A Letter to Librarians from AJ Harper (9/12/22)

In WRITE A MUST-READ, author AJ Harper, an editor and publishing strategist, helps new authors write books that matter, grow their readership, and establish their personal brand. Today, the author joins us with a letter to librarians to share how libraries can support those individuals who use the space as a place of creative freedom.

Dear Librarians,

Ten o’clock. Time to punch in. Bag over my shoulder, I walk through the wooden double doors and make way up to the fourth floor. The reference librarian greets me and asks how my project is coming along. I’m early, so I can easily find a spot facing the Hudson River. I take my laptop out of my bag and start my four-hour shift.

I’m not a librarian, or a volunteer. I’m a writer.

For more than a dozen years, I considered the Nyack Public Library my “office”—so much so that, when someone needed to find me, they often checked the library first. I was a ghostwriter at the time, and mother to a young son. I needed a quiet space to write, to think, and to be inspired.

Libraries, as much as coffee shops and dusty attics, are the preferred creative space for many writers. During my “shifts” at my “office,” I often wrote next to screenwriters, novelists, professors working on articles. We like the quiet. We like access to WiFi—for research, or for procrastinating. We like not having to fight for an outlet, or for space at a table. We like being surrounded by knowledge and artistry. We like the rows, and rows, and rows of possibilities.

Librarians can play a significant role in helping authors, especially nonfiction authors, complete their manuscripts. I’ve asked reference librarians to help me find and borrow books, magazines and newsletters, audio recordings, and documentaries. They’ve helped me track down research studies, statistics, and lists.

You can support writers in your community who use your library to write by checking in on their works in progress. You could ask if they would like to do a reading in your space. You might also host an information session for writers so they can learn about all the services you offer that might benefit them.

How many books were birthed in libraries? Too many to count. For me alone, upwards of fifty—almost all of them nonfiction. Books written for people who want to improve something about themselves, or their work. Some of those books fizzled out or ended up in garage sale free boxes. Some won awards; some were read by millions of readers. Many found their way onto library shelves.

After we moved to a new house and my son grew old enough to know when to let me have peace and quiet, I stopped going to the library every day. But I made a point to go back and write some of one special book in my same spot facing the Hudson River. As a ghostwriter, all the books I wrote at my library had someone else’s name on the cover. This book was my own, the first with my name on it.

In many ways, my book, Write a Must-Read: Craft a Book That Changes Lives—Including Your Own was born at the library, too. It’s the culmination of everything I learned about how to write a book that truly makes a difference in readers’ lives. And it wouldn’t exist in the world had I not spent all those years writing at my library.

Thank you, librarians, for making a space for writers like me to do the work they are called to do. To me, you are heroes.

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