (Book Industry Study Group, 2005), which examines acquisitions expenditures of public, school, college & university, and special libraries, nearly $3.9 billion worth of books, periodicals, audiovisual, and other materials were purchased by libraries in 2004, with nearly $1.6 billion spent on book purchases alone. Over one-tenth of publishers’ net book sales are to libraries.

The Bowker Annual: Library and Book Trade Almanac includes total acquisitions expenditures on print, audiovisual, microform, and machine-readable materials for public, academic, special, and government libraries, in all U.S. states and territories. It is currently published by Information Today, Inc. (Information Today, Inc., Attn: Customer Service, 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford NJ 08055-8750; telephone: 1-609-654-6266; fax: 1-609-654-4309; e-mail:; web site: Find out more, including pricing information, at the Information Today, Inc. Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac 2005 web page.

What Do Libraries Buy?

Libraries purchase books for adults, young adults, children, and special readers (emerging literates, large print, braille). They also purchase newspapers and magazines, reference sources, scholarly journals, electronic resources (CD-ROM and online databases, multimedia, computer software, web sites), audiovisual materials (film, videotapes, DVDs, music recordings in various formats, books on tape and DVD), and microforms.

Sturdy, better quality books are an important selling point to librarians who are interested in books lasting for more than a few borrowers. Also, books printed on acid-free (alkaline) paper are more desirable because pages printed on acid paper become too brittle to use after 50 to 100 years.

How and When Do Libraries Buy?

Two-thirds to three-quarters of book sales to libraries come from a jobber or wholesaler. Most of the balance is bought directly from publishers. When libraries buy is governed by when their fiscal year begins and ends. Most (but not all) public libraries are on a July-June fiscal year. University, college and school libraries for the most part follow an academic year calendar. A flurry of spending can occur as the end of the fiscal year nears and almost always just after it begins. In general, though, libraries make purchases throughout the year.


One effective way to get materials into libraries is to have them reviewed. Because they cannot read or use everything they select, many librarians depend upon reviews in the following magazines or journals when making purchasing decisions:

Booklist/Book Links/Reference Books Bulletin (c/o American Library Association, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago IL, 60611; telephone 800-545-2433, ext. 5716) review books, videos, CD-ROMs, computer software, and other materials for school libraries and small- and medium-sized public libraries. See the Inside Booklist web page for more details.

Choice (100 Riverview Center, Middletown, CT 06457; telephone 860-347-6933) reviews scholarly works recommended for college libraries. See the Choice Info for Publishers web page for more details.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (all correspondence regarding reviews should be sent to Deborah Stevenson, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 501 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820; telephone 217-244-0324) reviews books for children and young people for public and school libraries. See the review guidelines for further assistance.

Críticas: An English Speaker's Guide to the Latest Spanish Language Titles (Attn: Carmen Ospina, Book Review Editor, Library Journal/Criticas, 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010) review fiction, non-fiction, reference books, video tapes, DVDs, audio cassettes, CD-ROMs, and computer software for adults, users of public and academic libraries. See the Library Journal/Criticas Submissions for further assistance.

The Horn Book Magazine (The Horn Book, Inc., 56 Roland Street, Suite 200, Boston, MA 02129; telephone 800-325-1170 or 617-628-0225; fax 617-628-0882) looks at children's books for public and school libraries. See the book submissions for further assistance.

Kirkus Reviews (Kirkus Reviews, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-9595; telephone 1-866-890-8541, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST; fax 646-654-5584) provides adult, young adult, and children's book reviews. See the submission guidelines for further assistance.

Library Journal (Attn: Book Review Editor, Library Journal, 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010) review fiction, non-fiction, reference books, video tapes, DVDs, audio cassettes, CD-ROMs, and computer software for adults, users of public and academic libraries. See the Library Journal Submissions for further assistance.

The New York Times Book Review (Editor, The New York Times Book Review, 229 W. 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036) reviews adult fiction and non-fiction for public and academic libraries. See the Books Frequently Asked Questions for further assistance.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly, 245 W. 17th Street, New York, NY 10011; telephone 212-463-6758; fax 212-463-6631) forecasts forthcoming fiction, non-fiction, children's, and paperback books for public libraries and the book trade as a whole. See the Publishers Weekly Submitting Titles for Review for further assistance.

School Library Journal (360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010) review fiction, non-fiction, reference books, video tapes, audio cassettes, CD-ROMs, and computer software for children and young adults. See the School Library Journal Submissions for further assistance.

Science Books & Films (SB&F) (SB&F, 1200 New York Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20005; telephone 202-326-6454) reviews books, videos, software, and websites exclusively in the sciences. See the SB&F FAQs for further assistance.


Space advertising is available in all of the magazines and journals listed above. Request a media kit or rate card, or contact their advertising departments, to get more information.

Direct mail advertising (catalogs, fliers, brochures, card decks) is an effective way to target specific audiences and is useful in providing direct information and receiving orders for products. Mailing lists for libraries are rented for one time use by a number of organizations and companies. See Fact Sheet 3: Lists of Libraries for specific library mailing list as well as library directory information.


Another way to gain exposure is at professional conferences. Vendor booths or tables at library association conferences are seen by thousands of librarians every year. For information on exhibits at ALA's national conference, contact Conference Services (American Library Association, Conference Services, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795; telephone: 1-800-545-2433, extension 3253, or 1-312-280-3253; fax: 1-312-280-3224; e-mail: conf& The ALA Chapter Relations Office compiles the list of State and Regional Chapters and the Conference Planning Calendar.

Arrange to Have Your Book Displayed at a Trade Show

There are several companies that can arrange to include your book in a display, along with other titles, at library conferences, including the following:

Association Book Exhibit,

Combined Book Exhibit,

Work with a Consortium of Other Small Press Publishers

Such groups include the following:

Independent Publishers Group,

Publishers Group West, 

Publishers Marketing Association,

Small Press Distribution,

Small Publishers Association of North America,

Other Opportunities

In addition, sending advance copies and sales representatives to libraries is recommended. Also, many libraries are members of book clubs or monitor club selections. Finally, librarians often consult standard reference works such as Books in Print (R.R. Bowker), Magazines for Libraries (R.R. Bowker), Publisher's Trade List Annual (R.R. Bowker), Small Press Record of Books in Print (Dustbooks), and CD-ROMs In Print (Gale Research), and it is a good idea to make certain newly-published materials are listed in these sources. Contact the publishers of these reference works for more information.

Selective Bibliography

The following books are currently in print and include information on marketing to libraries specifically:

Abel, Richard E. and Lyman W. Newlin, eds., with Katina Strauch and Bruce Strauch, editors-in-chief. Scholarly Publishing: Books, Journals, Publishers, and Libraries in the Twentieth Century. Wiley, 2002.

Baverstock, Alison. How to Market Books. Kogan Page, LTD., 1993.

Bodian, Nat G. Book Marketing Handbook: Tips and Techniques for the Sale and Promotion of Scientific, Technical, Professional, and Scholarly Books and Journals, Vol. I (1980) and Vol. II (1983). R. R. Bowker and Company.

Carter, Robert A., ed. Trade Book Marketing: Practical Guide. R. R. Bowker and Company, 1983.

Edelman, Hendrik and Robert P. Holley, eds. Marketing to Libraries for the New Millennium: Librarians, Vendors, and Publishers Review The Landmark Third Industry-Wide Survey of Library Marketing Practices and Trends. Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS, a division of ALA) in cooperation with Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Hoffman, Alisa A. The Self Publishers Guide to Marketing and Promotion American Literary Press, Inc., 1995.

Kremer, John. One Thousand and One Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers. Open Horizons Publishing Co., 1989.

Warren, Lissa. The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource--From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press. Carrol & Graf, 2004.

The following articles are also informative:

Baker, John F., ed. "The Librarian - a Valued Customer." Publisher's Weekly. 8 June 1990. pp. S3-S22. (Topics include: "The Size and Shape of the Library Market," "Taking Aim at the Library Market," "...And What Do Libraries Want," "A New Look at Library Distribution," and "Libraries Without Walls?").

Johnson, Margaret Ann. "Resources for Collection Development and Electronic Media (What Librarians Want from Producers of Electronic Media)." Technicalities. February 1993. pp. 4-6.

Milliot, Jim. "Libraries: Opening Up Once Again (Library Market)." Publisher's Weekly. 29 May 1995. pp. 58-60.

Pearl, Nancy. "Debunking 10 Myths Publishers Have About Libraries." Library Journal. 1 September 1995. pp. 132-34.

Pfund, Niko. "University Presses Aren’t Endangered..." Chronicle of Higher Education. 28 June 2002. pp. B7-B8.

October 2005

For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.

Related Links

Contact Authors @ Your Library
Authors @ Your Library Web Site - Free online matchmaking service which links publishers and librarians