Series Ordering: Hits and Misses
It's All About Togetherness
I have a largely unsubstantiated theory of series acquisition based on my own reading habits and informal talks with my patrons, with whom I too frequently have this conversation:
Patron: "I heard this series was good but I wanted to start with the first book. Do you have it?"
Me: "No, but I could . . . get it for you?"
It makes sense that people like to start at the beginning if they're going to get involved in reading a series. And once the library starts buying a series, I feel that it's the responsible thing to keep buying additional installments, until the series proves itself unworthy (either through extremely low circulation or because people are breaking up with it). If the first volume goes missing, I feel that it absolutely should be replaced, especially if the circulation stats are decent--definition of "decent" varies by library--to give patrons that jumping-off point they're looking for. Other volumes we can probably find through interlibrary loan, and patrons will be more patient and willing to wait for them to come in because they already have an investment in the series.
Keeping Tabs on Series
I spend more of my collection development time than I probably should trying to figure out if some book is in a series and, if so, whether we have the rest of the series. The first thing that helps is when a review source actually says "third book in an ongoing blah blah," and so forth. In my particular job, I am ordering for the central library and someone else is ordering for nine branches, so I not only have my series to keep up with, I have to consider the branches as well.
Lately I've fallen back on my old standby: the Excel spreadsheet. I have created a spreadsheet that tells me (by genre) what series books I've been ordering (what number in the series, the title of the latest book, the author, and whether any of the branches are also carrying it). When I'm discarding books, I also try to check whether they're a part of a series, and find out whether any of our other libraries carry it. If it's not the first book in a series, and a branch library also has it, I'll probably save that money and take a chance on a new author instead. This method of keeping tabs on things can be time consuming, and might not work for everyone, but I have been able to tell a patron looking for the next book in a series "I've already put that in my cart and we'll let you know when it comes in" because I'm on top of the ordering.
How do you deal with series ordering?