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About collection: a couple of polls

(Image of wrap-up from Sara Kelly Johns)

The SLJ Summit (see our Ning) focused us on issues of collection.  I’ve been trying to pull ideas together and make meaning of many fascinating conversations.  I thought I’d take the temperature of a larger audience with a couple of polls. I’ll keep you posted as results come in.

Let me start with one that began at our wrap-up session. The question was what to buy? 

With all the vendors present, and all those amazing new products we were hearing about, many of us were feeling a disconnect.

We are overwhelmed with desire. But our budgets are not what they once were. 

So what do you buy?

Poll #1:   How do you make the tough choices in tough times?  That was one question the panel posed to the audience.

Diane Chen said she buys what they ask for.  She buys the books her students want.  She buys the books the teachers she works with ask for. 

This led to a discussion about serendipity

I thought back to everything I learned more than thirty years ago in grad school (the first time around). I learned about building balanced collections.  About ensuring that various viewpoints were represented. About ensuring that great authors, and classics, and best sellers were represented.  That as my users/patrons/members browsed my collection, there would always be something to happen upon and discover.

But I wonder if what I learned about having a just-in-case collection makes any sense right now in a just-in-time, just-for-me, 24/7 demand-met universe. Is serendipity dead? 

The idea of a Maslow’s hierarchy for purchasing emerged.  I’d like to play around with drawing one, but I am not sure Maslow’s notion of needs being met before climbing to self-actualization really fits the important-purchases model.  Perhaps it would be more like the food pyramid?  And then, I wonder if each of us has too many varying local needs for a universal pyramid to make much sense.

So here’s the desert-island question. You have to make only one of of these tough choices or fill in your own one other. In tight times, what do you buy first? What is the most important purchase?
( polls)

How do you order?
Poll #2:
One of the very interesting questions emerging from the reference panel was the importance of the paper catalog.  The vendors were listening very closely to our responses.  Let’s open it up a little bit with this poll:

How much do you value your vendors’ paper catalogs?
( polls) How much do you value your vendors’ paper catalogs?
( polls)

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. DEBRA DUFFE says:

    Excellent way to start a discussion.

    How about a few questions that might help someone “customize” a purchasing pyramid?

    1. What level library are you buying for? Public/Community, K-5,Mid/High? (For me, databases are essential at high school but at elementary half my population (K-2) isn’t quite ready to use them exclusively).

    2.What’s the depth of the existing collection? (I have built a strong non-fiction book collection the past few years. I could–not happily–coast for a year and devote money to popular new fiction and picture books)

    3.Are you able to analyze current circulation to know what gets the most use by students? by staff?

    So much of purchasing, I think, is critically looking at what you have and what it is doing or not doing.

  2. Like Diane, my number one purchases are the titles demanded by my teachers and students…the ones I know will fly off the shelves. (And publishers need to take a hint from Capstone and Stone Arch and make more boy friendly books!!)

    I toss most paper catalogs. I maintain a list online (Follett Titlewave) that I continually update and add notes and titles to throughout the year. I spend my budget in July. I don’t know how many school librarians have the time or the budget to actually browse through catalogs – in my three years, I’ve had plenty of need for books and have known what to get without even LOOKING through catalogs.

    As for maintaining a “just in case” collection, I feel that many teachers are too busy to get into the library to know about these “just in case” things. Many barely remember about our subscription databases – though I’ve presented them many times! I find myself, in the little time that I have to present things to staff, pushing the latest, best, online tools, or checking books out to them that I know will fit a certain need in the curriculum. I don’t want to push something on them that won’t fit or be useful – information overload is not good!

  3. Barry Bishop says:

    I can see two uses for the Maslow hierarchy/food pyramid. The first use of the Maslow Hierarchy might be to look at the needs of the Librarian in order for the Librarian to be happy. So, the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy might be Job Security, the next might be Reasonable Budget, the third might be Collaborative Teachers, the fourth might be Team Membership, and the top might be Staff Development Provider.

    The Food Pyramid might be used to describe the items in a Library (purchased or not). The largest might be non-fiction books. The next largest might be Internet accessing devices. The next group might be personal interest fiction (in any format). Next might be databases (premier resources). The smallest might be video console games (the rich dark chocolate of the food pyramid).

    Just some new ways to look at the pyramids. (oh, btw, Joyce, do I owe you any money for the taxi?)

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