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TL Tips for Tight Times (Part 1: Rethinking Collection)

The vendors I do business with each year are beginning to call looking for commitments for next year and I don’t know what to tell them.

We live in uncertain times.  Some of the best of us are losing positions. Some of us are covering multiple libraries.  For those of us lucky enough to be in districts that value library services, budgets for the upcoming school year are unsure.

I thought it might be a good time to launch a series of posts aimed at strategies for continuing to provide services and resources in tight times.

Let’s start with rethinking collection.  Though I am lucky enough to have what folks might describe as a good core collection, I wonder how feasible it is these days to create the type of collection I was taught to aspire to back in library school–in full blown Wilson Core Collection style.

Collection approaches for tight times:

Exploit interlibrary loan

These days call for more of a just-in-time than a just-in-case approach to collection.  We need to make the most of our ability to network.  For me, this has meant exploiting the heck out of our state’s excellent interlibrary loan system.  I don’t know what we do without the ACCESS PA Database, especially for those long tail requests.  The system is beautiful. I realize I don’t have to buy everything anymore.  I tell them it’s free, no limits to the number of books I can order as long as they really want or need them.  And for those students and teachers with more esoteric interests, ILL makes me look like a rock star.  If you don’t have a lovely statewide system, try sharing within your district less formally. If the unit on bugs can be flip-flopped in terms of scheduling, it may be that the collection on bugs might be shared across all elementary schools and the resources of the public library might be maximized.

Create Amazon wishlists

Our kids set up wish lists for the holidays, why not set up a library wishlist on Amazon (one of the world’s largest retailers) for those books, gadgets, and other materials you dream of for your library?  It’s easy.  Create more than one.  You can post them on your website.  When the end of the year or holidays roll around, you can direct parents or your PTA group to your wishlists, avoiding cabinet space issues for that ever-growing collection of coffee mugs.

Swap with sites like PaperbackSwap

Ever since we bulked up our collection of swap points by raiding the teachers’ physical bookswap shelf in the faculty room, we’ve loved the convenience and speed of Paperback Swap. It allows us to get rid of gifts we really cannot use, as well as multiple copies of (unprocessed) items no longer hot. It’s perfect for dealing with book club readings. You too might want to start raiding those department closets. The site is not limited to paperbacks–you may also trade hardbacks, audiobooks, textbooks, CDs, and DVDs.

Try discount shopping

If your accounting department is flexible, or if you have some petty cash, consider doing some of your emergency shopping on sites like, an ebay company. You can get some great deals on books, video, and music.  But, keep an eye on shipping costs.

More cheap tricks in my next posts!

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. […] Joyce Valenza talks about how to make the most of tight school library budgets. […]

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