Monday, July 23, 2007

Judging Books (Not By Their Covers), part 1

One of our patrons recently asked us how we decide what to buy (and not to buy) for our collection. Materials selection is more of an art than a science, and we look at lots of things when deciding the merits of a new title. Budget and shelf space always factor into our collection development decisions, but beyond that, there are other questions we ask ourselves. Here are some of the criteria we use when selecting non-fiction:
  • Do we have an audience for this title?
  • Is it written by a reputable author?
  • Is it in the news?
  • Has it been well-reviewed by professional reviewers?
  • Do we need more titles on the subject?
  • Does it add a subject or point of view that is currently lacking in the collection?
  • Is it a good value for the price?

We don't need a "Yes" answer to all of these questions, but the more we have, the more confident we feel that this is going to be a good addition to the collection.

When selecting fiction, we are primarily looking for titles that are going to keep circulating, so anticipating the audience for a novel is really important. We ask some of the same questions that apply to non-fiction, but we also ask:

  • Does this author have a following?
  • Does the author write like another popular author?
  • Does the plot sound interesting?
  • Is the book part of a series we own?

We welcome suggestions from readers and evaluate them according to our selection criteria. Sometimes we decide to purchase and sometimes we don't, but we try to fill all requests by interlibrary loan if we aren't buying them. Occasionally, we have to wait for a title that is too new for interlibrary loan.

This is an overview of the selection process. Watch for Part 2, which will tell you about the de-selection (or weeding) process.

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