PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
When I open my e-mail at the library on Mondays, it is always full of authors assuring me that I need to acquire their brand new book, or our library’s collection will be forever lacking in their prose.
This is a new twist on book promotion with e-mail and the access to the Internet, replacing direct mailing of years-gone-by.
A few of these e-mails pretend to be library users of our system, stunned that we do not own a particular book, but when I request their library card number the computer screen remains silent.
Others ramble on and on about how their book has been trapped in their head for years, and has not burst forth for all to enjoy.
I will admit that I do scan all of the promotions to make sure something isn’t missed in selection, and I even download a few for further reference, it’s a librarian-thing.
This past week, I wobbled through one promotional e-mail from a poor soul trying to sell their personal tales despite the fact that English grammar was not his finest hour.
I could only imagine what his book “looked like” when I noticed that he had a couple of sample pages scanned and available for viewing.
I could see the red pens of every English teacher that I ever had in all levels of school attacking the sad text.
Self-publication of books has only enhanced the distribution of books and e-books in our world, all of these printings done because the author paid money for the work.
Gone are the editors and reviewers that provide “another look” at the book before the presses produce the final product.
On the positive side, self-publication allows information and materials to enter the information age despite the rejection of publishers, and materials formerly unavailable are now in the marketplace.
It does make selection of new materials for a public library to be more difficult than a decade ago.
The other Monday morning e-mail that I receive is from our e-book provider informing us of any titles that are “set to expire.” This is new to the world of libraries as compared to print books.
Once 26 people have read some e-books, the license expires and we have to renew the license if we want to retain it in the collection.
To compare this to the world of paper print books, when library customer number 26 returns the book, the librarian throws it in the trash and buys a new one.
I guess the publishers are trying to maintain control of information and fees for the copyright of the product, but it actually restrains purchase of new products and eliminates older materials which are removed from the information marketplace.
Librarians have fought this issue for about 4 years, since someone in the publishing industry got this bright idea, and some publishers have relented, but the limitation exists with some publishers.
Aside from these new processes in library collection development, we still select books using the same methods that librarians have used for years.
Various librarians read reviews of forthcoming books, DVDs, and other materials and batch those comments and selections. Library user comments and suggestions are added, and it is all combined against the budget available for purchase.
Ordering is done with library jobbers when possible, other items are ordered individually depending on availability.
It all arrives at the Main Library Technical Processing Department and added to the computer system and distributed to the various library locations.
e-Books are somewhat different, since there is no physical item, and it is all done online.
So, once again, the function of libraries has not changed, but the means and methods and the tools we use change with the times.