“You Must Love to Read!” well, yes, but….

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

When I meet people and have the traditional, “where do you work?” conversation, my answer of “I’m a librarian” is usually followed with “Oh, you must love to read!” I do happen to love to read (as evidenced by our first Friday What We’re Reading series–we all do!), but my day-to-day job as an academic reference and information literacy librarian has very, very little to do with reading. That small sliver that does–I’m in charge of my library’s browsing fiction section–is something I absolutely adore doing. It’s not written in my job description, but it falls under that favorite catchphrase of job announcements: “other duties as assigned.” Our browsing collection is small. Typically, we display about 100 titles at a time. Because it’s a small part of my job, I can’t fully devote my time to keeping up on new fiction titles. Here’s how I keep up with new fiction and discover the kind of titles our faculty, staff and students are most interested in.

Speaking generally, there are two categories of fiction our patrons most enjoy: the popular bestsellers and literary titles likely to win awards or appear on best of the year lists. The bestsellers are easy: we always stock the latest James Patterson, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and Clive Cussler. The literary titles are a bit harder to predict–and our users like to be ahead of the curve. I rely on two sources to stay ahead of the curve on the season’s under-the-radar and about to break through titles:

  • Publisher’s WeeklyMy library has a print subscription to PW, and I scour it, not to see which books receive starred reviews, but to look for the last two lines of their reviews. PW‘s writers are great at predicting the right audience for titles, and it helps me figure out if the title is right for our niche readers.
  • Goodreads: I’m friends with some of the faculty and staff, and noticing which books are appearing on their to-read lists is a great starting point. I’m also friends with other librarians, book bloggers, authors, and bookstore employees. The upside to virtual friendships with these groups is their devotion to reading ARCs (advanced reader copies) coupled with their desire to talk about “the next great read.” My GoodReads community is usually a few months ahead of publication schedule.
  • What I see: This resource may be unique to my library. We have one of two on-campus coffee shops in the building, and it’s a big gathering place on campus. Most importantly, patrons walk right past the browsing fiction collection on their way to the coffee shop. From my office, I can see the browsing fiction books, and I notice what books people stop to look at and which ones they check out. Often, I’ll stop to chat with them. I’ve gotten to know numerous faculty members, staff and students by talking about what we both like to read.

While my love of reading doesn’t officially factor into my job, I’ve used it as a way to reach out to students, faculty and staff. So when people say, “you must love to read,” I still yes, but….

Now tell me: What are your favorite sources for collection development?

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