Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Click my Link: May 31st, 2011

Kim Harrison says "Excuse Me, Your Romance is in my Urban Fantasy" at SF Signal.

A provocative KSL article comparing romance novel reading to porn addiction has spurred the creativity of Twitter defenders (#romancekills) and a response from Sarah over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

The Guardian talks about "The Incredible Shrinking Presence of Women SF Writers" on fan-based lists of favorites.

I'd like to report a disturbance....

Good Morning, Collectors! Reflectors? Collectibles? Reflectibles?

I'll work on that.

Anyway, good morning! Let's talk reports today. We use a variety of reports here and it's interesting to see how they shake out among the selectors. Some people really use the Deleted Items report which tells when an item has been deleted. (we're so clever naming our reports here.) There is also the last item report, which tells you when the last item has been deleted from a bibliographic record in our catalog. Interesting information, but time is extremely limited for looking at a variety of reports. When choosing which reports to look at, it's often a choice between the reports about the living and the reports about the dead. While I would love to analyze the things that have been discarded (and I admit I do it from time to time) reports that tell me what people want are more important. Those are what I consider "the living."

Holds no items

A report bib records where all the items are gone, but the record has holds. I told you we were clever with the naming, right? The list is generated every two months and, as you might imagine, is heavy on music cds and DVDs (feature and non-feature). But, a fair amount of books appear on it as well, and books on CD. The May 1st list was 1,143 items, which is a tiny part of the collection, but a lot of stuff when you're looking through it. But these are the things people want, things they're actually waiting for, that they will never get unless we know about it and get more copies. And, if it is out of print, we delete the record (and the holds) Because who wants to wait forever. Patrons can then do an interlibrary loan for the item, or scour used bookstores, ebay, amazon sellers, etc. Chances are good that SOMEONE out there has the book (CD, DVD) that they want.

Purchase Alerts

The other report is the purchase alerts. These are items where the number of holds exceeds the ratio we have set for number of items. When I started here, we had a 2:1 ratio. 2 holds for every 1 item. As you might imagine, the purchase alert reports were much longer. But, there were also 20+ selectors, so it was more evenly distributed. (yet, still only 1 fiction selector.....) Now there are 5 selectors, so the workload is more condensed. However, as budgets have decreased, the ratio has grown. At one point, it was 5:1, but I think the "official" purchase alert report runs with a 4:1 ratio. The report lists a lot of new things, as you might imagine. The new James Patterson will almost always show on at least one PA report. It is when older things show up that the list shows its value. Some things from the May 1st list: Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn, Ellis' American Psycho, Childress' Crazy in Alabama, Puzo's The Godfather and Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume. Some things we likely would have caught eventually, but it's better to know now. I don't know that I ever would have thought to check Jitterbug Perfume.

The Purchase Alerts list is separated into print and non-print. The non-print list is twice as long and includes books on CD as well as music CDs and DVDs.

The last report I look at (usually daily) is the Overdrive Current Waiting list report which is run whenever you click the link. It is sortable by any number of ways, including hold ratio, and usually results in me spending money.

So, those are my reports. What reports do YOU rely on? Or do you forgo them altogether? Talk to me.

What reports do you get at your library that I need to have at mine?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How This Librarian Uses (Paper) Reviews

Despite the fact that the standard "librarian reviews" are available online in a variety of locations (e.g., in Baker & Taylor), I still use paper copies when I'm ordering. Why am I still tied to this physical construct? There's something about a big stack of periodicals that says: "Hey, you. Were you thinking about checking Cute Overload? Maybe you should order some books?" I also appreciate the tactile nature of a magazine (I like to authoritatively check off things I'm ordering with a nice colored pen) and the fact that the reviews are adjacent to the articles, advertisements, and other related material with which they were originally published. Sure, you can read a review out of context, just like you can download one song--but sometimes the album is more cohesive if you take it in all at once. It's also nice to give my eyes a break from the computer screen for part of the day.

In every library I've worked in, there have been multiple subscriptions to various review sources (Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal are the three I use the most) which are shared between staff members. As a very junior staff member, it can be a while before I get a copy of Library Journal in particular, as very few people observe the "please do not keep longer than 3 days" rule. When I get them from my co-workers, they arrive in bunches, allowing me to 1) to a flurry of ordering in a deeply efficient way . . . or 2) let them stack up until there's a critical mass that I can't possibly ignore.

1. The mass market paperback bestseller list. I know I could get this online, but when I get my review copy of PW I go through the list and see whether we have a hardback or whether I've ordered the paperback of each of the 15 items. This doesn't take that long, since the list doesn't change too much from week to week. If there's something that's been on the list a few weeks and we don't have either format, I usually add it to my cart, figuring that it will be in demand. I sometimes check the other western Massaschusetts libraries to see how many holds are on the item, just to confirm my reasoning.

2. The 2-6 mass market reviews per issue. The best ones are those that are very enthusiastic, or brutally honest about how bad the books are. I generally ignore middle of the road reviews. However, if a review is super enthusiastic about a book that's sixth in a series and I haven't purchased the previous five, that's not going to sway me at all. The well-reviewed items I place in my cart and may or may not end up ordering, depending on how much leeway my monthly budget gives me.

3. Graphic novel reviews and nonfiction reviews that cover books in my Dewey areas.

How I use Booklist:

1. Nonfiction reviews. I love that they have a suggested Dewey number for each book reviewed, but since that doesn't always mesh with what Baker & Taylor might have for that book, I skim to make sure I haven't missed anything that might be in one of my areas.

2. The occasional mass market paperback review--most of the Fiction review section is over my $9.99 limit. For example, there were three reviews I could use in a recent issue. One I had already ordered, one I wasn't going to get because it was 7th in a series that I didn't have the rest of, and one I put in my cart for later review.

3. Graphic novel reviews.

How I use Library Journal:

I READ IT FOR THE ARTICLES. In reality, I read most of them online before the paper copy ever filters down to me.

1. Prepub alert, just to get things on my radar that are going to be coming out in the future. Strictly for nonfiction.

2. The semi-regular romance review sections that include mass market paperback titles. Many times this is just a confirmation that I already ordered something that I should have ordered, but once in a while I come across something to add to my cart. I generally make sure that something with a good review has either been ordered by me or for one of the branches. It is particularly difficult to sort out which romance novels to buy because there are so MANY and I do get some via donation. If I'm lucky the donations show up in time for me to take the items out of my cart and put something a little more interesting in. I can skip a bunch of things because I don't buy fiction with a list price over $9.99.

3. The occasional mass market paperback review in the Mystery section.

4. Poetry reviews. Narrowing down what poetry to buy is almost as hard as narrowing down romance novels.

5. Nonfiction reviews, particularly Literature and History.

How I used Kirkus:

My library didn't re-subscribe to the paper edition of Kirkus when it was resurrected, but I used to use them to augment my nonfiction order. I enjoy reading their bad reviews, but the reviews are so long that you really have to set aside time to digest them. I do appreciate having a Kirkus review in the record when I look more closely at an item in Baker & Taylor.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I do, of course, use a lot of other sources when I'm trying to figure out what books to buy for the library. But I'm curious as to whether other librarians are still using paper and, if not, how that works for them. Please feel free to share in the comments!

Mass Market, part 2

Mass Market paperbacks. These small, relatively harmless books sow much discord among the branch and Central library staff in my system. There are some who love them, most don't think anything about them one way or the other, and some loathe them. They are synonymous with "genre" literature with is synonymous with "bad" or "trash" or "junk" books. But you've all dealt with that attitude before so no need to re-hash that here.

I don't have a separate budget for mass market paperbacks, so I normally come across them during my everyday ordering or when I'm ordering replacements.

Replacements: when ordering replacements, I first have to consider my options. Often, only a mass market paperback edition is available, so that's what I get. If there are mass market and trade paperback editions available, then it becomes a choice of what we have in the system or what we've had previously, how big is the book, and price.

Take Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes for instance. The mass market version of this book is huge (1, 438 pages) and not easy to read. The hardcover is still available, but the Gabaldon books are almost synonymous with spine breaks. I'm not sure what the people of Indianapolis (or the library staff of Indianapolis) are doing to these books, but I've seen relatively brand new copies in the book sale split right down the middle. (Yes, we still sell them and yes they still sell.) So, trade paperback it is. And, since we only have 4 left, I'd better get on that!

Obviously, the less expensive the format, the more I can buy. I also take into account how much money we've already spent on the title. We originally purchased 400 hardcover copies of Eleven on Top by Evanovich. I can't see a compelling reason to purchase any more in hardcover. Mass Market replacements will be just fine. (We currently have 14 of those original 400 left. Guess how many have gone out more than 26 times....)

New Books: As I said upstream, I don't have a separate budget for buying mass market paperbacks for the cataloged collection, but there are a few extra things to consider when deciding whether to purchase something in that format.

1. Paperbacks will get discarded/disappear from the collection quicker than hc or tp books. Whether it is because they are more likely to be "genre" books or because they are easier to steal/lose/damage, I don't know. I suspect it is both, but who can say.

2. Because we don't (or shouldn't) be putting cataloged paperbacks into the dreaded "spinner" racks, there isn't a shelving issue of regular sized mass market books vs. PREMIUM TALL EDITION mass market books. Given a choice between the two, I choose regular sized mass market. But, if something is paperback only in the tall edition, I'll order it. I haven't heard from patrons one way or the other.

3. There will be discontent and/or complaints that the collection is too "romance centered". There are a lot of romance books issued in mass market paperback. Once upon a time, we didn't buy category romance for our general collection. If we got them as donations, that was great. They didn't go into our library catalog, and it was just dumb luck if you found them at your branch. We have plenty of staff who feel this was a great practice, and haven't adjusted to seeing them in the general collection. When all 12 spots on our New Arrivals are variations on a Harlequin category theme.....well....you can imagine the whinging.

Later, we can talk about the unprocessed paperback collection we have in our branches......for now, how do you handle mass market paperbacks at your library? Are they purchased and/or shelved differently than other books? If you are a library user, do you prefer mass market paperbacks to be separated out from other formats? Tell us what's up!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Play it again.....audiobooks and libraries

I've talked a little bit about some of my favorite audiobook vendors, but what makes a vendor good? Everyone has their own ideas, of course, here are a few of mine.

Price: You knew we were going to start here, right? I remember a time (not too long ago) when price didn't dictate what was in the collection. I mean, you couldn't not buy the new Tom Clancy, right? These days, there is no way we would pay $240 for one book on CD.

Books on Tape have lowered their prices on new items to compete with the vendors who are selling retail editions to libraries. (If you're not using Midwest Tapes, you're wasting money. Learn about them here) But, their backlist is still at the old pricing structure. That is at least a compromise between their desire to make money and the reality that libraries don't have the money they used to have. Will we be replacing copies of Clancy's Debt of Honor? Not at the BoT price. Right now, there is no unabridged retail version available. So, until BoT lowers their backlist prices, we won't be replacing that title.

Recorded Books, on the other hand, still seem to think that their pricing structure is viable in 2011. I would love to buy Lover Unleashed on audio. I'm not personally crazy about the reader, but others like him. The library edition of the audio is 16 discs (20 less than the new George R.R. Martin due in July) and costs $50 more. How does that even make sense? The retail edition of Lover Unleashed is *STILL* more than A Dance with Dragons, but cheaper than the library edition. So, to recap, the library edition and retail editions have the same number of discs, the same reader, the same story, but libraries can afford to pay $50 more so that's your price. Our price is 0 because we're not ordering. If a publisher chooses to not issue a retail edition that we can buy, then so be it. Just as a comparison, though, there was a retail version of Lover Avenged available. 19 discs. $49.99 from Midwest Tapes (sorry I can't link to the page) From Recorded Books.....see for yourself.

Of course, there can also be benefits to paying more if you're getting more, right? Brilliance Audio (purchased by Amazon) will gladly sell you their items in retail editions through nearly every vendor on the planet. They will also sell you their "library edition" with an immediate 45% off the (artificially) inflated library edition price. Now, why they don't just set the price at that level if anyone's guess. In addition to that, you get lifetime replacements. Now, if that is of interest to you, it might be worth the extra money. Brilliance will replace the case, the discs, the art, everything. For free. The set, with the discount, amount to about $15 more than buying it from Midwest or Baker & Taylor or your vendor of choice. With an ever decreasing processing staff, we have found it more of a hassle to replace discs, especially at high library edition prices (and most companies charge you for replacements IN ADDITION TO sky high library edition prices.) After 35, 40 circs, we found that once you start replacing damaged discs, you'll likely have to replace more than just one. We do still replace lost discs, and damaged under a certain number of circs. But if replacements are your thing, it might be worth the extra $15 (which isn't bad at all) to have that as a lifetime guarantee.

Content: More people are looking for audiobooks. Whether they are digital audiobooks, regular CDs or MP3 discs (or even Playaways, which we have chosen not to carry) more people are getting into the idea of listening to books. That means, of course, that more books should be available. I remember a vendor asking me once other books they should think about making available on audio. Science Fiction and Romance were my answer. There was precious little SF/F available on audio at the time. That particular vendor didn't take my advice, but they made Urban Fiction available, which was also unheard of at the time. If you're looking for Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy titles or Science Fiction/Fantasy titles, I would start with Tantor Audio. Yes, they also do "library pricing" but their titles are available in retail editions from Midwest. Their selection is outstanding. They're taking books that most people barely take note of, and turning them into very good audio productions. We talked a little about Graphic Audio, but they are worth mentioning again. It isn't just a straight reading of the book, but an audio re-telling.

SO the audio game comes down to: Do you have what patrons really want and How much is it going to cost us?

Talk to me about what you like/dislike about audiobooks, audiobook vendors or both. Do you still carry cassettes? (some do don't laugh!) What's on your audio wish list?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Inside The Librarian Brain: Ordering Mass Market Paperbacks

One of the things I would like us to feature here is accounts of how librarians actually do the work of collection development, which is why I wrote last week about how to tackle new-to-you nonfiction areas. Please contact me if you'd like to share a story about how you order materials for your library, and we will post it here.

I order books for a large public library in western Massachusetts, and one of my favorite collection areas is
adult (mass-market) paperbacks. Pending our looming budget cuts, I get to spend about $175 a month, which means we have quite a large collection for western MA--even though I only purchase 30-40 books per order. My tight budget means that I try to be very careful about what I order; a book that won't circulate is a waste of my time and the library's money.

I am licensed to buy anything with a list price under $10, and I use Ingram to do my ordering. I order for the central library and another selector orders paperbacks for our nine branches. Some of the money I spend on replacements, and I don't spend as much on romance novels as I would if we didn't get regular donations, especially of series romance titles. One of our most popular collections is the urban fiction, so I always allocate a certain percentage of my budget to buying (and replacing) books in that genre, as well as the series romances targeted toward the African-American population. Other things I consider are:

Genre: I try to buy a certain number of books in each area, romance and urban fiction getting the highest percentage of the budget, and things like westerns and nonfiction the lowest (I may order one, or none, each month). This is based largely on circulation numbers.

Series: If a book is part of an ongoing series, this usually guarantees it a spot in the cart. See my post on series ordering for specifics on how I manage/tear my hair out about this issue.

Requests: If a book was a special request by a staff member or patron, that gives it more weight. If I'm buying something that one patron has requested, then I know it will circulate at least once and I can extrapolate that other patrons might be interested as well.

Branches: As I mentioned above, we have nine branches. I
f one of them is ordering a title, I may cut it from my cart because I know it will be in the system and therefore be readily available to our patrons.

Ingram: I use a few of the tools available in their system to help narrow my choices. I look at how many copies are on order in Ingram to gauge how popular the title is predicted to be and note whether a title has been marked as "street smart," since Ingram has gone to the trouble of thinking about these things.

Authors: I often consider how many other books by that author we already have, even if not in series. For example, if a lot of books by an author are missing or billed, that means I would definitely order their new title.

Size: I actively avoid Tall Premium editions, because they don't fit on our shelves unless they are shelved sideways. They also cost more. I am looking at YOU, James Patterson.

Format: I consider whether we already have the book in hardback. I generally don't double up unless it's a super popular title like a Janet Evanovich or similar (and is not a Tall Premium!). There is little enough money in my budget that I favor the library having unique titles in paperback over having the same title across multiple formats.

Reviews: I read reviews in publications such as Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Once in a while these help me to order something that is by an author we don't have already, or tip the scales on something I am considering but haven't decided to purchase yet. I also use blog reviews or recommendations from coworkers online friends who read in genres that I don't. For example, I have a solid grip on fantasy and SF, but mystery is . . . mysterious to me.

I usually load up my cart with about twice as much as I can afford and cut from there. I'm sure this seems like a lot of work to order around forty books a month, but the paperback collection is quite popular. Approximately fifty percent of the collection (that wasn’t missing, billed, lost, or otherwise out of commission) circulated in FY10. With so little to spend, I want to make sure that my collection decisions are the best they can possibly be considering my patrons, our existing collection, and the direction I want to go (i.e., away from westerns, since they don't circulate).

I'd love to hear what other people do when they're ordering, especially where paperbacks are concerned. Please leave us a comment or send us a story with your perspective!

Click my Link, May 11th, 2011

2 new books about Stieg Larsson

106 Star Wars ebooks? Thank you, Random House!

Harper Lee doc on the horizon.

The Crime Writers' Association gets in the fight to save UK libraries.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Click my Link, May 9th, 2011

Regis is coming to a bookshelf near you. (again)

Happy 140th Birthday, Eeyore (he just needs a hug)

And your 2011 Audie Award Finalists are......

An interesting list of 10 SF novels to give to people who hate SF.

Happy Monday!

Off the Beaten Path: GraphicAudio

Haven't you always wanted a movie in your mind?

Graphic Audio is a different kind of audio book company. It doesn't specialize in your big name bestsellers, but has created a new audience of audio fans with books that often get overlooked in print format. I'm not sure how long the company has been around, but I first came into contact with them in early 2007. Curiosity made me place an order in March of that year. At the time, we were not experiencing any budget issues and the prices were good. It was a great time to experiment. The prices were, and still are, exceptional.

The titles we purchased were things that didn't move here at all in print so we'd stopped buying them. Some of Axler's Deathlands saga titles, Johnstone's Eagles saga, Pendleton's Executioner saga and
Alex Archer's Rogue Angel titles.

14 titles, 3 copies each. A modest investment, but enough to see if there was an interest.

I would love to say that patrons flocked to them immediately, but that didn't happen. It took a little while for people to understand what they were getting. We had some full cast things in the collection already, but they weren't like this. We have the ArkAngel Shakespeare (highly recommended, if you haven't experienced them yet) and radio plays, and even some modern drama. About the only things they have in common with GraphicAudio productions are they are full cast, and they are on a disc.

The subject matter can be graphic, and most things are a definite R rating, although there are some that run PG 13. There are sound effects that will make you believe you are right in the middle of the action. As word got out, interest picked up, and now they are some of our most popular audio cds. People who rarely check out materials (truckers, for instance) request these by series and/or title. Even my sister, who had absolutely zero interest in audiobooks previously has developed a love of Johnstone's Sidewinders series and all things DC Comics (this is one of the PG 13 series. Highly recommend!)

Wait....did I mention that most titles are only $19.99? You can buy direct from GA or through Midwest Tapes or Baker & Taylor. They are expanding their offerings regularly, branching out in new directions. There is historical fiction now, even some inspirational, and the SF/Fantasy offerings are increasing as well. If you're looking for something that might appeal to a new and different audience in your community, I don't think you can find a better value for a test run. Whether you want to bring in post-apocalyptic fans, or cater to the new fans of Westerns brought in by True Grit and Cowboys and Aliens, I can't recommend titles from GraphicAudio highly enough. Good stuff!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Areas of My Expertise: Getting Your Feet Wet with Nonfiction*

Unless you work in a small library, the chances are good that more than one person selects the nonfiction. This is usually a good thing, because the collection benefits from the different perspectives that selectors bring to their work. It can be a problem when selectors pay less attention to one area than another (especially in terms of weeding and upkeep) or when the selector doesn't know much about the area they're responsible for, both in terms of subject matter and how that part of the collection is used by patrons.

Public librarians are supposed to be generalists, but ideally they would order books in subject areas that they were moderately familiar with. However, there are more subject areas than there are librarians, so inevitably there is going to be a situation where librarians are ordering books on topics in which they have zero personal investment. When I first started working at my library, my department head put me in charge of the 800-829 Dewey range (American and English literature), because I had a Master's degree in that field and theoretically knew something about it. Since it was two days after my graduation from library school, I wasn't so sure that made me qualified to order any books in any area EVER, but his faith in me was touching.

Unfortunately, layoffs have largely been responsible for my acquisition of additional nonfiction collection development areas. Even though staff is reduced, the library still has to spend a certain percentage of its budget buying materials, and someone has to select them. I'm currently responsible for the 840s (French lit); 930s and 940s (this mostly ends up being WWII books, but I sneak in the occasional volume on ancient Egypt or the Romanovs or life in medieval times); and the 400s (language), all of which I feel comfortable selecting as a former French speaker/history minor/person with a passion for language and grammar. However, the chances are good that someone in my position will be asked to take on additional collection development responsibilities in an unfamiliar area, whether it's due to layoffs or staff turnover or a change in job responsibilities.

I thought I would try to give some advice to someone approaching a new (to them) nonfiction collection area for the first time.** How does a selector get a handle on what should be ordered?

1. Browse that part of the collection. I recently took on the 790s because I like sports, but it wasn't until I browsed the collection that I realized that the books on movies and television shows and theater were shelved there as well. Double bonus for me! I suggest bringing a book truck along with you and pulling off some of the books that look the most "well-loved." When you get back from your walk-through, you'll check the circulation of what you've pulled and either be able to make a fairly easy weeding decision or have found a book with high circulation that should potentially be replaced.

2. Run a report. I am a big fan of statistics, and I run reports fairly regularly to find out what is circulating in my sections, what is missing and billed (which can be another indicator of popularity), when items were published, and so on. This also ends up being a great tool when it comes time to weed. Since nonfiction in my library is such a huge part of the collection, and it doesn't often see the light of day through displays, circulation stats are crucial when it comes to figuring out what my patrons are interested in reading.

3. Cruise through the "New" nonfiction. This is a great way to get an idea of what's been ordered recently (you can also see that through the stats, of course, but a visual can be very helpful) in your new section. If it's nothing but baseball books, well, maybe you want to work on developing the section in other directions.

4. Ask about the budget. How much money is allotted or how many books are generally ordered for this part of the collection each month? This will give you a general idea of how grand your plans for collection development can realistically be. Don't forget that you might want to spend a little bit of money to replace high-use items, once you determine what they are.

5. Talk to the person who was responsible for the area before you volunteered for it or it was thrust upon you (in the case of layoffs, this may not be feasible). Read the collection development plan for specific goals that might already exist. In my opinion, collection development in nonfiction is much more of a moving target than fiction, because there are fewer surefire bestsellers and there's really no way to tell when a book like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is going to strike a chord with the public. Therefore, having a plan based on the library's mission and hard statistics about usage, and actually executing that plan, is very important.

6. Check the relevant part of the Public Library Catalog. You may not have the budget or desire to fill out your collection with these "essential" titles, but finding them (or not) on your shelves will tell you a little bit about the shape of the collection as it has been formed over time.

7. Stay positive. There will be well-reviewed books that you order which seem to be exactly the kind of thing that your patrons should check out, but they will stay on the shelf like sad little mannequins whom no one will take home and dress in the latest fashions. As far as I can tell, this is normal. It may be a sign of changing tastes, or it may be a sign that patrons didn't know the book was there and never checked the catalog or that the reviewers thought it was going to be hot but it fizzled. Make a mental note and move on. 

I'm sure I've missed some useful advice, but this is generally how I go about familiarizing myself with a newly acquired collection development area. Some of these tips absolutely apply to selecting fiction as well. Please chime in with comments and advice, because I'm sure this would be helpful for first-time librarians and library students as well as those of us who find ourselves doing new jobs in uncertain economic times.

*If you caught that as a reference to John Hodgman's book The Areas of My Expertise, you might enjoy the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

**I am talking about books, because that's what I order, but I would love for someone to talk more about nonfiction in other media, especially in terms of ordering the same book across several formats.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Am GIVING You This Book!

Aren't you going to thank me?

I'm sure there's a post to be written about self-published and local authors who donate their books to the collection and then try to micro-manage them, but I don't get a lot of those, so I'll leave that to the experts. What I want to talk about today is the run-of-the mill box or paper bag of donations. What usually happens at my library is that someone calls up in advance:

Patron: "I have/my daughter/my husband has a huge HUGE stack of books and I want to get rid of them."
Librarian, nervous about potential overflow and difficulty of getting them in from the parking lot: "How many, can you guess?"
Patron: "Like TWO whole boxes!!!"
Librarian, relieved: "Sure, we can probably manage that."
Patron: "And is there also somewhere I can sell my 1978 encyclopedia?"
Librarian: *sigh*

The corollary to this interchange is the Will You Appraise My Books for Me call, but let's not stray down that path today, tempting as it may be. The donations we get usually aren't in huge amounts, and we don't have a yearly book sale (more's the pity), so the process here is pretty straightforward. My supervisor goes through the wheat and puts the chaff on the giveaway shelf straightaway, and then individual selectors like me evaluate the remaining pile and decide what to add to the collection and what to pass on to the hungry public. In my library, everything put on the giveaway shelf is snapped up, even if it's a tax guide from 2001 or some ancient VHS tape being discarded for lack of circulation.

Although I would love to be welcoming and accept all donations as new books in the collection, at some point in library school they taught me that donations aren't actually free for the library. The books that I add to the collection have to be handled by my supervisor, and then by me, and then sent to Tech Services to get labeled and bar coded and actually attached to a record. Since I deal with mass-market paperbacks, which aren't that expensive to start with (especially after a library discount), I try to be very careful about what I add to my collection. If it's in terrible shape and wouldn't stand up to more than a few circulations, I'm not adding it. If it's already on the shelf and the copy has fewer than 20 circulations, I'm probably not going to add it. If it's the middle of a series and I don't have the rest of them, I'm definitely not adding it.

What I do add are books guaranteed to circulate in my library, like a Debbie Macomber or a J.R. Ward or Christine Feehan; any urban fiction that miraculously appears on my cart; replacements for missing or billed items, especially in popular series; and Harlequin romance novels that I'm not going to actually buy, despite tweeting about their plots every month. In other words, most of the donations that come in that aren't romance novels (with a few exceptions) are headed straight for the free shelf. Some of them, I confess, end up coming home with me. But only after passing the rigorous tests that I apply! And if I do add a book I want to read to the collection, I know just where to find it on the shelf...

How does your library handle donations?