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In catching up on patron requests this week, I realized how often some of the same questions come up over and over again. The process of filling out a request is pretty easy, but you do have to log in with your card number, fill out a form, etc, so it isn't without some effort. I wish there was a way to tell a wide range of people that some requests are unable to be filled before they go through the trouble of making the request.
That said, here are some things I am frequently asked by patrons:
Why do you have some of a series but not all?
Probably the question I am asked most often. The library collection is a not a static thing. Things go missing, get damaged, and get stolen all the time. So, the odds are good that we used to have book 2 of the series, but we don't anymore. I try to discourage people from discarding a series book if the other books in the series are circulating well, or if the author is still writing the series. Yes, most J.R. Ward fans agree that Lover Enshrined is one of the weaker books in the series. It may not compare favorably to others in the series, much less other books in general, in terms of recent circulations or number of circs. But she is still writing the series. The series is still popular. How do you justify having all the books except one in the collection? The same thing could be said of jumping on board a series once it moves from paperback to hardback. Lara Adrian's popular Midnight Breeds series is about to make that jump in January with Darker After Midnight. A lot of libraries, who don't bother with paperback fiction, will see this pop up and order it. Great! But this is book 10 in the series, so you should be prepared to get a ton of patron requests, or interlibrary loan requests, for the other books. Or you can preemptively buy them, because the new release always raises interest in the other books of the series. (I'm sure I've blogged about my puzzlement over anti-paperback prejudice. No need to re-hash that here....)
Why doesn't the library purchase books published only in the UK?
The world is a lot smaller now, and library patrons have much wider tastes. This is great. I get a lot more requests for books reviewed in UK newspapers that are not available in the US. Just last week, I got a request for James Patterson's Private: London which is, apparently, only available in the UK. James Patterson, how could you? This is really more of a philosophical thing than anything else. Is it possible to buy books published only in the UK? Sometimes. The Patterson book looks to be available on Baker & Taylor. But, given the amount of copies we would have to buy, how feasible is it? First of all, I'm not sure we would be able to get the number of copies we'd need. Second, how much would it cost to get them? Is that to say we absolutely will not add books unless they are published stateside? Of course not. The library is rarely a place of absolutes. But it would have to be something extraordinary and, truly, unique and essential to the collection. Most of the books that I get asked for will, eventually, see a US release and we would certainly order it when that occurred.
Why won't the library add my one donated copy of an out of print book to the collection? Or buy a used copy from Amazon?
Buying used copies is a risky thing. The condition may or may not be acceptable. Yes, we know that you're not buying for forever, but we do like it to last more than one or two circulations. And, with interlibrary loan and now digital format, some things that are out of print in print can still be acquired. (I'm looking directly at you, Lord Valentine's Castle!) With donated copies, of course, you're able to check the condition. Even so, the question becomes one of widespread access. How long is one copy of anything going to last? What happens if the hold list explodes and you can't acquire more copies? This happened to me recently. I found a pristine copy of Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen in our donations store. A little bit of research showed me that in the US it was called Peggy Sue Got Murdered, which we had, but the copies were old. Girl Missing ended up getting its own record (gah!) and the next time I checked it, there were 66 holds! Patron holds cancel after one year so patron #66, if everyone before them kept the book for the maximum amount of time, would be waiting 198 weeks! And we can't even talk about that one copy possibly becoming missing/damaged/etc. Peggy Sue Got Murdered is out of print in the US, so we couldn't go that route. I broke down and started searching the used book market (66 holds!) but even paperback copies were expensive. So, to Amazon.co.uk I went. They allowed us to buy 5 copies at once. Five. Hey, every little bit helps, this is true. We have them, they are circulating (of course) We're down to 52 holds, and I should probably try and get another 5 copies. But just think how much easier, and how much less angst for the patron, if I'd never added that ONE donated copy in the beginning..... Using the library should not be an angsty proposition for the patron.
Do your patrons/colleagues have similar questions? What is your collection philosophy towards out of print, non-US editions or collecting series?
If you are responsible for collection development in just about any size or kind of library, the chances are good that there's been a recent push to reduce the size of your print reference collection.* Print reference materials are, to use a regional expression, wicked expensive. They are also being used less and less as librarians turn to databases and patrons turn to the immediate gratification of the internet. As budgets decline and libraries look to use their space in new and creative ways, physical reference collections are obvious targets for heavy weeding. Here at my library, we are reducing our reference collection by 50%. At our branches, reference collections will be cut by 75% . . . this time around. So where do you start when you are lucky enough to get the assignment to chop chop chop?
Before You Begin
Get a firm idea of how much the administration wants to reduce the reference collection. Survey the collection and determine how much you're going to have to weed to…
So, while you were hanging stockings by the chimney with care, you may have missed the article in the New York Times setting out the "debate" between libraries and publishers regarding ebooks. We learned that inconvenience and "friction" for patrons are good things, and if a library's borrowing circumstances don't create one of these things, they must be punished.
The article made it seem as if libraries have given up nothing in the quest to provide access to digital books, and that the publishing companies are the ones suffering under the heavy burden of selling their goods. After all, how is a company supposed to survive if they sell a book to a library at double (if not more) the cost of consumer price? Sometimes, that price is double (if not more) of the hardcover price. Publishers who allow libraries to purchase their books give up the sale of more books later. Right? I mean, isn't that what they're arguing? "'Selling one copy that co…
A question that has come up time and time again (in the real world, in the twitter world, on blogs, at conferences...) is the idea of separate shelving for African American books. If you follow me on twitter, you've heard this rant before. Why do we segregate books by skin color, blah blah blah. And, really, it isn't even the skin color of the character that matters, but the skin color of the author. You won't find the Derek Strange books (by Pelecanos...go read them now!) the AF-AM section.
I've tried to trace this back to see where it began because it wasn't always this way. Books used to be shelved by genre in fiction, and by Dewey in non-fiction. My guess (and it's only a guess) is that once upon a time there wasn't much in the way of current, popular fiction written about black people by black people. There was Terry McMillan...and there were others, but she was the big household name. Lots of people came into the …