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.