It was an innocuous-seeming mention, with no major library-bashing going on, but it still caught the attention of this librarian. I understand that authors depend on sales for their livelihood, and that they don't get royalties or any remuneration when a library copy gets borrowed, at least not in this country. There are financial issues involved here.
Yet I can't help but wonder about the alternatives. Should libraries not buy their books? Or, if libraries do buy the books, would authors prefer that nobody borrow and read them? More and more publishers are setting up library marketing departments these days (and if you were a librarian at BEA in NYC this year, and stayed at the official librarians' hotel, you'd know the trouble they're taking to woo us. I've been attending BEAs for the past 6 years, and things have really changed in this regard. For the better, imho). I'm getting the impression, anyway, that library sales are becoming more important to publishers.
Libraries not only purchase historical fiction titles regularly, and lots of them, but they actually prefer to buy a given novel in hardcover if there's a choice... which means higher royalties for the author. And, if the waiting list for a book is really long, libraries will often buy multiple copies to satisfy demand. Of course, this isn't the same, sales and royalty-wise, as having each patron on that list buy his or her own copy, but I'm not sure how realistic that is.
When we're talking about historical fiction in series, the circulation of the first volume, and positive word-of-mouth from patrons who've read it, can convince librarians that it's important for them to buy future volumes as well. The same goes for patrons' buying habits. As an example, I read Rett MacPherson's first novel from a library copy. (She writes cozy genealogy mysteries, if you're curious. They're lots of fun and totally addictive... I've covered them for NoveList several times now.) Now I order the hardcovers from Amazon as soon as they're published. I don't want to wait for interlibrary loan... I want those books in my hands as soon as possible.
Libraries also take requests. We have a purchase suggestion form on my library's website. If we get a request from someone who's part of our community, chances are good we'll buy the book. That's one more sale... a good thing for everyone involved.
Yes, I am probably taking the results of a tongue-in-cheek exercise out of proportion (I'm just another of those humorless librarians, yanno). But I think it's an issue worth considering, as we're all on the same side. And I'd like to think that libraries who buy novels, and people who read those copies, are not really such a horrible thing for an author to hear about.