I was going to make the Popular Paperbacks post my example of why lists matter, but then I realized it would be buried in a post about one list.
I was going to wait until after my state Young Adult Services Section had finished all its deliberations about the Garden State Teen Book Award lists, but then decided it was better to tie that all together in a general post later this spring about state teen choice book award lists.
But I have my cup of coffee, and in many responses to the recent list discussions I’ve seen and read “it’s just a list, why the fuss.” So, and I’ll try not to be my usual wordy self, I just wanted to note why from a library perspective lists matter.
This is based on my personal knowledge — what I’ve done. What I know other librarians do from talking to them or reading their blogs or listserv comments or chatting in Twitter and the like. If your experience varies, please share in the comments so we all have a broader understanding.
Libraries uses lists, from places like YALSA and ALSC to lists from websites and magazines, for collection development. A list from a respected organization, publication, or blog comes out and the librarian takes the list, checks the shelves for what the library owns and does not own, and in reliance on the entity behind the list buys the books.
The books being on the shelf now means teens can find them and read them. (Sorry, I have to be wordy, but see now the power of that list and the librarian, and how the end reader does not realize that the book is being read because their library has a teen librarian and a list existed! If asked, “why did you read Book X” they will only say “it was on the shelf,” and how often do we wonder why it was on the shelf?)
Booktalking (or, as booksellers call it, handselling) will be based on these lists and will be done in a variety of ways: formal classroom booktalks at schools, one-one-one discussions with individuals, displays, bookmarks, online lists. Often, to fill the need of more readers wanting these books, multiple copies will be bought for the increased readership.
Teachers looking to encourage reading will also use these lists to purchase books to create classroom sets, have book discussions, or encourage reading. So, again, more readers.
Does every list have this power? No. But before dismissing the power of individual blog lists (like, for example, my own personal Favorites Read lists), I want to share something I’m hearing and seeing more and more, both in person at conferences and online in listservs etc. And that is librarians saying they make decisions about books (purchasing, displaying, booktalking) based on blogs. Personally, in terms of library collection development policies as well as book challenge policies, I believe that those librarians are also relying on professional review journals but I can easily see blog lists/reviews being read first, a decision made to purchase, and then professional reviews found to meet policy.