Friday, July 29, 2011

To order or not to order?

Each year, the library receives a city appropriation of about $95,000 to spend on new materials for the library. I and my staff are trusted to make good decisions about how to spend this money. We read reviews, receive patrons' requests, watch for what's hot or popular in bookstores and the media, and in general try to meet the recreational and informational reading interests of the citizens of Dover.

Regardless of my own personal views and opinions, I attempt to purchase materials across the whole social, political, and economic sprectrums, fairly representing all sides of any issue. Several times a year, I grumble "waste of money" when having to order some book that I know is ephemeral, trashy, self-serving or which plays loose with the facts. But I do indeed order it if there are enough patron requests and I keep my opinions to myself.

I grumbled this year about "Where's the Birth Certificate?" by Jerome Corsi. It was heavily promoted in the spring and we had requests, so I ordered a copy ($26). On April 27, President Obama released the full copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate which made this issue moot and it fizzled away along with Donald Trump. The book arrived in mid-May and we filled all the patrons' requests. Now it's hibernated on the new non-fiction shelves, not moving since June 15. No one else has checked it out. No one is interested in the subject any longer.

I was complaining to another librarian about spending the $26 (less our jobber discount of course) on Corsi's book, when she gave me a good reason not to feel wasteful. Isn't it better, she mused, to have spent money for one copy at the library that many people will read than to have those many people each purchase their own copy at $26 per and put even more money into the author's pocket? I had to agree!

So sometimes, we make a less-than-worthy choice in acquiring a book simply to fill public demand. But public demand does count. If those people were happy to get Corsi's book at their public library, then I guess I'm doing my job!

By the way, we have a policy that if a book doesn't circulate for four years, it is withdrawn from the collection and sold at the booksale. Here's looking forward to 2015!

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