Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Collection Development

 (image from Flickr user library mistress)

One of the things I feel I really got shafted on in library school was collection development. Now, I liked my professor quite a bit, and I believe he knows a lot about collection development, but I also feel like I left the class without any sense of how to DO collection development.

Most of the time, I've lucked out, and I've been asked to do collection development in an area where I have personal interest/knowledge. In these cases it's easy to know what's coming out, what the hot topics/authors are, etc. But when faced with areas I have less expertise about?

Then I'm left mumbling, um reviews, amazon, uh, magic?

I can do things like environmental scanning, i.e., seeing what's missing in a community. And yes, that's a great skill to have. But once I've determined that there's a large group of bird watches in my area, how do I figure what books to add to the collection for them?

Just as important, I've never developed a system I like for tracking my collection development. My first attempt was a raggedy notebook with every title I was interested in written in it. You can imagine the nightmare after a few months (much less years) of trying to find anything in it.

I'm currently using a folder filled with notepad files. But I'm only tracking what's to come, and what I've ordered. I'm not tracking what's come in the library. How do you track stuff? What do you chose to track?

I wish library school had provided me with a better sense of how to answer these concerns. I'd love to hear from people what they do, and if they've had similar experiences to me.*

Because of SPAM, comments are moderated. Be patient, I'll get them posted as I can.

* To be honest (and forthright) I've thought about proposing a collection development book around these themes, so if you're interested, let me know. And if you don't want to be a part, but still want to address my questions, just say so.


Keri said...

I have a Google Doc spreadsheet that has sheets for each of the types of items I buy. I put in the title and author, and when it arrives at the library I add the date it arrives and the price. I have another sheet for future purchases since I only buy about a month in advance. That just lists title and author and there's space for reviews, but I usually order before the reviews come out (I'd put the ISBN but we order using paper order slips (ugh) so it's just easier to get them later).

Most of the librarians in my library buy based on journal reviews only, with two of them also buying things they've seen at bookstores. I'm obsessed with what's upcoming in YA (I have a website with release dates) so I buy mostly on author reputation, buzz, covers/plot hooks, and then use reviews to fill in the gap.

I don't know that any of that is interesting enough for a book, but if it is, you can use it (or I could write something).

The.Effing.Librarian said...

wow. I don't think I could track what I (used to) buy. I would order about 200 titles every 6 weeks. But I stopped this year. If I wanted to see what I had on my shelves, I could request a shelf list report printed or in a file.
Once I ordered something, if it was special, I would check up on it, but otherwise, it was too much to track. but if someone can print you up a list of everything in your range and do it once a year, that could help you get an idea of which areas are thin. then you do your "dusty book" report for stuff that hasn't circulated in 2 years and then either order newer stuff or reduce what you've been ordering for those dusty subjects... (maybe you already knew this).. cheers.

John Klima said...

Part of my problem stems from my current situation. At my full-time library job, I don't do any collection development. At my part-time job, I do collection development for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

I know a lot about those fields (since I worked as an editor in New York for a number of years and still publish a small science fiction magazine) so finding material isn't an issue. It's the tracking component, and you've both got good ideas.

I only work one day a week, and I'd like to get some sort of system in place that I can check/update easily during my shift.

Hmmm, I could probably get a scheduled report that would list all the new stuff in my areas since the past week, which would tell me what's been added. Then I could schedule another report maybe quarterly, or bi-annually, in order to do weeding (i.e., more than five years old with < # of checkouts, etc.).

I'd need to transfer my txt docs into a spreadsheet or something (I like the idea of Google Docs) but after the initial deployment it wouldn't be much to maintain.

Anonymous said...

Why not ask the interest groups in your area what they want to read? It's a good place to start and you will know what books are hot and which ones are not!

My library puts cards in the library inviting members to suggest books and its small enough for the librarians to chat with regulars to get some feed back.