Ordering books for a library is easy!
So, do you just randomly order books?
Not surprisingly, I am asked this question a lot. It is sort of like the assumption that librarians sit around and read all day. Buying books is not that that difficult. Hmmm…let me think about that. Not exactly.
I know what you are thinking. “Really? Come on. You go to Amazon and you throw a few books in the cart and they ship them to you. What is so tough about that? Heck, Amazon even gives you suggestions.”
Yes. Yes it does.
However, it is a little more complicated than that.
You see, just because someone on Amazon bought it, that does not make it a good choice for my media center.
There are quite a few things to consider. Let’s take a look at those.
I work in a high school that serves around 2200 students. Guess what? They don’t all like the same things! Shocking, I know! It is not just that I have guys and girls, but surprisingly they are all individuals. Yep. I know. Can you imagine?
There is an idea among some that all teenagers like the same things. All the girls read and loved Twilight. No boy would ever read that series. WRONG. Only about half of my girls read the entire Twilight series and quite a number of boys read them all. A note here: We have book covers for students who want to read something that would “give the wrong impression” in their opinion, like a boy reading Twilight. It works. Even though I am not sure I like it, but hey, if they are reading…go for it.
Knowing my readers and what they like is the very first and largest piece of the pie. (I would call it a puzzle, but I’m hungry, so let’s go with pie.) If you do not know what your patrons are reading and supply that, you will soon have no patrons. This isn’t difficult, the library management system used should be able to run a report that shows the most to least checked items. This is a handy tool to have. However, the best way to know what your patrons are reading or want to read is to….wait for it…wait for it…TALK TO THEM! Yikes! You have to get to know your patrons! Then you know what they like.
Getting to know the 9th grade patrons in a high school of 2200 students is tough at the beginning of the year, but when you get the readers figured out, you generally keep them for the rest of their high school career so it is only tough for one grade for the first 6-8 weeks.
There are more book awards these days than you can shake a stick at, as my grandma would say. The American Library Association (ALA) alone has eight separate book awards with each category having a winner and up to five honors for each award. This, my friends, is an awesome resource. This covers every level of reader from beginners to adults. Several other organizations and most states also have book awards that are given each year, such as The National Book Award, The Indie Book Award, Georgia Peach Book Awards. There are TONS of these and I have included a long list at the bottom of the post with links. Hope this helps.
I read reviews. I read A LOT of reviews. During the school year, I read probably around 1000-2000 reviews. During the summer I catch up on all the books that I have starred for myself after reading the thousands of reviews. A good review gives you enough background that you can determine if the storyline is something that will appeal to your patrons. And (from point one above) you do know your patrons and what they like, right? Answer all together: “Yes, we know our patrons!”
School Library Journal (SLJ), Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews are the top three book review sources that I use. All of these require subscriptions; however there is some information on their websites that can be viewed with out, but to get down to the good meat close to the bone, go ahead and put down the money. There is NO WAY you can read all the books you intend to buy, that would be all that you do and trust me, as a media specialist you have a whole lot more on your plate than just ordering books.
I sense a theme running through this post. Perhaps I should eat something and come back to writing. Maybe then I would be able to stop using food metaphors. J Have I made you hungry yet?
Yes. Social media! You can Pin flowers and puppies and food (there it is again) and follow people who Pin flowers and puppies and food. BUT, you can also Pin books and FOLLOW PEOPLE who Pin books. There are quite a few Library/Media Center Pinterest boards out there. There are also individuals who Pin by what they like, by genre, by cover image, even. Go on, try it. (Please wait until you finish reading, though. Thank you!) I have a Board for books, for the Library, for Library marketing, even for Book humor and art!
Most large public libraries have Boards for books and they are generally separated by genre. Book sellers also have Pin Boards. There is a plethora (one of my favorite words) of book Boards out there! Go! Search! Find books! (after you finish here of course!) See below.
Quite often students and yes, even teachers request books. Teachers read? Shock of all shocks! But they do! You will be very surprised sometimes what teachers read. I have 4 go-
to teachers if I need a book reviewed. Two women and two men, and yes, the men will read chick-lit and YA, which is Young Adult – teenage stuff and nonsense. Actually YA books are really good, and that gives me a whole new topic to write about…stay tuned! Anyway, many of my students and/or teachers will come in and ask for a certain book or series. If I do not have it, I ALWAYS try to find something for them in the same genre. I have a few go-to books for each genre that I keep in my arsenal of knowledge. The kids all totally think I have read every book in the media center. I don’t correct them. Once they leave with a different book safely tucked under their arm, I go in and research the title they gave. Same idea as before: reviews, ratings, reading levels, everything. If it meets the criteria, I put it on the ongoing list that I have each month for purchasing new titles.
So I don’t go through the bookstore and grab every book with a pretty cover, but I can also say this: The cover of a book can make or break student checkout!! If it looks childish, they leave it behind. If it looks scary, many will not touch it, but some will pick it up just because of that. There is a lot to marketing in a media center. And a tremendous amount goes into every book purchase.