Happy National Library Week 2015! One of the most important jobs at the Library is selecting, processing and buying items. Ever wonder how we do it? Read on to peek behind the curtain and see how it all happens…
More than 2,000,000 books and other items were checked out from the Kenton County Public Library last year, making our library one of the highest circulating libraries in the state. But you may be wondering how we choose the materials that end up on our shelves. Our strategic plan outlines five service priorities; the first two of these are Create Lifelong Readers and Learners, and Stimulate Imagination. The Collection Development department strives to ensure that these service priorities are reflected in the materials we select.
We have four staff who are responsible for selecting tens of thousands of items each year—two for adult and young adult materials, one for children’s, and one A/V specialist. Each of us spends time reading through reviews in both professional journals and popular newspapers and magazines, looking at bestseller lists, and paying attention to online trends to discover what our patrons might be interested in reading. We read reviews from professional publications such as Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and from popular magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly.
For items we know are going to be popular, we are able to set up standing orders with our vendors. This means when a popular author like James Patterson or John Grisham has a new book coming out, they will automatically ship us a designated number of copies. We have a similar plan for nonfiction, where, for one example, we can get the latest editions of popular travel guides sent without having to order each year. These lists are reviewed periodically to make sure we’re getting an appropriate number of copies since author/topic popularity can fluctuate.
We order a lot of materials based on patron requests. When someone requests a book or other item, we’ll read reviews to determine whether we think it’s a good fit for our collection. The library vendors send each of our selectors lists of hundreds of titles to review for ordering each month; even with these lists and our other review reading, we can still miss an occasional title, so these requests are certainly appreciated.
Reviews aren’t the only factor considered. Even a poorly reviewed item will be purchased if we know there’s going to be demand. We check before ordering to see how many times an author’s previous works (or works on the same subject when ordering non-fiction) have been checked out, and use this as a basis for how many copies should be ordered. If an author is popular, we will also try to order the book in audio format and/or large type.
We use generally the same criteria for choosing our ebooks, but because they can be very pricy for libraries we aren’t always able to purchase as many titles as we’d like.
Children’s books are chosen using similar guidelines, although the focus with this collection is strongly on the Create Lifelong Readers and Learners service priority mentioned earlier. We want to make sure our youngest patrons have a well-developed collection of books that will keep them coming back to us throughout their lives to find books they will love at every age!