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Friday, October 3, 2008

"Natural" Selection by Roberta

Darwin thought of natural selection as akin to the way farmer's combine strains of grain to create a better crop, or breed sheep to achieve thicker fleeces. Library staff use the word selection when we talk about choosing books for the library's collection. Were you ever curious how we pick what is on the shelves?

Our collection development policy sets guidelines for everything the library owns. Ours is written with an eye to offering the community current, popular, reliable and easily accessible information and entertainment, is reviewed and updated by the library staff and Board of Trustees every two years, and covers books, magazines, music, movies, CD-ROMs and electronic resources.

I select fiction, science fiction and audiobooks (I love all three) for the adult collections, and my first step is usually reading reviews in magazines like Booklist, Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly, as well as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune book review sections. I also look at Audiofile, Locus (a great SF and fantasy magazine), and four different audiobook catalogs. Online, I visit Amazon's Forthcoming lists, LJ's Prepub Alert (a great preview of bestsellers about three to four months away), and Give 'Em What They Want, which looks at books featured on TV, made into movies, featured on Oprah, etc.

Some authors come to us automatically in enough quantity to fill our patron holds and have copies on the shelf for the passerby; these are the Grishams, Pattersons, and Evanoviches (I originally wrote Higgins Clarkses, but really looked funny). I try to order books at least six weeks before they are published, and whatever I order gets entered into the catalog right away, so you can place your hold before the book comes out.

Of course, we happily receive patron suggestions. If you can't find the new Bentley Little book in the catalog, or an audiobook of the latest Philippa Gregory, let us know! Call (847-376-2840), email (readers2@dppl.org), stop by the desk; we want to know what our patrons want. People tell me about books they heard about on C-Span, on the golf course or from their carpool partner.

Our "natural" selection process keeps our collection rich and varied, popular and individual, timely and classic. It's a fairly scientific process, but allows for happy accident too. Frankly, I think Darwin would be proud.

P. S. I'm really excited about Ender in Exile coming out! What books are you looking forward to? How did you hear about them?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to "Testimony, by Anita Shreve. I can't remember where I first learned of it, but I just looked it up on Amazon.com, and it will be released on October 21st. I placed it on hold a while back so that I can read it not longer after it comes out!

Mrs. Read said...

I can't wait for Wally Lamb's The Hour I Believed. I love his books, but it has been many years since his last novel. The anticipation is killing me!

Karen said...

I never know what's coming out! I read reviews in several magazines, but they tend to quickly evaporate from memory. That's why I LOVE browsing our "New Books" area - then the challenge becomes which book will I check out, because what if the other one is gone the next time I come up to browse?

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