BPL events coordinator Parampreet Khanuja shares a laugh onstage with author and musician Rik Emmett during Burlington Lyrics & Poetry Festival at Central ranch.
Love to Learn

Why Authors Love Libraries (And the Feeling Is Mutual!)

Occasionally, we get comments from readers concerned that public libraries are harmful to authors’ livelihoods. Their worry stems from the fact that libraries lend books—many times over—to people who might otherwise have bought them instead.

From where we stand, libraries and authors share a special bond, one that is enduring and mutually beneficial. But rather than just take our word for it, we reached out to some of our beloved local children's authors during Canadian Children’s Book Week to get their take on this matter. Their insights are sure to shed light on the intricacies of this relationship.

Libraries Support Authors

Libraries may be book lenders, but we are also book buyers! Like other Canadian public libraries, Burlington Public Library buys most of its print books from library-specific wholesalers, who buy the books from publishing companies. Publishing companies compensate authors through a percentage of their book sales (royalties).

The book industry has a bounty of talented writers, and it can be challenging to gain an audience. We promote their works and offer a place on our shelves (and in readers’ hands) typically a lot longer than a big box bookstore. Canada Council for the Arts' Public Lending Right program supports Canadian authors, through which they get an annual payment based on how often their book(s) appear in public library catalogues. Over 18,000 authors are compensated through the program every year.

Whether it’s a gift to yourself or a fellow reader, “try before you buy” definitely applies to library books. And here’s some great news. In a recent book consumer study, BookNet Canada reported that close to half of Canadian book borrowers also bought new books in 2023.

Young adult and picture book author Jennifer Mook-Sang, uses her local library extensively, sharing “I can't afford to buy all the books I want to read. I often buy a book after reading it from the library because I love it so much. Why would I deny my fellow bookworms access to the world of books?”

How many times have you loved a library book so much that you just had to own it?

Authors and Libraries Are Partners

Cultivating strong ties with our local writing community is important to us. We work closely with authors and illustrators as presenters, workshop leaders, guest storytellers, contest judges, and more.

When we host events involving authors, they receive an honorarium for their time. At the same time, authors gain invaluable exposure to new audiences and have an opportunity to connect with their existing fans and promote their work.

Lana Button, whose recent picture book launch at Central Branch packed an audience of over 70 enthusiastic kids and adults, praised the efforts of local libraries to offer free, fun, and inclusive community events. And for Sylvia McNicoll, having her books read is what she wants most—and any library “displays, celebrations, one-book-reads, mystery packs, festivals, book clubs, talks, videos that get the word out fill me with joy.”

When author Jennifer Maruno moved to Burlington, she was pleased to find a healthy public library system. As well as being an avid borrower, she also launched one of her own young adult novels at BPL! We were truly fortunate when Jennifer partnered with our library to establish a writing contest for tweens—a multi-year collaboration where she and Sylvia McNicoll mentored youth with a passion for writing.

Partnering with authors is a win for the authors, the library, and the community!

audience at the Rik Emmett author talk in Central Branch at Burlington Lyrics & Poetry Festival

Libraries Support a Love of Reading & Writing

The strongest connection between authors and libraries lies in our mutual commitment to literacy and nurturing lifelong readers. All the authors we spoke to shared their gratitude to public libraries for creating opportunities for writers to connect with young readers and encourage their love of reading.

And finally, whether they are fledgling novelists or bestselling authors, most writers are library users too. Libraries support the writing process by providing free resources for research, hands-on writing workshops, access to welcoming physical spaces—and sometimes useful feedback!

As an author and a reader, Sylvia McNicoll loves walking to her local branch and being surrounded by books. For her, the public library is “my happy place. If I can chat with the librarian over the book I just read or get advice on a series that may or may not appeal to kids, even better.”

That’s a bond to celebrate!