Saturday, March 7, 2009

Collection Development; or, why I just bought the Petal Fairies by Daisy Meadows and not the Newbery Honors

So, I was trolling through the kidlitosphere, and feeling sorry for myself because, gosh darn it, I took ALL my antibiotics, and decongestants, and allergy medicine, and drank tons of gatorade and I still CAN'T BREATH when I came across a post from Ms. Yingling about how she chooses books for her 600 middle schoolers.

And I thought, that's IT. That is a much better explanation of a collection development policy than anything I EVER heard in library school, at least for a small library.

It's quite simple - you buy books you know people will read.

Now, I can't quite match Ms. Yingling's being able to put a name to every book - although I serve a fairly small town (pop. 8,000 more or less) we're also part of a consortium and we serve townships, so our service population is closer to 20,000. Plus, I've only been here since May.

But, I've gotten to know quite a few kids, immersed myself in our circ stats, and hovered over the new book shelf like a vulture.

And so....I didn't run out and buy the ALA award and honor books we're missing. I don't buy every starred review in SLJ. I miss out on the beautifully-written-and-angsty-ya-literature-with-deep-meaning. I regretfully abstain from buying beautifully illustrated picture books by Pinkney and Isadora (ok, ok, I bought a COUPLE) and no jazz books, ever, at all.

So, you ask, what the heck AM I buying?

Picturebooks and nonfiction - trucks, dinosaurs, and princesses. I am buying other things of course, but these are key. I think I have a fairly good eye for what kids and parents will love in the picture book area.

Fairy series and Star Wars. I have two large and enthusiastic groups of kids who love, love, love these books. I buy every Daisy Meadows as soon as it comes out, plus other series (if it's got glitter - they love it). And I've been replacing our giant Star Wars cross-sections and visual dictionaries as they fall to pieces from all the love.

Juvenile - lots of different things, but the most recent "winners" I've gotten:
  • Science Fair by Dave Barry and some other guy whose name I can't remember. The reviews were kinda blah, but I took one look at the cover and on to the order list it went. And I was right! It's checked out 2 or 3 times already and we've only had it a month or so.
  • Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis. The pink and lime cover caught my eye, I loved the blurb, and it was recommended by Meg Cabot, whose Allie Finkle series goes well here, so I gave it a shot....this one has gone BIG. It checked out from the new shelf right away and every time it comes in it goes out again.
  • All the Warriors tie-ins, manga, and so on.
  • More books "like Wimpy Kid" - Jim Benton's Dear Dumb Diary, Ellie McDoodle
  • Beginning chapter books - Mammoth Academy, Speck's Maybelle books
  • vampire books. and werewolves. Clique. Gossip Girls. Fantasy with girly covers (hey, it's a genre to me).
  • Ellen Hopkins and more novels in verse and/or my life is unbelievably sick stories. (I'd never heard of Ellen Hopkins, but a teen asked me for them and no sooner had I got one than it was STOLEN so I got lots more right away.)
  • Memoirs and biographies of sad childhoods.
Stuff I'm looking to fill in:

I'm looking for good "adventure" stories both in YA and juvenile as I've been asked for these. I'm having trouble picking good ones that aren't fantasy - I've looked at several different series but haven't quite made up my mind.

Nonfiction is a whole other mess. Our nonfiction section is seriously, painfully, outdated. I'm mainly working on getting really good nonfiction for younger readers and updating the science/animals area right now. It's going to be long and arduous.

This all sounds a bit vague....and it is! I'm still working on finding out what the community wants/likes to
read, gaps in our collection, and so on. Plus, hey, I'm sick. I don't have to be coherent.

But this is kind of how I feel about collection development - I buy what people want to read, books I know I can talk people into reading because I love them, and yes, I will buy some things that are never going to have huge circ stats but that I know a few people will want to read.

How do you feel about collection development?


Ms. Yingling said...

It sounds like you have a great start on your philosophy, and are serving your community well. I have huge lists of adventure books I would love to share with you. I break them down into outdoor adventure, spy adventure, historical adventure. Just let me know. And thanks for your kind comments!

Mary in Boulder said...

I agree completly. If I buy a book and it just sits there, I know I've failed. My preschoolers want knights and princesses and my middle schoolers want love stories, adventure, scary books and a bit of horror.

Mary Ison