Resolutions! It’s the first column of the New Year, and we all know that with new years come New Year’s resolutions. If you had a chance to make literary, library, or publishing resolutions for 2012, what would they be?
I’d like to see the American Library Association or the Urban Libraries Council place a priority on helping city libraries work toward becoming his or her own taxing districts. In my experience, library systems that have their own taxing authority, thus can speak directly to the taxpayers to justify their budgets, tend to be better funded than those libraries that are departments within the city government and thus compete for their funding with other important city departments such as police, fire, education, and parks and recreation. The former tend to be county systems. The latter include cities such as Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit; and Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma, Wash.; they are frequently at a huge financial disadvantage compared to their county counterparts. Comparing collection budgets and open hours in city and county libraries reveals this funding disparity.
2) I wish that publishers who are not playing nicely with libraries on the e-book issue would realize that libraries and publishers are both better off when they work together. At one level, they are in competition with one another—a library patron who borrows a book may not feel the need to buy that same book; a consumer who buys a book may have no need to borrow that same book from the library. But at a deeper level, both publishers and libraries are much better off with a citizenry of educated, enthusiastic readers. I believe many readers will both borrow and purchase books. I hope a taskforce of librarians and publishers can discuss possible solutions to the stalemate over e-books.
3) I wish that the American Library Association and Book Expo would offer one giant conference/show. Many of the programs that each group offers would greatly benefit members of the other organization. I can’t help noting that it would be a great financial savings for the publishers to only have to staff one show (albeit a large one) rather than two separate ones. Librarians would greatly benefit as well, not only moneywise (only one conference to attend) but also in terms of seeing the upcoming publishing season’s offerings. Many librarians already attend BEA, but a single conference means that more publishers could display than currently do at ALA, and more librarians could attend BEA than currently do.
4) Although there are some notable teen dystopian novels that I’m very eager to read, the sequels to Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, Marie Lu’s Legend, Ally Condie’s Matched (to name just three), I wish we could give that plot line a rest and move on to other topics for teens.
5) I wish that a U.S. publisher would reissue the Virago Modern Classics series, which was devoted to highlighting women writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the U.S., Dial Press reissued the novels brought out by Virago Press in Britain in the late 1970s and 1980s. They were all in trade paperback, with captivating photographs displayed on their black or dark green covers. A few notable authors included were Rebecca West (The Return of the Soldier), Emily Eden (The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House), and Antonia White (Frost in May). My favorite is I’m Not Complaining by Ruth Adam, and I’d love to see it made available again.
6) And leading directly from #5, I wish Sourcebooks many, many customers for its beautiful reprints of the novels of Georgette Heyer. Ditto to Bloomsbury USA for its reprints of such 20th-century British titles as D.E. Stevenson’s Mrs. Tim of the Regiment and Frank Baker’s Miss Hargreaves. I want more!
7) I wish that everyone who works at a library or bookstore would include in the signature line of their e-mails what they’re currently reading. It takes less than a minute to add it, and it’s a simple and effective way to highlight books both old and new. The staff at both Seattle Public and Cuyahoga County Library System have been encouraged to do exactly that, and it’s a treat to get e-mail from the employees there.
8) I wish libraries and bookstores would highlight their poetry sections during months other than April, which is, of course, National Poetry Month.
9) I wish libraries and bookstores had robust poetry collections, whether or not they circulate, or sell, robustly.
10 I wish libraries would stop shelving graphic novels (many of which are not, in fact, novels) in 741.5, but rather shelve the fiction with fiction, the histories with history, the memoirs with memoirs, etc. If you must keep them together, pull them out from the rest of the 700s and call that new section “Graphic Novels,” or, even better, rehabilitate that much-maligned term, “Comics.”
That’s a start—how about you? We’d love to hear your suggestions. E-mail them to email@example.com or tweet them to @publisherswkly.
A visiting publisher to PW’s offices recently remarked on the growing popularity of Patron Driven Access, or PDA. But, she wondered, how might this kind of “crowdsourcing” collection development affect the profession, since selection is such a core job for libraries?
I’ve no direct experience with patron driven access, and in the reading I’ve done on the topic it seems to be most useful for academic and research libraries. What’s interesting to me, though, is that the whole notion of crowdsourced purchasing decisions is an old idea wrapped in a snazzy hyphened name—back in the day, it was called “Give ’em what they want.”
To some extent, every public library incorporates patron suggestions in their selection process. Most libraries use a holds-to-copy ratio to determine whether to purchase additional copies of a title. In the good old days of comfortable budgets (the late 1980s), I heard of a library that had a 1:1 ratio; for every individual reserve, this well-heeled library would buy an additional copy of the book. Perhaps its existence is apocryphal, or wishful thinking.
But the problem with building a collection based on crowd-sourcing is that you’re going to end up with a very limited library. There are always going to be many more requests for the newest blockbuster than you ever will get for John Ashbery’s latest collection of poetry or Christopher Buckley’s memoir about his parents, Dickens’s Little Dorrit, or Hilma Wolitzer’s An Available Man (a novel I’m quite enjoying at the moment). If nobody, or at least not enough somebodies, requests these great books, does this mean your library won’t buy them? I hope that’s not the case. But if you put the bulk of your collection dollars behind the creed of crowdsourcing, you’re giving people what they know they want, but where does that leave the person who comes to the library looking for she-doesn’t-quite-know-what, or the browser, that patron who loves wandering the fiction shelves in search of a book with an intriguing title or eye-catching cover?
Serendipity and the selection of a good book is a largely unexplored phenomenon. I think we’d be doing our patrons a huge disservice by not offering them a well-balanced collection: a large serving of the frequently requested, to be sure, but also a good portion of those lovely hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. That latter part of the collection has to be librarian, not patron, driven.
Books to Read Before You Die
World War I, in fiction:
Flanders, by Patricia Anthony
Regeneration and its sequels, by Pat Barker
Long, Long Way, by Sebastian Barry
All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Marie Remarque
It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi
World War I, in nonfiction:
Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
The Missing of the Somme, by Geoff Dyer
The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell
Good-Bye to All That, by Robert Graves
Children of the Souls, by Jeanne Mackenzie (I wish a U.S. publisher would reprint this marvelous narrative history)
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, by Siegfried Sassoon
Nancy Pearl, a veteran Seattle librarian, is a regular commentator about books on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.