Buy It! What Are You Afraid Of?

[Deja vu, baby!!  While I was doing some New Year's cleanup on the blog, I accidently re-published this post from a few years ago. It still looks about right so here it is again!]

Book buying money is always tight - no matter what size library you come from. Each day, selectors have to make decisions among the many new books published about what to spend their dollars on.  One thing I have noticed with some libraries is an interesting reluctance to buy multiple copies of youth books that kids really want.  What's up with that?

Adult book buyers are legend in buying multiple copies of most requested and best seller books that generate massive circ for a short time. After their brief summer of love is over, extra copies of these books are weeded out. They have done their duty and reproduced multiple circs while they were wildly popular. They really earned their keep.Not all youth book buyers go about their purchasing like this. But why not?

I find that I get more than three requests for a title or series in a week at the desk, something is trending for kids. Talking to other staffers on the desk reveals others are also getting the same request (like, doh). And of course looking at what is on the "holds" or "reserve" shelves also gives you a vital clue on what kids are asking for.  It's time to beef up the collection and give them what they want. 

If it takes ten copies of a Lego book, so be it. If it's fourteen more copies of each Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Ninjago, Barbie, Dora, Yo Gabba Gabba, I say yes. Sure it spends down precious dollars - but it also answers expressed needs of kids. One of my colleagues wisely added an extra copy of the first (and sometimes second and third) book in a series, knowing that kids often want to start at the beginning but may lose interest in a series later on. By providing multiples of the first book, she made sure that kids could find that elusive "first" on the shelf more often and kept the gateway to the series - and the library-open..

 I sometimes hear that, since libraries share resources, if one library buys multiple copies but others in the system don't, those circs and copies are going too far afield. Really? It actually means that kids everywhere - including at the buying library! - are receiving their books faster. Reserve queues disappear and the books are back on your shelves faster to continue to meet the needs of kids walking in.

Once the frenzy is over, multiples can be weeded out to the delight of kid buyers at library booksales.  If the books have circed even 15-20 times, you have gotten your initial investment back and more.  And the larger investment of kids knowing they can find what they want at your library is worth gold. You are showing them that the library understands their reading needs and delights.

We all walk the tightrope between providing amazing literature for kids and providing popular books with limited "lit-tret-ture" bona fides.  Balancing between those two ends of the continuum is tricky but can be done.  Go ahead....don't be afraid!

Image: 'Fixing the Money Pipeline'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/26767541@N00/2464975037


  1. Not our adult svs! We ALL agonize over buying multiple copies. I go by hold ratios, looking specifically at how many of our library's patrons have an item on hold (although this isn't always very helpful b/c our patrons are really bad about placing holds) and how many times kids ask for something, buzz, etc. I am very limited in what I can weed, so it's unlikely I'd be able to weed a book in just a year or two (I'm still trying to get permission to weed the nonfiction's that's over 20 year old)

  2. Aaarrrggghh!! So frustrating. It does no good not to honor what people really want. Keep fighting the good fit!

    1. Or more correctly, the good fight. D}#m you autocorrect.

  3. Yes, yes, yes!!! I'd add that I think it's a good idea to go through those popular series/titles and replace lost and damaged copies before high traffic times (like summer). It's easy for me to say "Oh, I ordered 8 copies of that new Wimpy Kid book, so I know we have it!" but I find that (at our library, at least!) those books that are popular enough to warrant multiple copies are also books that tend to go missing and need to be replaced. It's worth it if it means kids are finding what they WANT to read on our shelves!