Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Buying, Borrowing and Keeping Romance Novels

It seems to be survey time in Romanceland.

Linda Esser (Assistant Professor in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri) has observed that "There are only two academic libraries in the U.S. with romance fiction research collections. The collections romance fiction readers are creating may be how these titles are preserved." In effect, all of us who have "keeper shelves" are librarians of our own personal collection of romances.

Linda and her colleagues at the University of Missouri, Denice Adkins (Associate Professor) and Diane Velasquez, would be very grateful if romance readers could answer the following questions:

• What are your preferred sources for the romance fiction you read?
• Why do you choose these sources rather than or in addition to public libraries?
• Do you keep all or some of the books you read? How do you decide which books to keep?
• What do you see yourself doing with your personal library of romance fiction books in the future?

If you'd like to help them with this survey, please email your answers to Linda Esser at esserl@missouri.edu . More details about the project can be found below. The survey raises an important issue for all of us who care about the genre and want to ensure that the novels that comprise it are not lost to posterity (or, at least, do not become very difficult for scholars and readers of the genre to access).

All About Romance is holding its Top 100 Romances Poll:
Throughout the month of October we are polling for your top 100 romances. This is the fourth time since the inception of AAR that we have conducted this poll. We invite all romance readers to participate in this poll - to do so, simply provide us with a list of your top 100 romances, in ranked order. It is not necessary for your list to include 100 titles, but you may include up to that amount. In order for the results of this poll to be as valid and representative as possible, we need as many romance readers to vote as possible.
You can submit your ballot of up to 100 romances, in ranked order, here.

The UK's North West Libraries’ Reader Development partnership Time To Read, in partnership with the Romantic Novelists' Association, is holding a Pure Passion poll. They'd like people to vote for their favourite novel from a list of 20 romantic novels. The romances on the list include Phillipa Ashley's Decent Exposure, Nicola Cornick's Deceived, and Liz Fielding's Reunited:Marriage in a Million. Readers outside the UK are eligible to vote but can't be entered into a prize draw. You can cast your vote here.


In addition to being academics, Linda Esser, Denice Adkins and Diane Velasquez are:
romance fiction readers who are interested in finding out more about readers like ourselves. What began as a conversation over coffee has turned into a project that has taken on a life of its own. We’ve explored public librarians’ attitudes toward romance fiction and its readers on both state and national levels with research funded by a grant from Romance Writers of America.

Of course, the more we’ve found out, the more questions we have. We’ve reached the point where we need answers to several of these questions from romance readers. We are interested in romance fiction readers as both consumers and conservators of the genre. From what we’ve found, romance fiction readers do not depend on public libraries for their books. We would like to better understand where romance fiction readers acquire their books, why they prefer particular sources, and what they do with their books after reading them. We appreciate your time and consideration.

Informed Consent:
The University of Missouri requires that research involving human subjects include an informed consent to ensure that participants’ rights are protected. As is customary, pseudonyms will be substituted in all data for all names of persons, public libraries/public library systems, cities, towns and counties. Every effort will be made to adequately disguise the participants’ identities and specific geographic location in any published materials or presentations. The print-outs of any responses will remain in the direct physical possession of the researchers. Relevant portions of the transcripts will be deleted upon request of any participant who decides to withdraw from the study.

Participants have the right to withdraw from the study at any time, no questions asked.

Refusal to participate, or withdrawal from the research project, will have no impact on the participant.

Do not hesitate to call, write or e-mail a member of the research team if you have questions or concerns about this research study.

We ask that you give permission for the results of this research to be used in professional presentations at national conferences and printed in professional publications. If you have questions your rights as a research subject, you may contact the University of Missouri Institutional Review Board Office at (573)882-9585 .

Denice Adkins adkinsde@missouri.edu
Linda Esser esserl@missouri.edu
Diane Velasquez dvelasquez@dom.edu
303 Townsend Hall
School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211


  1. Linda Essler's survey sounds very relevant and interesting. I would be curious to know which two academic libraries hold romance research collections (it wasn't mentioned in the blog post).

  2. I think there may actually be more than two. Here are the details of the US academic libraries I know of which have romance collections (there may be others I've not heard of):

    1) The Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University:

    The Browne Popular Culture Library holds a wide range of romance materials from novels to valentines. The collection includes more than 10,000 volumes of category romance series from publishers such as Harlequin, Silhouette, Loveswept, Candlelight, Ecstasy, and others. The holdings also include a sizable collection of mass market novels, including Georgian, regency, gothic, contemporary, and historicals.

    The Library has manuscript collections containing correspondence, fan mail, literary manuscripts, and galley sheets from many prominent romance writers, includings Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Cathie Linz, and April Kihlstrom. [...] The Browne Popular Culture Library also houses the archives of the Romance Writers of America, the world's largest non-profit genre organization.
    (more details here)

    2) The University of Rochester, which has an extensive collection of Silhouette romances and Silhouette desires (which are listed in the library catalogue as "love stories--periodicals").

    3) Michigan State University has a romance fiction collection:

    While its core is a group of several thousand Harlequin Romances, other popular romance novelists such as Barbara Cartland are also included.

    4) Brown University Library has various popular culture collections and in particular they have a collection of "Romance Novels by Brown & Rhode Island Authors." I'm not sure if these are the same novels as the ones referred to on another webpage, which says that:

    Recently, the collections of genre fiction were augmented by a group of romance novels, including translations into many European languages, the work and gift of Barbara Keiler, class of 1976, and Patricia Coughlin.

    In Australia the University of Melbourne has a Romance Fiction Collection.

    In the UK, I don't know of any academic libraries with romance collections, but the copyright libraries (such as the British Library) would have copies of Mills & Boon romances (and other romances published in the UK).