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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Selecting books for the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 15, 2018

Selecting new books for a public library hasn’t changed over the years; but yet the format and basis for selection has indeed changed in recent times.

 

Nearly every class in which I was enrolled in the 1970s in Library School dealt in some way with book selection and the development of a public library collection.

 

Librarians are proud of the collections that they develop over many years of library service, and often point with pride with the well-rounded collection of their library.

 

Allow me to point to the system that our system uses in collection development.

 

First, while we select new books, public libraries today add a whole range of information materials from the standard paper-bound book, to online systems and downloadable resources such as eBooks for the public.

 

Our library system has 15 staff members that review sources and recommend items for the library collections ranging from books to DVDs and online products.

 

In addition, the public adds suggestions to these lists of materials as well which are incorporated into the order list which is matched against the library budget for purchase.

 

No, publishers do not “give” a public library items for our collections, although we do receive donations from the public in the form of donated books.

 

We select based on what is requested, checked out, and downloaded by the public from the library --- a process that has been streamlined in recent years by computerization.

 

What has become more difficult is the range of sources of new materials of all shapes and sizes available from traditional publishers as well as self-publishing and do-it-yourself sources.

 

New books are selected from library jobbers, as well as online sources, and endless individual sources.

 

Many new books and sources run into the roadblock of a lack of promotions and publicity, and the assumption that if a library acquires it, a book will become a bestseller.

 

Librarians are bombarded with electronic advertising for this book and that book by authors that don’t understand the promotional work of traditional publishers to the point I have been telephoned by authors who want to discuss their book, and plan to call every librarian in the U.S. to promote their book!

 

I have seen numbers ranging from 400,000 to a million as the number of new books in all formats being produced annually in the world --- a number much higher than a decade ago.

 

Librarians chuckle at all the new books described as “bestsellers” today simply as a way of promotion since “everyone wants to read a bestseller!”

 

And then there are the vast array of books published by Amazon and promoted by all of the author’s friends and relatives adding reviews about this fabulous book.

 

The only way for a public library today to manage the wide range of requests for new titles of books is to become part of a much larger network of libraries.

 

Our library system has been a member of the SEO Library System since 1988, which has grown to a network of 93 library systems with 240 locations.

 

That way we can pull information sources from a collection of 8 million items to fill the requests of the public and the 5-day-per-week delivery service brings the item to your local library.

 

There remains other titles not in the network that we have to locate in the OCLC worldwide network that are sent individually to our library system.

 

We will try to locate anything that someone brings to us, and we are successful most of the time.