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Catalog Central? The time has come to share, save, and be green

Sometimes cool ideas crystalize at cocktail parties. 

At the ABC-CLIO reception on Saturday night, publisher Becky Snyder and I built what might be a long overdue concept.

It all started when Becky asked if I knew what portion of the cost of publishing of book went into marketing, specifically catalog production and direct mail.  I admitted that I hadn’t really thought about it.  I forgot the exact percentage Becky shared, but it was huge.

I also admitted that I likely toss more than half the beautiful print catalogs I received, though I’ve always felt guilty about that stunning waste.

But what if we had one clearinghouse, in the form of an attractive destination portal (perhaps a Ning or other type of social network) for all the catalogs relevant to school or public library purchasing?

How about a CatalogCentralNetwork?

A place where publishers and jobbers might load pdf copies of their catalogs and also offer new title alerts, coupons, discounts, promotions, customer testimonials, questions.  It might also offer sample chapters, the occasional free ebook, bookmarks, clipart, and more. That portal might link to company websites.  It might embed book and video-related media and RSS feeds to reviews from review journals.

And if that portal hosted polls, those polls might ask questions of the librarian market.  It might also ask librarians to volunteer for the online rather than print distribution of catalog content. 

That portal just might save publishers much of the substantial cost of producing unused catalogs and potentially offer more purchasing power to librarians. That portal might represent our profession, and the wonderful publishing industry that serves us, as a bit more green.

I wonder if I have any readership among publishers and whether anyone in the industry might be willing to lead in the creation of a collaborative CatalogCentralNetwork.

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. Joan Tracy says

    Another good idea, Joyce. This could actually work as a business, with advertising, front placement, etc. for sale. The only catalogs I actually look at are the ones with possible lesson content in them. For example, I keep my Junior Library Guild catalogs because they have content I can use. I would definitely like this – for one stop shopping, window shopping and saving trees.

  2. This is a fantastic idea! I have to admit that last school year, because of a zero library budget, I tossed EVERY catalog! And boy to they make a heavy trash can!

  3. Ernie Cox says

    let’s extend this idea to the ALA Annual Conference program

  4. Kris Jacobson says

    Excellent idea. I toss so many of those things in the trash that it’s scary. And our school didn’t even recycle them until relatively recently 🙁

  5. Yes! When I started my current position several years ago, I was receiving catalogs addressed to 2-3 LMS before me, not to mention myself. When I called one of the companies to request that they remove these other people, they seemed quite confused about why it was a problem! (maybe I could just share them with someone else!) A few of them stopped coming. Now that I have been around awhile, they have somehow tracked down my Media para and she is getting them too… I still like using catalogs, but usually only use a select number of them… What a waste of trees…and expenses in this industry!

  6. Nancy Keane says

    Better yet — I would love to have a catalog central that can be downloaded on a kindle or other ebook reader so I can view it when the time comes. I often bring catalogs with me as I am doing other things such as waiting for kids, sporting events or concerts. So I would need a portable source and wouldn’t want to drag my laptop to these events. If the publishers could supply a kindle and the catalogs and even ARCs or sample chapters, I would love it!! Add the teachers’ guides and lesson plans and even a list making ability, I would be very happy.

  7. I’m depressed that so many of you are using the word “toss” instead of “recycle” when referring to print catalogs. As a rule, I have no interest in publisher’s catalogs, whether in print or online. There are exceptions, but I have so little money to spend on my library that there isn’t much point in looking at catalogs unless I happen to get a grant.

  8. joycevalenza says

    Forgive me, Jude. We do recycle our paper waste at our school. I suspect the others who commented do too. Nevertheless, we waste far too much! I wonder if the publishers are reading.

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