Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Click my link: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Kindle-Overdrive beta testing news spread across the web yesterday like wildfire.  You can read about it here or here or here

The Harris poll on E-reader use

More ebook stats?  Yes, please. 

Just ahead of Banned Books Week, which starts on Saturday,  B&N profiles a few "Classics Some People Still Love to Hate"

The National Book Festival is this weekend and if you can't make it, C-Span has got you covered.

ALA & AAP cage match to discuss ebooks.  Probably not in an actual cage..... 

Monday, September 19, 2011


So, when I started making notes for the LJ presentation next month, of course I wrote down WAY more than I have time to use in 10 minutes. I think (I hope?) I used the best stuff for the slides, but no reason why we can't discuss the same things here too, right? Of course there isn't.

I was thinking about permanence and the digital collection and how we shouldn't think of buying into this format (whatever format we might be using) as an endpoint. Who knows what might happen in the future, right? But this isn't an idea that is unique to downloadable audio/ebooks! How many cassettes (audio AND video) did we have to replace with the next format? Before cassettes, many libraries had records. There was probably some crazy library out there that circulated 8-tracks (oh please, fess up, I'm dying to know who you are!). Publishing companies would love for libraries to believe we're buying this digital format and it will last forever, but we all know that isn't likely to be the case. Technology changes. Even if we owned every digital book and the service that makes them work, who is to say it would still work ten years from now? You're not buying into forever with a digital collection, you're buying into right now, same as with any other form of book you have purchased. Print books wear out. VHS becomes obsolete. DVDs become grimy and scratched. Digital formats change. One day, probably sooner than you think, you will have to (or want to) replace it with something else.

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."
Librarians have an opportunity to be involved in the conversation surrounding digital materials. It doesn't have to be the way it has always been, where a company tells us the price and we pay it, even though we think it is grossly unfair or unrealistic or impossible with shrinking budgets. Even though some companies try to minimize our buying power, saying that library dollars make up a tiny percentage and blah blah blah, we know better. You don't stock a system as large as LA or Boston or Chicago with a few stray bucks. Large public libraries spend large amounts of money buying materials, and more of that money is being shifted towards electronic materials. Librarians have a chance to be at the table during this discussion to make sure we're getting the best deal possible. And, thankfully, more librarians are taking that opportunity.

Don't get overwhelmed with the idea of starting a new collection. Coming to a print collection is easier, because you're building on the work of everyone who came before you, right? Each day I work with our Overdrive collection, I discover an author we should have but don't. Raymond Chandler? Elizabeth Berg? Not authors you think of right off the bat, but authors any well stocked, self respecting public library has on the shelves. I started off thinking about the most popular authors and seeing what was available. Then I looked at the bestseller lists and stocked up on those, and then ordered backlist from those authors as well. Moving to genre fiction, you can work your way through front and backlist of those authors, but it takes time to build a collection.

Once you have a circulating collection, take advantage of any and all reporting tools available to gauge collection popularity. Check the hold lists. Check the turnover rate. Check the circs on titles. Check everything you can see what your patrons are checking out, what they're willing to wait for, and what they have no interest in. The beautiful thing about a digital collection is that you can change it on the fly. If you find that your patrons LOVE downloadable language learning materials, you can buy more today and they're available today. If certain things aren't circulating, you can try and draw attention to them with library blog posts, tweeting suggestions to library followers, or any number of new and interesting ways. The possibilities, truly, are limited only by your imagination (and the time it might take to carry them out.)

Most importantly, like with any new and shiny toy, have FUN with this collection.

These are all the things I didn't talk about in my LJ presentation. So what else do I have to say? You'll find out on October 12th! Hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Collection Dilemmas: Poetry

I was denewing books in the 800s recently, which gives me the opportunity to see how books on the "New" shelf have circulated in the 10-12 months between when they're processed and when they're put in the general collection. These books are featured in a very public area and theoretically have a greater chance of being noticed by patrons and checked out. I've been aware for a while now that books of poetry, while dear to my heart, don't enjoy much popularity at my library, even though they are featured on displays (as for National Poetry Month) and given the same time as other books in the New section.

Most of the poetry collections I denewed the other day had circulated, but sometimes as little as one time. Is one circulation a victory? If a book costs a certain amount (after a library discount), and then we add the cost of paying people to process and shelve it, does one circulation make its purchase worthwhile? At what point does the balance swing in favor of buying more of the same type of book? One of the worst feelings you can have as a selector is to carefully evaluate and commit resources to a book, and then have it sit on the shelf for the entirety of its time at your library. From the statistics I've been reviewing over the past three years, interest in poetry among my patrons is not very high at this moment in time.

I also have to think about weeding this part of the collection. Weeding one book of poetry doesn't really create very much space, so I need to think more globally and set some priorities in terms of what I keep and what I plan to order. I know I'll want to keep local poets and am committed to preserving as much diversity (of all kinds) in the collection as possible. I also realize that as one of the largest libraries around, we have been able and are expected to buy some things that smaller libraries can't afford to purchase. I wish I had a statistic for how many of the poetry books circulate through interlibrary loan, because I'm sure they would be illuminating. However, our budget has consistently shrunk over the past several years, which means that--more than already is the case--my patrons' preferences have to be taken into account over those of patrons in other Massachusetts cities and towns.

Taking at look at the statistics for the 811s, what are the most popular collections and authors? The top five highest circulating books are:

Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen (39)
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, Tim Burton (yes, that Tim Burton; 23)
The Poems of Emily Dickinson (21)
The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (21)
Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps (21)

These are by all American authors, because that portion of the collection is much larger than its British counterpart. I do order new collections by British authors, but in much smaller numbers. For the sake of comparison, the most popular poetry collections in the 821s are:

The Poems of Dylan Thomas (15)
The Annotated Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (14)
Collected Poems, 1909-1962, T.S. Eliot (14)

If I combine circulations for different books by the same author (some of which may be missing or billed), and include books about the author's work, the top six circulating poets are:

Maya Angelou (241)
Nikki Giovanni (159)
Mary Oliver (120)
Charles Bukowski (104)
Robert Frost (82)
Langston Hughes (81)

These numbers don't take into account any circulations before this system was put in place in 1999; additional circulations for older books can only be measured by looking at the stamps on their covers.

It is safe to assume, therefore, that these numbers are rather low, but useful because they reflect usage over the last decade. Working with the American poetry section, I'm considering approximately 2,500 items. About 300 of these (12%) have circulated in the last year. More than 30% (773 items) haven't circulated at all since 1999. If I compare these numbers to, say, the paperback collection, where nearly half of the collection circulates in a given year, it starts to look a bit gloomy. Some of these books are works about Emily Dickinson or Langston Hughes, but the majority are small collections by or collected works of individual poets.

The good news (for those of us who like poetry) is that the books I've been buying are circulating, if only sluggishly. I don't think we're at the point where purchasing poetry--aside from anything by Nikki Giovanni or another "must-buy" author like Mary Oliver--ceases completely. But this exercise is a good reminder that I need to be mindful of how I spend the very little money I have for this purpose, and how best to do it with an eye toward the future of the collection.

Any recommendations?