Monday, May 22, 2006

Collection Development & Purchase Requests

From one of my new favorite blogs Super Patron (how awesome is it that a patron is blogging about libraries from their point of view? this is one of the most important blogs about libraries to be created...ever), a quick post about libraries ordering books from patron requests:

'At FCL - if there's a new book a patron wants - we'll order it. That's how some of our collection development is done.' [this quote is from Kevin Yezbick, a student near where the Super Patron lives, and was quoted in the Super Patron post]
Now, that's not too spectacular. I suspect almost every library buys books that patrons ask about that aren't in the catalog. The patrons are always surprised that we would buy books (at least at our library) based on their requests, but are pleased that we do so. To be honest, even with the wide variety of interests that the staff has, there are LOTS of books we miss and I'm glad that the patrons can bring them to our attention. Here's the real deal of what the Super Patron's post was about [still from Kevin]:

'My friend was dreaming of a tool that would enable patrons to purchase books for the library that they wanted the library to have--and be put on the hold list for that item automatically. Now--books are already purchased by the patrons through the library funds--but she wanted to see how patrons could purchase books specifically that they wanted...over and above taxes and whatnot.'
Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I know that the Princeton Public Library uses an Amazon wish list to maintain a list of books that the library would like to add to its collection. It wouldn't be difficult to also have these books put on hold for the person who buys them.

However, to me it would seem that having the library place purchase requests is still the easiest way to do this. At our library, a hold is placed for the book for the person who made the purchase request. That way, when the book comes in, it gets set aside for them.

Mayeb it's just me, but having the patron buy the book in the first place (why wouldn't they just keep the book?) seems counter-productive. Of course, it could be that the library has a small collection development budget, or the patron is looking to create some sort of tax write-off (although you'd need to buy a lot of books to make that worthwhile!) and in that case, the patron buying books makes sense. Unless you use some sort of service like the Amazon wish list or the purchase request system(where the books are bought and sent directly to the library without the patron handling them) there's no point in putting the book on hold for the patron. Obviously if the patron physically bought the book, he/she already has the book in his/her possession and it would be silly to give it to the library and then expect it to be placed on hold.

My question is, why didn't I learn about these types of things in my collection development class in college? How come we didn't have some sort of a project where we developed a way to organize collection development? I.e. do you write all your purchases down on note cards, or in a spreadsheet, or in a notebooks? How do you keep track of purchase request books? Of replacement books? Your library may or may not have policies (it probably doesn't) and every librarian likely does something different. I think it would be very cool to have a project for class wherein you develop a strategy for keeping track of your collection development. You could try to develop a contact at Baker & Taylor to get test/student accounts to place orders for books and then track them. Just something I've been thinking about. Maybe I should adjunct. :)

This isn't to say that I didn't learn anything in my collection development class. We talked a lot about how to determine what should go in your collection based on your community's needs. That's important, but it's also important to get some practical advice/experience (even in a school oriented assignment) on how you actually do collection development: do you submit your purchases to one librarian who does ALL the buying, do you do your own buying, do you have to get purchases approved, etc. You could set up different scenarios for the students and have them come up with ways that they would work in those situations. Again, just me thinking out loud.

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Bob M said...

John, perhaps one of the reasons that a person might buy a book for a library is an altruistic one. Furthering the knowledge of the community and what not. There doesn't have to be a tax break lurking behind it.

Interesting to see the Princeton Public Libraries use of the amazon wish list. Also interesting to see that only 2 books have been purchased from the list thus far, but perhaps it's early days. I think the amazon wish list must be something pretty new to them, because whilst it is linked to from the library's home page, the page soliciting donors to buy new books for the library:

does not reference the amazon wish list. I thought too, that the books on the amazon list were fairly pedestrian, and not so expensive even when taken as a whole. I wonder how that compares to the library's annual acquisition budget.

You're right, it's a bit absurd for a donor to buy a book for the library, and then have to go on the hold list. A simpler method would be to just buy the book, read it, and then donate to the library. But then, maybe there'd be a lessened tax break - in the scenario you were considering.

The Editor said...

Princeton is a super library. Or perhaps I should Super library. Its budget is very large, particularly when compared to other public libraries.

That said, Princeton patrons are more than willing to buy things for the library like software licenses to Adobe Premiere, etc. Their patrons are very affluent (people like Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, etc.) and are also very giving with their time and money.

I've yet to encounter a patron wanting to buy a book for the library. Usually it's someone wanting to donate something to the library that they already own. I also get a fair amount of people making suggestions of books the library should carry, from which we're more than happy to purchase for the library.

John Klima