Library Day in the Life: Collection Development Edition

This post is part of the larger Library Day in the Life project--I thought it would be fun for Collection Reflection to participate. Because I work with the public, I never actually get to spend an entire day doing collection development, so I'm going to describe the bits and pieces that got done over the course of this week in the midst of desk time, class preparation and teaching, and whatnot.

My library's collection budget has been cut to the state minimum requirement (as selectors, we haven't yet been told how this will play out, only that it's very bad) and has not yet been finalized. Therefore, we have been preparing carts for the last month or two without knowing when the items will be ordered. What this means is that books I have selected, some of which have subsequently appeared on bestseller lists, are not yet available to patrons. However, the selection process--like the show--must go on. I am hoping that the books I've selected will still be in demand and checked out by the time they finally make it to the shelves.

When I got to work at the beginning of this week, I realized yet again that the end of the month was coming up and I'd better get some nonfiction books ordered, even if we weren't in a position where the library could actually buy them. I had gotten my monthly paperback order done the week before, but still had a stack of 5-6 Publisher's Weekly magazines, a Booklist, and several issues of Library Journal waiting for me to peruse them and pass them on to the next lucky customer. Each of our publications come with a warning that says "please do not keep longer than three days," but I find that very difficult to do when I may not even get the chance to order any books during that brief span of time. I try to consume and pass on the ones that need to be passed on and create a stack that will enable me to get everything done in one chunk near the end of each month. Procrastination: It's an art form.

This library orders nonfiction books through Baker & Taylor's online system, which is intermittently not working, as any librarian that uses it would grumpily tell you. I alternate between searching by keyword and by ISBN; I use the Booking Ahead feature; and I execute complex searches for items in my subject areas. Ordering nonfiction items involves considering patron requests, duplicate checking, reading reviews, looking at the demand for the item, checking the publication date, seeing what else the library might have by that author or on that subject, seeing whether other libraries in the system have already ordered it and whether there are holds, and, finally, adding the item to the cart. I keep track of all of my orders in a large, possible overly complex Excel spreadsheet, so when necessary I can see everything I've ordered since I started working at this library (aside from the months that got wiped out when my flash drive crashed and burned). 

On Monday, I got through a couple of Publisher's Weeklys and passed them on to my co-workers after ordering several items for my sections. While working the night shift, I pulled a few dozen books off the "new" shelf that had been added before October 2010 and put them through the process I call "denewing." One by one, I check the book and take a look at the number of times it's circulated, remove the New sticker, and change the location to regular adult nonfiction. I then double-check that the call number in the record matches that on the book, since it's in my hand, and move on to the next one. This is something I could have someone else lower down in the library hierarchy do for me, but I use it to get a sense of what books are popular--some of which I might put back on the new shelf--and what I should be ordering. I also make the stickers into weird art, because I can.

On Tuesday, an email came from the head of collection development letting selectors know that, due to budget cuts, we needed to go back to the cart that we had created for July and re-think everything we had put in there with an eye toward what the library really needed to buy. The rest of my collection development time for that day, and the next morning, went toward trying to remember the reasoning behind ordering decisions I'd made a month ago. I was able to make some cuts, but it was a difficult process.

On Wednesday, I decided to alleviate my frustration about not being able to add new books to the collection by going through donations of mass market paperbacks and taking over the best of the lot to Technical Services to be added to the collection. This included a few dozen series romances and a mystery series that had been donated by one of my co-workers. I also got back to the Publisher's Weeklys, continuing to build my nonfiction order as well as putting a few books into my August and September paperback carts.

On Thursday, I wanted to weed (inspired by Jessica's post and Holly's post), but was scheduled to teach a class on Excel in the afternoon and had to prepare materials for that. In addition, the temperature in the nonfiction area of the library makes weeding even less appealing during the summer months. However, I am planning to run a report and pull a cart or two of books from the 790s next week in my continuing attempt to get a handle on that section. I spent a little time tinkering around in Baker & Taylor, but didn't get much ordered.

On Friday, I had the day off and did not think about collection development at all. Instead, I thought about flossing.

On Saturday, I saw that the cart was still open in Baker & Taylor, so I slipped a few more items in until I had reached the conservative amount I felt I should spend for the month. Over the course of the week, I also added any items that I would be interested in buying (in an idyllic future with more money), or reconsidering, to my ginormous Excel spreadsheet in the "possible" tabs. And then I backed everything up and started working on my next paperback order.


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