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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Library Collection

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 28, 2013

“The collection of our library is perfect” is a phrase that you will never hear librarians say, write, or place in electronic format.

While that may be the unspoken goal of any librarian, the reality is that it is impossible to achieve.

Every day we find a topic, an author, or a series that is lacking from the library’s collection.  In this age of the Internet and online sources, having a good collection is made more difficult with the choices and options available to the librarian.

Having a combined database of the holdings of over 90 library systems is helpful, as we can search and look at the options of those libraries, which are available to be loaned to our customers.

Requests that cannot be filled by our library system are gathered and batched for review, to see if it is something that others would desire or request; and the item is added to the purchase list.

Should we acquire it in traditional paper format, or eBook format, or is it online and do we have access to it?

We are finding more books that are available only in eBook format, or only in paper format.  Others are only a PDF format in a particular database.

I review Interlibrary Loan requests to see if it is something that should be purchased for the benefit of the entire system, or if it is something specific to an individual’s request.

I call it “my pile of stuff to review” when ordering is being done.  It can be a messy-looking heap of mismatched paperwork with scribbles and notes all over many of the papers.

In the midst are copies of “Publishers Weekly” journal, outlining the new up-and-coming books (paper, eBook, books on CD, etc.) that will be forthcoming in the literary marketplace over the next few months.

Several librarians read the reviews and mark their preferences for purchase.

There are also notes and comments from the public, things that they have seen advertised that might be of interest.

Memorial Book Sheets accompany purchase alerts, and books that need to be replaced in the collections as they are worn from use.

My pile currently contains the need to replace “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair as our 1978 copy can no longer be mended after 121 checkouts.

Our copy of “Blue Dahalia” by Nora Roberts (in Large Print format) also needs replaced; showing its popularity with readers.

Once all this stuff is gathered and decisions have been made, we send orders electronically to our book jobbers, audio-visual suppliers, or out-of-print dealers.

Once the items arrive at our Technical Services Department and are cataloged, they are off to the shelves to “complete” the library’s collection.

Most librarians really enjoy this part of our jobs, as it is never the same.  Each order is different, and we learn so much about everything, but nothing particular about anything.

In the middle of conversations, most librarians will rattle off some knowledge acquired from the book selection process or obtained as part of a reference question search.

Ask us why we know that?  We probably won’t remember the specifics just that at some point in our career, “we looked it up!”