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Love or Respect – the Collection Development Dilemma

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on October 6, 2015

In theory, we are all professionals and whether we like a particular area of the collection or not, we should be able to do our job of adding new materials and withdrawing those that are no longer of use. However, we’re all human. Some things we like better than others. What are some ways to give your section the respect it deserves if you didn’t love it immediately to begin with?

Phone a friend…Do you have a friend, either a professional colleague or someone you know socially, who really likes the genre of books for which you are now responsible? That person will probably be thrilled that you asked. Finding professional colleagues willing to share their subject expertise is always so helpful. We are indebted to professional and social friends who have helped us at different times during our careers when we have needed to champion and grow sections we didn’t know about and love.

Who are you helping…Maybe you aren’t a fan of science fiction or romance novels yourself, but consider the people who love these books in your community. Can you respect your section of books because of who you are reaching? We are all familiar withthe community members who won’t tell us what they would like to have in the library. However, they are happy when things they like arrive. While we would prefer people to tell us what they want instead of us having to guess, seeing new materials checked out does make us feel good.

What professional resources are available…Don’t forget that there are plenty of professional journals that provide reviews of materials. Use them. Some journals and publishers also provide webinars about new materials as well. One of us is very partial to the Booklist webinars, but this is the same person who loves Booklist anyway! Another one of us likes to use different kinds of lists that other people, librarians and genre aficionados, put together.

How can you promote your section…How can you get people interested in your section? This engagement is important because you want people in your community to provide feedback. Are you using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to highlight new items? Does your catalog have any social media typed functions you can use to highlight new items, either by writing reviews, tagging, or putting the books in a list? You want people in your community to tell you what you’ve done right and what they don’t think should be in the section. While you can’t do absolutely everything your patrons suggest, it will give you more guidance and help than practically anything else. However, if you don’t let people know what’s in your section, how can people give you feedback?

Good luck with your sections. Obviously you’re going to do a great job because you’re an information professional, but know that sometimes everyone needs a little help, and we hope we gave you that.

Melanie A. Lyttle is the Head of Public Services Madison Public Library. You can watch her YouTube channel, Crabby Librarian, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rv5GLWsUowShawn D. Walsh is the Emerging Services and Technologies Librarian at Madison Public Library.

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