How the Library Adds Books to Its Collection

By Adrianne M. Schinkai
Head of Circulation and Reference Services, Vicksburg District Library

According to Google, there are nearly 130 million book titles in the world. With such a large number to choose from, how does a library go about selecting what books to buy for its collections?

One of the more favored tasks for a librarian is collection development and buying items for the library. But a librarian cannot be biased in what they buy. They cannot sit down and just decide to buy all their favorites or what they personally want to read. Nor does a librarian simply go out shopping at the local Barnes & Noble to pick up supplies.

Based on practices established by the American Library Association, a librarian must buy items that cover a wide range of topics and views. Whether liberal or conservative, opinion-based or fact-based, young or old, every patron must be served. A librarian must also be ready to supply items that are most pertinent to their library and their library’s patrons. For example, many patrons of the Vicksburg District Library are lovers of historical fiction and Amish romances. Popular authors in Vicksburg tend to include Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, and Colleen Coble.

Librarians use many types of media when it comes to choosing items for their library. “A lot of times, vendors come to us with new materials,” says Youth Services Librarian Stephanie Willoughby. “We tend to get advertisements that list the latest releases and new up-and-coming writers. We also receive catalogs like Publishers Weekly every week or so.” Every librarian has their own favorite resources, says Willoughby. “I like to use School Library Journal and Voices of Youth Advocates. The listed items have been reviewed by other librarians.” Items are then ordered online through hubs such as Baker & Taylor, where stakeholders such as libraries tend to get a discount.

Patrons also play a big part when it comes to collection development. Patrons are always welcome to fill out a materials request slip at the circulation desk or to fill out the request form on the library’s website. However, Willoughby warns it’s not a given. “A patron can certainly always suggest an item for purchase, but it’s not a guarantee that the library will actually purchase the book.” Factors that can result in a requested item not being purchased include the availability of the item, whether the item will circulate beyond the one requesting patron, and, at times, price and budget.

If this is the case, how should a patron go about getting their hands on an item they want? “Make use of the other items and services the library has to offer,” suggests Willoughby. “If an item isn’t in print, check to see if we have the audio book or ebook through OverDrive. Otherwise, we can always try borrowing the item from another library through MeL.” MeL is better known as the Michigan Electronic Library and is used by the library for interlibrary loan items.

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