Secrets of the Stacks

Each year there are thousands of books published, dozens of movies released, and hundreds of music CD’s and audiobooks produced. You may have wondered how the LCLS staff makes decisions on which ones to acquire.

For bestselling books, the process is automated. Our main vendor has a list of popular authors and the staff member who select materials chooses authors from these lists. Then, every time the author has a new book out, our vendor automatically sends us one or more copies of the title.

For less well-known authors and other materials besides books, the selectors rely heavily on publishing journals that feature reviews. The reviews generally give an opinion of the quality of the book, CD or movie, summarize the plot and often mention specific audiences who might enjoy the item.

Certain books and movies may be popular nationally and make the best seller lists, but not necessarily be a draw in our area. To help discover which specific materials are most popular with Laramie County library users, LCLS uses a service called Collection HQ. This system analyzes how many times an item circulates and allows us to gauge the popularity of specific authors as well as giving us a general idea of what genres and subjects check out the most. The system also tracks which books haven’t checked out in several years, and which ones have checked out so many times they might need to be replaced.

Selectors also gather information by talking to patrons, observing what items patrons place on hold and generally keeping an eye on how well materials circulate. All of our selectors have worked for the library for many years, so they have a lot of insight into what appeals to LCLS patrons.

Although popularity is the main criteria the selectors consider in purchasing, other things also come into play. One of the long-running mission of libraries is provide access to books, movies and music that have stood the test of time, so even though classic works may not check out a lot, we feel it’s important to have them in the collection. We also seek to provide a diverse selection of materials so that all patrons are able to find things that appeal to their tastes. We try to consider the interests of African American, Hispanic, and other multi-cultural patrons as well as LGBT audiences when acquiring materials.

Because the number of materials available is so daunting, and our patrons’ tastes range cross a broad spectrum, the library welcomes purchases suggestions for all formats: books, DVD’s and audio recordings. Purchase suggestions may be submitted by filling out a purchase suggestion card (bright yellow cards available above the round table as you enter and at all the public service desks) or through this link on the website: http://lclsonline.org/services/purchasesuggestions/

While we can’t purchase every item suggested, the selectors do consider every suggestion we receive. One of the first things we look at is whether the item is available from our vendors. Books often go out-of-print within a few years, and the only copies available for purchase may be used copies, which don’t stand up to library use. The same is true of DVD’s and audio materials. Besides availability, selectors also consider the number of library patrons who might enjoy the item. Given our limited budget, except for a few special instances, we can’t justify acquiring materials that will only check out a few times and then sit on the shelf.

If an item is part of a series, availability and cost become even more of a factor. If a book falls in the middle of a series, and the earlier books are no longer available, it makes no sense for us to acquire the item. Not having the full series will only frustrate readers who want to read the series from the beginning. Even if the whole series or all seasons of a TV show are available, it can get expensive, and the selector may start off by acquiring the first one to see how it checks out before committing to purchasing more of the series.

Even if we can’t acquire an item because it’s old, out-of-print or too specialized, you may be able to get it through interlibrary loan (ILL). Through this system we are able to search libraries all over the country and have items shipped here for patrons to check out. There is a $2.00 fee for ILLs, which partially covers the cost of shipping items back and forth from the loaning library. More information about ILLs can be found here: http://lclsonline.org/services/ill/ .

You can also submit purchase suggestions for e-books and e-audiobooks. Although you should be aware that we have far fewer purchasing options for digital materials because we can only acquire them if they are available from the Cloud Library or RB Digital audiobook platforms.

All of the selectors will tell you that purchase suggestions are a very valuable resource in developing the collection. They give us direct input from our patrons on what you would like to see in the library. Through purchase suggestions, we often learn about new authors and sub-genres we would not discover otherwise. So keep ‘em comin’!

~Mary Gillgannon