Sunday, March 15, 2009

Moving and shaking our way to better collections

First, the squee: I was named to Library Journal's Movers and Shakers 2009.

Second, the story behind the story: I was IMing with my friend Tina, also a YA librarian, and she said, "The [M&S feature] was a bit Meyer heavy." For once in my life, I disagreed about there being an overload of Stephenie Meyer's work in pop culture. The story behind how BCCLS came to have 50+ copies of The Host is a really important one and I need to tell it because it's a prime example of a slightly unorthodox, but crucial, part of collection development.

Little, Brown's adult division was kind enough to send me an advance of The Host last February after I missed getting a copy at ALA Midwinter 2008. When I received it, I took it down the hall to Ruth (BCCLS's adult fiction guru) and said, "This is a book that the adult services librarians in BCCLS need to know about, if they don't already. It won't be on sale until May, but it's going to be an instant bestseller. Stephenie Meyer's popularity is really going up."

Ruth looked at me and said, "Okay. Who's Stephenie Meyer?"

It was a perfectly legitimate question for Ruth to ask. She deals with adult books and is extremely knowledgeable about them. She's certainly not opposed to reading YA, but she didn't know who the big-name YA authors are outside of J.K. Rowling. And why should she? Selecting and knowing YA isn't her job and the books she enjoys reading outside of work aren't YA for the most part (yet, haha). It occurred to me in that moment that sometimes it was too easy for me to live in my YA vacuum where everyone I talked to and everyone whose blog I read knew tons about YA. Try as the media might to make us believe it, Stephenie Meyer is not as popular, strictly in numerical terms, as J.K. Rowling. So I lent Ruth the galley and ran back to my computer to post to BCCLSShelf, the listserv we use for adult and A/V collection development. There was no way Ruth was going to be the only adult services librarian with the "Who's Stephenie Meyer?" question. Remember, this was many months before the release of the Twilight movie. I wrote to my adult services colleagues explaining Stephenie Meyer's popularity with teens and how The Host, while an adult book, was going to find a huge audience with teens and adults alike.

On the morning of The Host's release, there were almost fifty copies available in 73 BCCLS libraries. People, that is awesome. Do I count myself as the sole reason so many libraries were ready to check it out? Absolutely not. But I hope that maybe one or two (or ten) libraries used my email as a jump start to buying and cataloging the book and having it available on its street date.

Professional journals are indispensable when doing collection development, but buzz, pop culture attention, and advertising are extremely powerful things and those, not professional journals, are what make a lot of people walk into our libraries and request books. The power of sparkly vampires is not to be underestimated.

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