Where do library books come from? Who decides what to buy and where to shelve it?
If you are like most library users, these are questions you’ve never pondered. So you may be surprised to know that there are a bunch of library staff members who work behind the scenes every day to make sure that the latest popular vampire series, the most accurate look at global warming, the shortest possible book report title and lots of other items hit the shelves of your local library and eventually find their way into your hands.
Where does it start? At least partly with you. When tons of people check out (or even just ask about) a new title or author, the librarians who work with you every day get in touch with Carnegie Library’s Collection Services Department. Collection Services makes us sound like we bug people for money, but what we do is lots more fun-we shop for new books, DVDs, and CDs (among other things) and figure out who needs them.*
We also read LOTS of reviews to find out what good books are coming out soon. And sometimes we are lucky enough to get early versions (aka ARCs – Advance Reading Copies) to read and evaluate. That’s especially nice when it’s an author we love and, like you, we just can’t wait to read their latest story.
Once we decide to buy a title, a lot more folks get involved. Someone needs to place an order (we can’t just go to Barnes and Noble or order everything from Amazon), then someone else needs to check when the item arrives to make sure it’s the title we want and that we have enough copies to go around.
Once we’re sure we got the right number of copies of the right book, we need to pay for them (of course) and also get them ready for the library shelves. That means someone needs to put a label on the book to show what library owns it and other labels that tell staff where to put the book on the shelf. We also need to make sure that each book is matched the right computer record. Otherwise you might request Twilight and wind up with War and Peace by mistake.
Once the book is ready to go, our delivery service takes it to the owning library where staff put it on display for you to find. With luck, you’ll like it and take it out. But even if you don’t, we want to know that too. Tell us when we get it right, when we get it wrong and what else you’d like to see on our shelves.
*Shopping, of course, takes money. Unfortunately, we are facing a funding crisis that could drastically impact our ability to provide materials and services. Governor Rendell’s proposed 2009-2010 budget cuts 5.1% from state support for library services. We need your help to restore funding for public libraries to 2008-2009 levels. Please visit: http://www.carnegielibrary.org/about/support/advocate.html to learn how you can help.
Coordinator of Children’s Collections
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