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Friday, January 10, 2020

The RWA Debacle and Ideas on How Libraries Can Respond

As I mentioned earlier in the week, while I was on vacation the Romance Writers of America imploded. There has been much excellent reporting on the still ongoing situation and while I am sure many of you have been following it, I did want to make sure I had the latest information here for my readers.

I would recommend beginning with my favorite Romance resource, Smart Bitches, Trashy books and this post that is being updated with multiple documents and new events as they happen. This will lead you down a rabbit hole, but you can direct yourself through it and delve as deeply as you need to.

The main issue here is one that has been rearing its head in Romance for a few years now [I point you to this piece from my blog in April of 2018] -- the RWA's racism problems. And this current implosion which has led to all major publishers pulling out of the RWA Conference, the RITAS being cancelled, and the entire board resigning [after being basically forced to because that is just how awful some of these people are], has been picked up and covered by major media outlets.

Now, I am not a resource to keep you up to date on the latest breaking news, but I am here to help you take what is going on and use it to serve your patrons.

In this case, your patrons, with those who love romance and even those who don't ever read it, may have questions or concerns. Many will approach you at the desk to discuss them, others may not, but I know that most people have at least heard something about it at this point.

We need to proclaim our support for the genre, its readers, and the diverse authors who have been the victim of much abuse over the years, loudly and proudly. Now is a great time to highlight romance and its diverse offerings.

Here are a few ideas of how we can turn this upsetting and disturbing news into a way for our patrons to discover a bevy of new authors. I have even heard a few colleagues tell me that non-romance readers are seeking out romance at their libraries to show support for the authors on the right side of the issue.

First, make sure you are including own voices romance authors in your collections. Authors like Beverly Jenkins, Sonali Dev, Alisha Rai, Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, and Helen Hoang are among the most critically acclaimed romance authors today and they are all women of color.

Second, don't know where to start? Anna Mickelsen's, working list of upcoming diverse titles in all genres, has just had a huge Romance update. Start pre-ordering more titles now.

Third, make some romance displays....right now! Get your titles out of the stacks and out in front. Make lists and post them online and at checkout areas. People are hearing about romance in the news and they may want to see what the hub bub is about by reading a title. Make them easy to find, but curate the offerings.

Fourth, do NOT promote the RITAs [RWA's book awards] or use them to make lists. May I suggest a better resource, one made by librarians-- The RUSA CODES Reading List which picks a winner and honorable mention titles in many genres each year-- including romance. Click here to see all of the winners going back to 2014. Use this list to find titles, make readalike lists [the award includes readalikes], displays, and more.

And finally, why not take advantage of the RITAs being cancelled to stage your own library romance awards this February. Get staff and patrons involved. Piggyback on Presidential Primary season too  and have an election of the best romance titles. It's a great antidote to political voting too. We can encourage getting the vote out and vote for LOVE. Create "races" between different titles in various subgenres or simply allow people to share their favorite romances as part of a larger display. Whatever you do, now is your chance to crowdsource your library's "best" romances.

I hope that RWA is able to pull itself out of the wreckage and move on to a better, more inclusive place, but it will take time. Let's all support Romancelandia in the meantime, whether you are a fan or not, many need our library love and support.

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