Thursday, July 30, 2009

So Many Books - So Little Money!

Selecting Library books and materials might be considered a boring job to some people. So many books, so little money! A boring job it is not! Librarians consider book and materials selection to be a “perk” of the job!

Remember, as a child, spending days going through the Sears or JC Penney Christmas catalogs? You wanted everything, but you knew your parents could not afford “everything”. And, if you had brothers and/or sisters, you also knew they had a right to want stuff, too, even though you might have thought their choices were stupid, silly, or gross, or that what you wanted was better than what they wanted. So, you would go through the catalogs and slowly, but surely, either scratch things off your list, or underline the things you really didn’t think you could live without! You knew your parents wanted to treat each of you equally and would do their best to give each of you what you wanted and needed. Then, if life was good, on Christmas morning, each and everyone would get exactly what they wanted.

Well, book selection (to a librarian) is kind of like Christmas all year ‘round. Each month catalogs full of beautiful, colorful, interesting-looking books are delivered to the Library. It is the librarians’ job to go through and select the ones that will be exactly what each and everyone wants, while understanding that each and everyone may want something entirely different from the other!

So, how do we do this? Well, like Santa, we rely on people to tell us what they want. No sense wasting money on something nobody wants! Some fiction authors are so popular, that people just want to read everything they write; they don’t care what the book is about. For those people, the Library participates in a plan called “Automatically Yours” and that includes over 700 authors. Librarians go through the list of authors and select the ones whose titles that would automatically be ordered. These author’s titles are delivered as they are published, without a need to manually order them. Other authors and titles are those found and recommended in peer reviewed Library journals.

Fiction books for children and teenagers are selected a bit differently, but with the same thought in mind. Award winners, of course, are ordered along with recommended authors and series.
Nonfiction is selected by subject, as would be expected. Generally, books with medical, science, and technology subjects are weeded (discarded) and replaced with books that provide up-to-date information. Sometimes (and this shocks everyone!), books on certain subjects are not returned, so we must replace them. If a patron requests a book on a subject that the Library does not have any (or current) information on, that book (or subject) is considered for purchase.

Obviously, not every book requested can be purchased, but if several people come in requesting a particular one, it certainly moves up the list of books under consideration.

Our Mission Statement states that “we are a resource for cultural, educational, informational, recreational, and technological needs for the citizens of the City of Natchez, Adams County, Centreville, Woodville, and Wilkinson County through a careful book selection process and technology planning, keeping in mind the heritage of the area and the right to free access to all citizens”. Our book selection process follows that statement. The challenge lies in choosing the right books that satisfy that criteria without going over our budget – just like parents at Christmas.

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