Random House and Bloomsbury have begun "buddying" programmes to support their local libraries and library authorities. More than 20 Random House staff have volunteered to be part of a pilot scheme pioneered by deputy group sales director Ed Christie and key accounts manager Kate Gunning.
Christie, who lives in Oxfordshire, has met with the county's principal librarian Liz Rooke to discuss ways in which the publisher can support libraries in the county, while other members of staff across the company have visited their own local libraries.
Christie said: "It's our own in-house initiative, but we've worked closely with the Reading Agency, which has put us in touch with particular librarians." He said the publisher was not selling to the libraries, instead helping them with more information and useful tools, such as children's activity packs and reading group recommendations.
"It's the first staging post in what we intend to be a long-running relationship," he said. "We believe in libraries . . . Our mantra is that book borrowers are book buyers, and libraries are the curators of books and evangelists for books."
Rooke said that although it was "early days" for the initiative, she thought it would be very useful in supporting libraries with events and reading group activities. "We're starting to see the benefits already," she said.
Meanwhile, Bloomsbury has begun partnering with the Kensington and Chelsea and East Sussex library services. Both are areas in which chief executive Nigel Newton has homes. Bloomsbury digital media director Stephanie Duncan said the point of the relationship was to focus on the needs of libraries, rather than the publisher"s priorities. "Nigel's idea was that instead of saying: 'We'll do an author event here because it's relevant to our schedule for this book', we'd focus on [libraries'] needs, and try to get authors to visit libraries when it suits them," she said.
Bloomsbury also plan to implement a "sustained series of events" year-round, as well as making posters and web assets—such as author interviews—available to libraries. Miranda McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, said it was working with the publishers on the experimental scheme: "This is part of a much wider action plan to build sustainable long-term relationships between publishers and librarians. With the Society of Chief Librarians, TRA is especially keen to ensure geographical equity, so that every community and library service benefits from new and closer ways of working with publishers," she said. "We are also keen to ensure that libraries benefit from working with a wide range of publishers, including independents."