I'll take one of everything!

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, book "selection" was done partially on autopilot. Whenever the new PW, Booklist, Library Journal would come in, one of the clerical staff would go through and put all the titles on a purchase order, and then librarians would assign quantities.

Now, of course, titles could be moved off the purchase orders if you decided you really didn't want to buy something, but you can imagine how often that happened, right? I mean, beyond the whole inertia factor, I think most librarians here are of the "more, not less" variety. And, after all, if it was mentioned in one of the journals it must be worthy, right? Kirkus, for some reason, was never accorded the same sort of automatic purchase respect. I wonder why......

Taking out the blockbusters, which we were going to buy regardless of what journal they showed up in, many of the books that we bought this way had very, very poor circ. I think the bigger sin for us, though, was how sure we were that we were buying all we needed to buy between those journals and publisher catalogs. When I think about how the journals often repeat titles (Nora Roberts' Chasing Fire appeared in PW and Booklist, not to mention Kirkus, B&T Advance, etc.) and how few titles they mention just because of space issues, it makes me wonder how many authors/books/genres we missed.

Is this one of the reasons for the myth that libraries are always 1 to 12 steps behind the general reading public?

I know, I know. You can't look everywhere. I get that, I do. I also get that with fewer staff and more library demand, time is an issue. With more websites to look through as well as genre specific journals, web catalogs, print catalogs, netgalley....has the tide turned now so that fewer "literary fiction" titles are being selected in favor of more popular authors and titles? Ellora's Cave, Torquere, Bold Strokes Books.....popular with patrons, definitely not "mainstream" enough to make it to the Big 3 with any regularity, if at all.

So I'm curious, do any of you have automatic order journals and/or magazines?

Comments

Helgagrace said…
I joked that if Kirkus likes something, I'll buy it, but that's actually fairly true. I think its widely felt among librarians that Kirkus is the review source that writes the most honest (and cutting) reviews, so I usually defer to their opinion when it comes to my nonfiction orders. Of course, if the books they're reviewing aren't something that my patrons would be interested in, or the subject is something that I already have a "definitive" work on, I'll probably still take a pass.

Almost any library that used to order 1+ of everything, as Robin describes, is now in a position where money has to be spent very carefully. Each collection decision I make, unless it's the very "best of the best" (or at least the most popular), requires some conscious thought about both the budget and the collection; almost nothing is automatic.
Glossaria said…
We do keep a few standing orders (mainly in travel guidebooks), but otherwise no journal gets "automatic" treatment, everything is weighed against local demand and budget. (And then weighed AGAIN against budget.) A really positive Kirkus review or a PW starred review carries a lot of weight, but it's not an auto-order, either.

Sure, there are probably things we miss in the main review journals (PW, Kirkus, and LJ, for me, with B&T Forecast batting mop-up... Booklist is so far post-pub that it's nearly useless to me). But that's why I use use genre review sources like RT Book Reviews, too. I check out sites like Early Word, find out what our local book clubs are reading, investigate local bookstores' promotions. Our library also accepts (and usually honors) purchase requests from patrons, and runs regular "purchase alert" reports to see what's being requested that we don't already have.

If we've got holes, I'd argue that sometimes they're deliberate. If a genre just doesn't have a readership in our area, we're not going to order much of it (NASCAR romances. Author memoirs. Westerns.) We order very little self-pub because of the erratic quality and frequent lack of editing or proofing. We don't order a lot of erotica, not because it doesn't get reviewed (thank you, RT!), but because it tends to be a (ahem) rapidly self-weeding collection, and we just can't afford that level of replacement budget. (Nor did our circ staff always want to handle the books when they came back... used.) Also, our ebook budget is currently miniscule, so any publisher (like Ellora's or Torquere) whose titles are primarily in ebook format aren't going to get a lot of business from us. We order literary fiction, but we don't order a great deal from university presses because they don't generally offer a discount and their prices are punishing to our budget.

Yes, we order more copies of bestsellers (we have to, as long as some patrons continue to request off the NYT bestseller list like a buffet menu), but literary and genre fiction gets its fair representation, too. Heck, sometimes I feel like libraries are the sole driving force keeping poetry publishers in business.

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