Guest Post: Learning the Collection Through Displays

This post was originally run by Kristi over at Books, Yarn, Ink, and Other Pursuits, but it is relevant to our interests here as well! She recently began working as a library director in western Massachusetts, and has been doing a lot of learning on the job.

Now that I have been here a year, I am starting to work on filling the holes in my knowledge about the collection. Over the last year I did accomplish some massive weeding projects throughout nonfiction, VHS, and books on cassette. We had some heavy-duty shelf sitters and overcrowded subject areas. The previous director loved nonfiction, but I have always been a fiction buyer and that was where I focused my efforts when I began working with the collection. Mysteries are the most popular genre here, but they still need to be weeded from time to time. I also broke out science fiction and fantasy into its own area.

One thing I have enjoyed bringing to the library is more displays. We are a small library, but I have a bay in the New Titles area and a cart in front of the circulation desk where I present new displays one or two times a month. I have mostly done "Celebrate X Month" displays, although I do try to highlight authors that have recently passed on, and this month I have a gardening display up because oh-my-goodness I am ready for spring!

It was really when putting together this month's displays -- gardening, Jazz Appreciation, and National Poetry Month -- that I realized I was seeing, if not necessarily shelf-sitters, but titles that were not being picked up as much as I had anticipated. Usually, when these displays go up, I have to fill in spaces several times throughout the month. With these, not so much. I think I have only replaced four books so far.

This could be interpreted in my patrons' lack of interest in the subject areas, but as you can see, they are not the latest titles. I think I had just one gardening book that was published in the last couple of years. We have no recent poetry anthologies, and jazz is not a topic that we have a lot of requests for.

So I sent my selector off in search of some more recent titles in gardening and poetry, with the help of our recent issues of Library Journal (which highlighted both subjects in recent print articles and reviews) and looking at the topics online at both Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I figure if people are buying them there, they will borrow them here!

This has really made me wonder about how best to take a look at smaller areas of the collection, as opposed to the "weeding the 600s" mentality that can sometimes exist in libraries. My library is all part-time staff except for me, and while they do a great job at weeding and making recommendations, we certainly do not focus on these tasks every week. By using displays, we will actually be able to analyze the collection more and make decisions based on patron interest and usage. I am hoping to see this grow into a scheduled review of specific sections each month when the displays change out.

Do you ever find yourself making collection development decisions based on displays?

Kristi is the Director at Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton, MA. She blogs at Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits and is usually trolling the Twitter feeds looking for library and knitting inspiration as @booksNyarn.


Allison said…
I definitely make collection development decisions based on book displays. Many of our books have survived the weeding process because they were finally put out where patrons can see them (Poetry, Native American History, Hispanic History etc). When I know that I have a Heritage month coming up, I try to order a few new books for that display so that it is not just items from years ago.

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