As the director of the Belding Library, one of my responsibilities is curating the library’s materials collection. That’s a fancy way of saying…
I get to pick the books.
So, that stack of books you just walked out of the library with? The best seller, the quirky YA, the picture book for your kiddo, the manual to help you build your new bird feeder? Those were selections that I made, with the hopes that people would check them out and enjoy them, and justify the dollars I spent on them from an extremely limited budget.
No pressure or anything, right? If no one wants to check out the books I buy for the library, not only am I fully responsible for wasting the library’s resources, but I’ve let my patrons down by not providing them with materials they deem valuable. Therefore, I take my collection development job very seriously.
But I’m also a Book Lover, with a capital B.L. And as such, I want to buy all the books. All of them, I say! But, as painful as it is for me to admit it, that’s simply not financially feasible. Sadly, heartbreakingly, the library does not have unlimited funding. In fact, because of some other financial obligations the library has, our materials budget is one of the smallest allotments we have. So every single dollar counts.
Recently, I had a friend ask me how I decide which books to purchase for the library. And the answer to this question is: very carefully.
One of the biggest factors in building a collection that circulates well is knowing my population, and which types of books they like. I spend a lot of time looking at the books our patrons check out, and becoming familiar with what their interests are – at all ages and reading levels. I mean, there’s no point in me buying a book no one is going to read.
After that, I choose books that are entertaining, are good for creating discussion, are thought-provoking, and are bona fide must-reads. And every now and then, I get specific purchase requests from patrons for books, and try very hard to accommodate these requests.
One thing that makes my book-choosing job easier is talking to my patrons. The more I talk to people about books, the better idea I get about what they like to read, and what they want to see in the library. And on top of that, I just plain like to talk about books! So if you’re in the library and see me, chat me up about what you’re reading – I’d love to hear what you have to say, and I’d love to hear your recommendations!
At the library, we’re in the business of patrons and books – and if the two can compliment one another, all the better.