The simple answer is, poof! It disappears. No one reads it, and it gets weeded from the shelves, from the catalog. Then the only way to read it is to buy it, used or new.
Worse, with its publisher, it may go out of print (OP). Shudder. Then, if you can't find a used copy for sale, you're just out of luck.
As a lot of you know, I read library books. For me, it's an issue of accessibility. As a former teacher I feel middle grade readers -- ages 8 to 12 -- should have access to great books, and since they generally don't have access to money or their parents' wallets, the library is the next best place to go for a great, free book.
I recently went looking for a series by Clete Barrett Smith, to finish where I'd started a few years ago (my how time flies!). At one point, I know my library had the entire series on the shelves and in the catalog.
Imagine my shock to discover, they're gone. Weeded out of the catalog. Gotten rid of, probably after no one checked them out.
Entire stories, characters' lives, gone. Sure, I can put in an inter-library loan request, once the world gets back to some semblance of pre-COVID normal and my library allows ILLs again, but who knows when that will be?
So I went looking for a few other books and series we loved. And guess what I discovered? Surprisingly few of them have reviews. They don't even have star ratings. With a few exceptions, they look like this in my library's catalog:
See that last line? "There are no comments for this title yet." Nothing. No reviews, no reaction, no nothing. Not even any stars!
As I started checking on more and more books, I realized, there were a lot like this -- mostly books that were not on the best seller lists, ones that hadn't been super-hyped by Scholastic, or were printed by smaller presses, or big presses but were given no marketing at all.
So, here's the thing. When you read a book, and you love it, post a review about it. I'm guilty of this. I've been reading library books for decades (well, almost -- 18 years, since my oldest was born) and I never, not once, posted a review to my library catalogue. Oof. I'm starting to remedy that.
We all know about Amazon book reviews, right? You used to have to be a verified purchase, and I purchase very few books. Now, I don't spend enough to be able to post reviews there. So I have very few reviews on Amazon.
And there's always Goodreads, if you can stand it. I post book reviews there, but find it difficult and quirky and full of idiosyncracies that only a dedicated user will ever fully understand. In other words, not me.
But there are plenty of other places you may not realize need your book reviews -- like your local public library. Or your school library.
Read. Write. Post. Please.
TEACHING NOTE: If you're a teacher, what better writing assignment, as we fast approach summer, than to have students write reviews of their favorite books to persuade other kids to read?
If your school library catalog has a field for book reviews, have your students post them there. Your students will flex their summarization and persuasive writing skills.
Bonus: You can't ask your students to post to a public library system for obvious privacy reasons. But, their parents sure can! Offer extra credit to your students if their parents / guardians post a review to your city or county's public library. Just ask a parent or guardian to send a screen shot of the review directly to you. Parents love to be involved in class, and as educators we know that parental modeling of reading well past the picture book stage is key to snagging, developing and keeping life-long readers. Use it as introduction to summer reading and whatever incentives you offer to keep your students reading over the summer.