Ordering new library books
I was excited last week to do what excites librarians — ordering new books.
In the old days a generation ago, the process began with a list of potential new books for the library, usually on 3-by-5-inch cards so we could shuffle things back and forth and rearrange the titles of books to form the final order. That was followed by a typewritten order form ready for mailing, or perhaps faxing in later days.
Today the early part of the process has remained the same. Several librarians read reviews of new books to be published and make lists of potential titles to be acquired. That is combined with needed replacement titles and suggestions from the public or computer runs of items with a lot of demand to form an order list, which is further checked against the online system.
A lot of investigation goes into the process and almost everything in the process is performed online.
Libraries order primarily from “jobbers,” which are wholesale book companies with contracts with libraries that yield significant (the library hopes) discounts for books purchases.
That now includes the traditional paperbound books, online databases, eBooks and audiovisual titles.
I was working online with our main jobber developing an online order, which then interacts with the financial systems at the library to account into our budgetary system that manages the library’s accounting.
I also search other systems for titles not available from our main jobber such as Alibris, a company that coordinates with antiquarian bookstores for more difficult titles to locate. These are not typically “old” books; they can be allotments of books sold by warehouses to clear space for new titles, but still being sought by libraries.
And yes, the library also has an account with Amazon for those titles not available elsewhere, or actually only produced by Amazon.
Mixed in with this are copies of books to replace worn out or lost books. From experience, I can count on books by C.S. Lewis to fit these categories.
In this world of technology, this task is delightful as it allows me to roam through the publishing world and see what is in the marketplace for all to enjoy.
Oh, I want to read this book or that; and with other titles I am amazed that anyone would want to read that.
And that is why we involve so many people in the selection process as each person on staff, and well as with our library customers, has diverse interests making the collection development of a public library as more of an art than a science.
I remember the day that two different people returned copies of the same book with one exclaiming that the book was the best they had ever read — and the other said the same book was the worst book they had ever read.
Both people were correct, just from two different perspectives.
That is why public libraries today have to link together into systems to provide the broadest array of materials, databases and eBooks to address the resounding interests of the public.
Even with technology, more traditional book titles are being produced annually than ever before, due in part to the technology allowing more people than ever to publish books.
That is why our library system is linked with 93 other systems to make available all the resources that we can. That is why our library system acquires databases and systems to provide online materials and electronic sources available to the public.
That is why our library system remains an important part of our community.
(Hall is director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)