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Archive for the ‘Collection Development’ Category

What’s on the shelves?

Posted by lpearle on 13 August 2013

Last week I dove into doing inventory – in many ways, my least favorite library activity (my aching back and shoulders! my dusty hands!) , but also in many ways my favorite library activity as it’s a great opportunity to look at the shelves and see where there are gaps, problems, areas that could be moved, etc..

As always, learning a new collection means taking a step back from what you knew about your old collection: comparisons only work if you’re comparing discrete sections, not overall.  So when I see few books on [topic] on the shelves, and fondly remember all the work done to bring the old collection’s books on that topic to a great level, I can’t assume it’s because the new collection is lacking, it may be the curriculum is that different and many books on [topic] aren’t needed.  And the reverse also applies.  Meeting with the different departments and learning from them what they need from the library, and what their ideal collection would be (given unlimited funds and shelf space) is going to be a critical component of my next few months.

Of course, DDC doesn’t help.  I saw books on AIDS in three places: 362.1, 614.5 and 616.9.  Books on Tennessee Williams are in 809, 812, 813 and 818.  If my goal is to make it easier for students to find books, that’s not helping!

In the fiction section, obviously, comparisons can be made.  It’s always interesting to scan the shelves to see what’s popular, what’s gathering dust and what’s unique to that library.  It’s also always interesting to see what’s appropriate in one school may not be appropriate in another.  A few years ago I spoke with a school that did not want books like Junie B. Jones on the shelves because it promoted disobedience to adults.  At another, even though the English department requested Sandman, the decision was that graphic novels weren’t “literary enough” (despite Persepolis and Maus being used in the curriculum).  One well-meaning teen organized a large donation to school libraries, but didn’t know enough to weed Fear of Flying from the ages 10-18 boxes, which made me wonder how many younger librarians would know about that book!  What I have noticed, in working with the various schools, is that few of the librarians actually read YA books.  One librarian I worked with castigated me for not reading “serious” books (I do, but I also read genre fiction, non-fiction, YA fiction, and ABC books – it’s really helpful when you’re doing reader’s advisory!).

If there’s a series “missing”, does it mean that students didn’t respond and it’s been weeded, or that no one thought to buy the books to begin with?  If there’s a lot of a specific type of book, is that because it’s a beloved author/genre, or due to a donation from a departing student/faculty member?  Again, working with the students will help me better fill in the gaps and create a really great pleasure reading collection.

More to follow…

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 29 July 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Teens and eBooks – a #YALSA / #ALA2013 discussion

Posted by lpearle on 3 July 2013

pace Freud, what do teens want?

That’s the question that the roundtable I attended considered – and the overall sense was that, as with men vis-a-vis women, we just don’t know what teens want when it comes to e-books/e-readers.  We do have a few ideas, however:

  • it’s population specific – don’t trust national polls, as trends change from town to town and school to school.
  • platform agnosticity is especially important if you’re considering a BYOD program.
  • teens use reference ebooks far more than fiction ebooks – there’s no real evidence that they are using ereaders or apps to read for pleasure.
  • one huge problem: adults borrowing YA ebooks wrecks havoc with stats – we know the book is popular, but don’t know who’s reading it
  • don’t make the book native to the device (avoids age issues, platform issues, etc.)

The process needs to be seemless, even two clicks can be one click too many.  Why can’t whatever system (Follett Shelf, Overdrive,  B&T’s Access 360, etc.) be as easy to use as iTunes?

Teens also don’t understand – or care – about publisher problems.  They want their book NOW and don’t want to hear that this publisher isn’t providing an e-version (or a library e-version).  Holds? They don’t want no stinkin’ holds – it’s an e-version, right?  How can there be a limit to how many are using/reading it at one time?

As an adult, I understand that: earlier this year I had the pleasure of discovering Cara Black’s mysteries thanks to a publisher-provided ARC on Edelweiss.  I had a trip coming up and wanted to read another on my Kindle – only the immediate previous book was available in e-version.  Two of twelve volumes available?  Disappointing!

Of course, it’s not just about publisher problems, it’s about knowing what to buy.  Reading blogs, getting recommendations from friends and family are the usual ways students find out about their next read.  Why not create genre consultants?  As your teens what you should be purchasing (keeping budget and age constraints in mind).  Put them in charge of a part of the budget (e.g., give the fantasy consultant $150 to “buy” books with) – not only do you get great support from the consultant, word-of-mouth will tell others how responsive you are and how wonderful the collection is.  Our new mantra needs to be Patron Driven Acquisition.

What about foreign languages?  Creating a collection of ebooks in French, Spanish, Chinese, etc. can be a good resource for ESL readers and those studying the language.

Current wisdom is that the OPAC is dead – no one uses it.  So how do we promote our collections, e- and print?

  • create displays of Fiction/Nonfiction books that relate to popular movies, tv series
  • use Pinterest
  • promote via GoodReads/LibraryThing/Shelfari (students love the social aspect – just be careful to separate your reading from the library’s collection)
  • Subtext can be a great book group tool, in addition to being used by teachers for curricular-related reading.  Of course, you need to be aware of what books are available in the app and it is only available for Apple products (seriously – why aren’t these people providing multi-platform tools?!)

Courtney Lewis has been doing action research on her students and reading – there’s an article in the fall YALS on her previous study, and she’s re-doing it this year (four years is a lifetime in a school, and several in tech land).  Despite what we “know” about teens not reading, her data shows different.  We need to promote that – it may not be reading canon literature, but it is reading!  She’ll share her new data via GoogleDoc – just ask her!


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Collection Development 2020 – #LJDOD13

Posted by lpearle on 20 June 2013

One of the things that I constantly tell friends and colleagues is that I couldn’t possibly presume to predict what a library or its collection will look like/should look like in 3-5 years, and here we have a panel that is attempting to think seven years ahead!  Brave souls…

Some of the takeaways had nothing to do with “future thinking”.  For example,

  • when selecting a children’s book collection you need to remember that there are really three audiences – the child, the staff and the parents.  Not every book has to appeal to all three, but the overall collection must.
  • demographics are not the be-all and end-all of collection development – observation of what the community reads is as important (if not more so).  You can never have too much information when making decisions (NOTE: between the DOD and now, this kerfluffle in Urbana surfaced.  ’nuff said.)
  • you gotta work the desk – it’s the best/only way to really get a sense of what’s circulating, what the community is looking for and who the community is.  Being aware of trends is important (who was there? who is there?) when buying.  A community that has a sudden immigrant influx, or where the population is aging in place, or where a major employer has folded/expanded will have different needs than the community had even last year.  It’s also a great way to see that even though you may be located in an area that has a large [ethnic group] population, [another ethnic group] is there during the day.  You can’t see that just by looking at demographics.
  • publishers don’t know what your needs are – you need to communicate with them and help them understand and learn (this is why there is usually overkill on genres).

Good collection development tools?  Twitter and GoodReads.  There’s lots of real-time information that can help you stay abreast of trends, fads and frenzies (it’s also a great way to connect with authors and publishers).

So what about the dreaded O word (that’s Outsourcing, in case you were wondering)?  Given budgets, staffing and changes, sometimes “good enough” needs to be ok.  Let go: allow the vendor to do what the vendor does best.  It’ll give you depth and lack of worry on standing orders (I’ve used them in three libraries and it really is a relief to know that books by an author will automatically arrive, no need for me to remember a pub. date!).

And then there’s the “self-published” world – and let’s change the name to “author services” because it’s really not self-published, it’s almost micro-presses where authors pay to publish.  Anyhoo, it’s going to be a huge issue in our world, especially with shelf space at a premium.  Plus, the books aren’t necessarily not great, they’re just not known.

  • it’s a great way to support local authors (bringing the community into the library) – can they come and do a program in the library?
  • think about the numbers: 30,000 publishers, 1,300,000 titles per year at least – who has the time or opportunity to actually go through all them? and, of course, as yet there are no good finding tools. yet.
  • we need exceptional cataloging and readers advisory to help us (and readers) navigate all that’s out there.
  • authors need copy and line editors but… look at 50 Shades of Grey: 75% of its readers just didn’t/don’t care about the writing.

If authors are our rock stars, then bloggers are their pr people.  Find some good bloggers to follow for ideas of what to purchase (esp. with the non-Big 6 titles).   Since many of these books won’t get reviewed in the traditional places, try to find reviews on social media.  Things to watch out for:

  • how many reviews?
  • are they all 5-star or are there negative reviews?
  • are all the reviewers from the same town as the author?  do they all share the same last name? the same writing style? (big red flag!!)
  • if there are many reviews, lots of word-of-mouth from all over – Buy It.  Now.

With any book, is there a video, newsletter or author blog/website that you can use to promote the book from your website/blog/Facebook page?

It’s also critical to remember that “quality” doesn’t always resonate with patrons (remember the 2004 NEA report that said no one reads literary fiction any more?) – get over your feelings about certain genres and authors.  Having said that, sometimes, a huge buzz about a book can elevate it to a “must read”/”must buy” for non-readers.

E-books are an increasing issue.  How do we add them to the collection (both traditional pubbed or self-pubbed on Amazon)?  The reality is, we have no idea what will happen – there’s too much turmoil in the publishing world and delivery systems are often flawed.  The panel’s best guess?  Devices, models and platforms will change and mutate, with luck into something less DRM’d. However, as of now, we don’t own anything digital, we lease it.  This is a huge issue that needs to be resolved.  Additionally, publishers need to release backlists (sometimes that’s difficult, particularly if an author has switched publishers or if the backlist is really, really long; for traditional print, backlists are frequently paperback only).

The other reality is that even with the explosion of e-books and e-print, we’re still buying traditional print at the same rate: why is this?  One idea: reading is format blind.  Often e-reader users are new readers, new parents, and they’re often drawn to books they didn’t know existed.  It’s also important to remember that with e-books, there is no “ghetto shelving” – genres and formats are all in the same place, they’re shelf-blind.  That all leads to the question of PDA.  It’s not just a budget issue, it’s also an issue of availability and can often be heavily weighted by genre, or hijacked by heavy readers: how do you ensure that an infrequent reader asking for you to buy a literary book (or work of non-fiction) has the same opportunity as the person who reads 10+ romance novels a week does?

Finally we came to the futuristic part of the program, and the panel was asked about their dreams and what they thought reality would be.


  • everything would live in the same ILS (Overdrive, ILS, databases)
  • more open source options
  • better discoverability
  • more/better outsourcing
  • authors getting out of the current publishing system (much like early 1900s actors formed United Artists)
  • funding increases
  • device neutrality
  • more RA, and not just by librarians (reading is social – we aren’t the first stop source for their next great read but our community does trust us – build on that)
  • we’ll all know how to read a license


  • digital devices will still exist
  • democratization of sharing and creation of information

Final thought:  there is a book reading community, not just a library community.

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Poetic Thoughts – #LJDOD13

Posted by lpearle on 17 June 2013

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a huge poetry fan.  Inserting poetry into a text makes my eyes glaze over, and those books in verse? Thanks, but… (having said that, I did enjoy Sharp Teeth, so it’s possibly more a question of “finding something I don’t mind”).  So it’s with some trepidation that I settled in to hear the Poetry Panel at the Day of Dialog.  For those of you who feel the way I do, the following might help change your mind.

Robert Pinsky opened by stating that children have a natural instinct toward rhyme: just look at children’s books like Dr. Seuss, and the sing-song way they often speak (not to mention the rhyming games they play).  He also said that the way to appreciate poetry is to say it aloud – it will make you a better writer and reader.

So, how do we go about marketing poetry?  It’s risky, because then we’re treating poetry as “other”, right? has great resources to help you find poetry (including a great Poem-a-Day program).  Several suggestions arose, including casually adding it to your displays (e.g., scarey poems as part of a Hallowe’en display), keeping books of poetry next to the check out (much like candy bars at grocery check outs).  Asking random members of the community to read their favorite poems for a podcast or videocast and posting it on your website.  Tweet great opening lines, or short poems, with a link to information about the poet or the poem.

We were also reminded that there are no rules for poetry.  Yes, teachers say that (and there are, of course, rules about poetic form) but that’s really just wrong; they want to be able to say “smart things” about poems and poetry, when in reality, poetry is what sounds good when you say it – in other words, do not overthink a poem.  Just enjoy it.  As MacLeish said, “A poem should not mean / But be.”

Need resources?  Library Journal is launching a poetry blog that will be gathering news, collection development ideas, tools and more. has a Poem-A-Day program.  Many current poets are on Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way to connect to living poets. Poets House has some great programs and ideas.

In other words, don’t let poetry scare you – treat it as any other part of your collection, promote it within your community, and watch things blossom.

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 31 May 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Related

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Musings, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Snob Appeal

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2013

Many years ago, I worked at Theatre Communications Group.  For those that have never heard of it, TCG is a clearing house for the Off-Broadway theatre community (and by “Off-Broadway”, I mean St. Louis, LA, Seattle, etc.).  They also publish American Theatre magazine and ARTsearch, a job posting bulletin that led me to my first post-college job.

When I was there, the younger staff would often eat lunch together and look over the various flyers and information from member theatres – what was going on in Louisville?  would Arena Stage’s season be successful?  etc..   I enjoy theatre and have been very fortunate to see some wonderful productions over the years.  What separated me from the others was that I wasn’t a theatre snob.  What do I mean?  Back then, the sense around the lunch table was that if you didn’t think that Mabou Mines, Wooster Group, PS 122 and La Mama were the pinnacle of theatre and enjoyed seeing more commercial works, there was something wrong with you.  A few years earlier, I’d seen CATS in London (pre-Broadway opening) and, well, it was a great spectacle.  Not great theatre, mind you, but a great spectacle.  If I had children, that is exactly what I would take them to as a way to get them interested in going to theatre (today it’d probably be The Lion King).  But to my erstwhile colleagues, enjoying shows like this was somehow wrong.  If it wasn’t challenging or experimental, it wasn’t worth seeing (didn’t stop them from grabbing free tickets to previews, but that was work, not enjoyment).

Read the rest of this entry »

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All things to all people?

Posted by lpearle on 18 March 2013

Recently I started working with The Center for Fiction (formerly known as the Mercantile Library).  It’s one of the few remaining subscription libraries in the country, with a focus on fiction (obviously) and a specialty in what they call suspense, but I call mystery.  There’s also a great reading room, many author events (this week, Jeffrey Deaver, Kristopher Jansma, M. G. Vassanji and Elizabeth Nunez), writing classes and… well, that’s it.

What I mean by “that’s it” is there are no rows of computers (wifi is only available to members of the writer’s studio).  No plans to create a makerspace or purchase a 3D printer.  No databases.  Just an old-fashioned library, catering to the reading tastes of its members/patrons.

For some, that’s a bad thing.  Our profession does a great job of telling us what a library today should be, how we must keep up with the technological times.  And then there’s Terry Deary, saying that libraries should close (wonder what he thinks about a subscription library… people so committed to reading that they’re willing to pay an annual fee to belong, rather than “merely” support it via their taxes).

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Curation mandate

Posted by lpearle on 12 February 2013

The other day I was reading Where the Light Falls and this quote caught my eye:

Take my advice, Miss Palmer, and prune regularly.  Everything not indispensable is noxious, says Carolus. Applies to art as well as to life.

One could also add “and libraries” couldn’t one?

Joyce Valenza very kindly quoted from my last curation post in her recent Educon presentation (slides here), and she’s got great points to make about digital curation.  But what about curating physical objects, be they DVDs or books or technologies or even magazines?  Recently I was asked the question “why do we need school librarians?” and part of my response was all about curation.

Scholars are collectors: they see a book, might be tangential to their major topic of interest or dead on point, and they have to have it.  Just in case.  Miriam Burnstein’s This Week’s Acquisitions post highlights this quite nicely. Some schools have the same philosophy, and still tout their large collection size.  The question is: is it necessary? does it really help students find the information they need?  Librarians, with their knowledge of the curriculum not just for a class but both inside each department and across the departments, are ideally able to help curate the collection to reflect the best possible collection of resources for the school at that time.

Example? When I started at Hackley, we had books on the shelves that dated to the 1920s (not just copyright, purchased!).  Ordinarily I’d say “trash ’em” but there was a project that started the 11th grade history class based on the Treaty of Versailles.  These books provided primary sources for this project, an invaluable resource for students.  There was reluctance to use them, because there was no index (shock! horror! they had to actually read the book to find the information) but also an acceptance that these were really helpful books.  Once the project ended, however, the books became less useful; thanks to Google’s scanning program, they’re now available online and don’t have to be put on a reserve cart.  One of the librarians I worked with was always reluctant to weed because there might – at some point – be a need for the book.

Sorry, but that’s not an acceptable answer any longer.  “Just in case” leads to many, many dusty books that clog shelves, obscuring the really valuable stuff that is needed now.  Think of when you’re go into a bookstore looking for a book on some topic, without a specific title or author in mind.  There’s no curation there, it’s a collection – an organized collection, but a collection just the same.  How do you know which book is the best? You flip through the offerings, evaluating the sentences and coverage, the layout, etc.. and then you choose something and hope that it’s the perfect book.  In a library with a curated collection, you know that someone has deliberately chosen selected resources that will give you the best information on the topic possible.

Which do you want your students to have access to?

Over the years, my thoughts on weeding/deaccessioning/curating have changed.  If a non-fiction book hasn’t circulated (and this includes In Library Uses – and if you’re not tracking those, start now because it’s an invaluable tool!) in 5-7 years, and it’s not a “classic” (eg, Darwin’s Origins of the Species or Campbell’s The Power of Myth) start looking for an update and ask the department if it’s really needed on your shelves.  Some departments want those books for their departmental library and that’s ok: let them have it.  Better them using it “if needed” than you keeping it when it’s not helping anyone.  Fiction? I’m giving it 3-5 years and then it can get sold or handed over to classroom libraries/favored readers.  That may give business managers fits, but in the 21st century we need to curate, not collect, in school libraries.

Posted in Books, Collection Development | 3 Comments »

Not synonyms

Posted by lpearle on 14 January 2013

I’m working on a project and one of the requirements is finding multicultural texts.  What worries me is that for some people, “multicultural” is code for “black” or “African-American”.  It shouldn’t be.

Multicultural, and the other word I hear tossed around in schools, “diversity” should be about a wide range of things.  Yes, there’s ethnicity and race to consider.  Religion? sure. A Palestinian Catholic does not have the same references as a Palestinian Muslim.  Ditto an Eastern European Jew and a Coptic Jew.  Or someone from Spain and someone from Guatemala. And within the narrower band of black/African-American, there are differences between North and South, rural and inner city, descended from slaves and immigrated willingly, etc.. So when we’re looking for books that are “multicultural” why do I so often hear about African-Americans?  Within the larger category of diversity, we also need to consider economic status, sexual orientation and learning issues. Yet again, I rarely hear those concerns and qualities when choosing diversity-related books.

I’ve also been wondering how multicultural a book is if the character is merely a different ethnicity, mentioned in passing.  What I mean is, what about the book that says, “my bestie comes from a Chinese family, but you’d never know if you go over because they don’t even have chopsticks” (ok, that’s a gross exaggeration, but you know what I mean – the cool ethnic twist is never really part of the book it’s just an aside tossed in to show that the author is showing a diversity of characters)?  That’s not really multicultural, in my opinion.

To be truly multicultural, the book should expose the reader to something outside their normal experience.  Granted, for an inner city reader, Little House on the Prairie is a multicultural experience. The question is, is that such a bad thing?  Shouldn’t the goal not be to represent another culture or group simply because it’s currently politically correct but because it opens up a world they wouldn’t necessarily be able to envision otherwise?

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