|You Only Need One by Lauren Connolly|
Do you know who loves research? Fiction writers.
Fiction writers are constantly crafting new stories and worlds. They are fashioning characters and settings out of their imaginations, using knowledge they absorb from the world around them.
If authors could only create characters with the same expertise and interests they themselves possess, all the shelves in the world would simply be filled with autobiographies.
Who wants that?
Creativity and exploration are why research is so important to writers; they want their stories to go further than their own personal experiences. If an author wants their protagonist to work as a mechanic, but the author has never peeked their head under the hood of a car before, what are they to do? Research. If their character’s family member is suffering from a genetic disease the writer has been fortunate never to encounter, how do they learn about the symptoms? Research. If an author plans to write an interracial romance set in the American Wild West, how are they going to learn about the difficulties couples actually faced during that time period? Research.
Isn’t this exciting?! A gigantic group of people just clamoring for our librarian research superpowers! Well … maybe not clamoring. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the majority of writers are introverted, and may not feel comfortable asking for help. They might not even know that you have these magical superpowers to share with them.
At this point, I think it is time I admit that I count myself among this wonderful group of people. When I am not at my librarian day job, I can often be found tapping away at my keyboard, creating stories about people falling in love.
I am a romance author.
This past year, I joined a local romance authors group. The women are supportive, funny, and understand my obsession with happy endings. I am a novice member of the group, which is why I was flattered when they asked me to be the speaker at the October meeting. They asked if I could talk to them about research.
That’s when I realized how lucky I am. While earning my MLIS, I learned how to navigate databases with ease, and what’s more, I now have access to a huge amount of academic information because I am employed at a university.
On the other hand, these women, all of who are extremely intelligent, had likely never received the same in-depth instruction on how to perform academic research, nor do they have access to the same resources my job provides for me.
My guess is they exhausted all the research methods they knew, and they wanted to find out what other tools existed in the world.
That’s where I came in.
My main goal was to find resources they had access to but probably hadn’t yet stumbled upon. The members of this romance authors group are residents of Ohio (mainly in the Toledo area) and are public library card carriers, which means they have access to both OhioLINK and the Ohio Web Library (OWL). OhioLINK is a fantastic resource for academic books, while OWL enabled them to search for academic research articles through EBSCOhost.
I spent an hour showing them how to locate these databases, detailing what type of content they contained, and then demonstrating a variety searching methods.
They loved it. One woman, whose most recently published book made it to Publisher Weekly’s best sellers list, expressed how she wished she’d known about these resources while writing her past books, and she can’t wait to utilize them in the future. Success!
So, how does me giving a presentation to my writers group affect you? The answer: I didn’t have to be a romance author to speak to them! For that hour, I was simply a helpful librarian. And isn’t that what the majority of us are?
Writers groups are everywhere; Romance Writers of America (RWA) has local chapters across the United States. And then there are plenty of general writers’ groups, too. Find out if there are any near you, and get in touch with them. A lot of these organizations are looking for speakers, and some may even have a budget to pay for presenters. But even if they don’t, it is a great way to get presentation experience and make connections in your community.
And who knows, one of those authors may even make the next hero of their book a helpful librarian …
Lauren Connolly is the Instructional Technology Librarian at Fort Lewis College. She tweets about books and romance and other random things at @laurenaliciaCon and posts info about her novels at www.laurenconnollyromance.com. This is her second post for LtaYL; the first was “Are There Any Questions? My First Month as a Full-Time Librarian“.