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Shoestring Collection Development There is never enough time, never enough money, and always too much development that needs to be done. This workshop deals with the concrete nitty-gritty of tweaking the best possible use out of our taxpayers' dollars. We'll examine big-picture strategies for wishlist tracking, purchasing, dispersal of unneeded duplicates and weeds, and cultivating relationships with materials donors; we'll also examine specific vendors, targeting the best-quality, lowest-price sources for new and used books, A/V materials, and out-of-print and other special items, and best returns on dispersal items. Find out how much fun it can be to never settle for one hundred pennies on the dollar. Attendees are encouraged to contribute anecdotes and favorite sources.
Strategy • On one extreme, a library can select one vendor who fulfils all its needs and offers extensive collection development and cataloguing support. This is a time-efficient approach, but not necessarily budget-efficient. • On the other extreme, each item can be individually routed to the source who offers the best price. Efficient use of budget, not so much of time. • In reality, every library makes compromises and finds a middle ground. My model of selection is somewhat on the money-over-time end. I have come to believe that this is a good solution for small-budget libraries in general, and that’s what this workshop is based on.
Three collection development goals • 1. Identify highest demanditems and acquire before demand strikes at reasonable prices. • 2. Identify gaps in collection and acquire desirable items at best prices. • 3. Disperse unwanted/unneeded items in a way that maximizes return directly back into the collection.
Acquisition • Acquisition is information. Knowing what’s out there, what’s hot, what is being hyped by the industry and by independent information sources. Knowing trends, both nationally/globally and locally. Knowing what your patrons’ quirks and counterintuitive tastes. Knowing what you actually have in your collection, and where to find something, within your time and budget limits, when you need it.
Standing Orders • Standing orders should be flexible. A flexible plan offers the small library the most choice and control. • Approach fixed SOPs with caution; be armed with data. Fixed-selection SOPs can be invaluable, but they can also be completely irrelevant to local trends and needs. Compare past releases with circs; compare plans with competitive flex plans. • Never, ever hesitate to change a plan that isn’t fitting. Every book counts because every dollar counts. A SOP is not a ball and chain; it should never force you to buy materials that won’t circ. Aggressively use cancel, exchange, and plan change options to keep your SOP strategy agile. • Keep your standing order data handy. Never be without an answer to the following questions for each SOP to which you are subscribed: How much is this costing us annually? Quarterly? Who do I need to call if I want to change this order? What are we receiving in the next 30-, 60-, 90-day period? If we’re scheduled to receive something we don’t want, can we exchange it prior to shipping?
Upcoming Releases Tracking Standing orders should only for those items that we know we absolutely have to buy anyway. What about the rest? • Paper catalogues: bulky, time-consuming and wasteful, but accessible. Prioritize primary wholesaler and favorite publishers, file or unsubscribe from the rest. • Publishers’ blogs & email newsletters: a great alternative to catalogs: usually not as comprehensive, but present high-interest items in a ready format & link to more complete upcoming-release catalogs • Upcoming & bestseller compilers: varying in timeliness and relevance. • Independent bloggers, author websites & other individual sources: again, varying in timeliness and relevance, but favorites can become indispensable. • Face to face sales contacts: Should be for relationship-building, not impulse purchasing
Filling the gaps: What not to buy (yet) Each library has to decide for itself what hot new books just aren’t worth buying on the release date. Some points to ponder: • How heavily have this author’s previous releases circ’d in the first six months? In the first two years? Is it worth it to wait for the trade paperback release? • Series books: is the series broken up between hardcover and nonfiction? Is it hard to find titles in sequence in the stacks? Would it be better to wait for paperback, or to build up the backlist in hardcover to match new releases, retaining a partial or complete second-copy set in paperback? • Do regular donors consistently donate this author? Is the expectation of a donated copy reliable enough to take it off standing order? • Is there a local bookstore or newspaper with a well-regarded new release review service? Does the author talk at the Tattered Cover, and the resulting push to the top of the Post list, translate into circs at home? Who are your patrons listening to when they want to be told what to read?
Filling the gaps: Annual Housekeeping Annual review keeps the existing collection in focus and lays the groundwork for ongoing maintenance and development. • Learn your ILS reporting functions inside and out. Spend time with it. Play around. When a question about the collection pops into your head, researching the answer should be second nature. • Take the time, each year, to go through primary vendor bestselling author lists line by line. Look at every author’s historic circs and publishing frequency. Ruthlessly adjust future purchasing plans to current trends, not one- or two-year-old trends. • This is also a good time to review series data: what backlist titles are missing? What trilogies/fixed series have ended and can be taken off SO? • Go over fixed standing orders. Pull up circs for every copy (especially on small SOPs, like 2-per-month audio plans). Is this SOP serving you? Why or why not? Can it be adjusted or swapped for one that will? Is it time to change vendors?
Filling the gaps: Pulling from ILL data What is ILL? It’s the stuff your patrons want that you don’t have. Learn from it. • Do you have a workflow to automatically re-route patron requests that are too new to ILL to Request to Purchase? • Review ILL request data periodically for upswings of requests in authors, subjects, or individual titles. • What about media? Are you getting a lot of requests for cassette titles that you have in CD? DVDs of titles that are in VHS? Apply this information to standing order reviews. • Can some document delivery be relieved by in-house access to consolidated holdings? Are your patrons requesting journal or newspaper articles via ILL where they could be using EBSCO or FirstSearch? Is this a marketing or training issue?
Filling the gaps: Wishlists Treat wishlists like action lists. The Getting Things Done method uses four types of lists: • Inbox • Next Action • Project • Someday-Maybe.
Filling the gaps: Wishlists Use Inboxes to gather and colate requests/desireable items (from patrons, staff, salespeople, catalogues, Lost & Missing Item reports, etc.) and decide what to do with them. Once you’ve decided what to do with them, they shouldn’t be in your inbox anymore. If it’s a piece of paper, throw it away/destroy it; if it’s an e-mail, file it. Running across it again three weeks from now and trying to remember what you were going to do with it defeats the purpose. Next Action lists should contain items you’ve already committed to buy. If a donor walked in with a blank check, would you buy every book on this list today? If not, move it to one of the other lists. Then, you can prioritize – by available funds, requests in order of placement, etc. I have two NA lists: the pending Request to Purchase list, and Bookmooch.com.
Filling the gaps: Wishlists Project lists are long-term but specific multi-item purchase plans. • Series to backfill: if you get a request for one book in a series or by an author, stop and find everything you’re missing– and then decide, based on circs, copies held vs. copies needed, and other factors, whether the backlist is worth filling. Then file the complete list, with current holdings noted. • Special collections/areas of interest to augment. When you come across a title that fits an area you’re trying to develop, add it to a list – even if you’re not planning to buy it right away. If you have a subject-specific grant or just a few dollars at the end of the month, knock a couple of them off the list. • Project lists should be publicly available. It makes donors happy to know that they’re donating something the library specifically wants and will add to the collection. Create viewable aLibris, Amazon.com, Bookmooch, or other wishlists. Link to them from a donations page on your website, or individually direct inquiries to them. • I use Amazon.com for larger-scale and subject-theme lists, and Outlook Notes for small projects, especially individual series. For the very biggest project list of all – the Colorado Collection – I use the aLibris Donate-A-Book program.
Filling the gaps: Wishlists SomedayMaybe lists are for things that – gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have this? But it’s just not a priority right now. • Every time you kill off a Project, take a good look at your SomedayMaybe lists and see if there is one that should be bumped up in priority. • Give to donors who approach you with a specific theme or dollar goal. Have a new bookstore in town donating twenty kids’ books for publicity? A $100 Amazon gift certificate? Use these opportunities to acquire items you wouldn’t normally be able to. • Send these lists – and a budget - with other staff members to conferences. • Keep on hand a shortlist of the top ten amazing things that are Just Too Expensive for your regular budget– DVD sets, reference materials, coffee table books – and keep an ear to the ground for supplementary funding. • Every time you spend time in the stacks weeding, build a couple of SomedayMaybe lists. Invite other staff members to do the same. Authors that are regional but not Colorado. Classic sci-fi. Early B-list works by an author who’s a bestseller now. One or two of these by themselves get lost, but a dozen together would make a display and drum up visibility for an interesting but low-circing subject. • It can be exhausting and demoralizing to tread water. SomedayMaybe lists are also about keeping the job interesting by getting you to think in terms of possibility, not limitation. This is the incubator for fun and excitement, which can then translate up the priority heirarchy.
Filling the gaps: Seizing the moment You’ve got all these lists, now what? • Some of the best sources for cheap-to-free library materials are incredibly time-critical. Make sure that you have access to e-mail at all times and that notifications are turned on. Because you have a solid and comprehensive knowledge of what your collection needs, you won’t have to lose valuable time researching the usefulness of giveaways or other opportunities. • Same thing with vendor sale opportunities. Be receptive. Get on a newsletter mailing list for every vendor you use. If a salesperson calls up and asks to send you a sale flyer, take it. It’s easy to get sucked in to thinking of it all as junk mail and spam; don’t. • Keep a couple of hundred (small libraries) or thousand (medium libraries) dollars a year floating for big sales. “We’re shutting down an entire department and offloading everything at 75% off” sales, not “take an extra 5% off purchases over $200” sales. • When purchasing from occasional vendors, check over lists to fill out orders and take advantage of discount minimums, or to identify items that are more expensive at primary vendors.
Filling the gaps: Cultivating a culture of giving Small libraries especially are and have always been historically dependent on donations. How can we nurture this resource? • Practice an open posture. Say that you welcome donations, and mean it. Train frontline circulation and reference staff with specific donation guidelines, but be open to serendipity. • Be prepared with tax disclosure forms. A tax break is not the reason people donate – some will reject the offer outright – but it’s a concrete and tangible way of saying thank you, and encourages future donations. • Be prepared with points of dispersal. A lot of donations can be overwhelming, even discouraging, especially if most of it is stuff you won’t ultimately keep. “Of course, if we can’t use it, we will find a good home for it” is what the patron wants to hear. If you are able to back it up, it will sound more sincere. • Give, too. Put stuff you can’t use up on Libnet. Give to smaller libraries in your community or region. (Yes, there is a library smaller than yours!) Donate duplicate copies of relevant books, or a portion of your FOL sale proceeds, to a nonprofit with which the library works – a youth services group, or women’s shelter. • Charity is a form of civil discourse. Keep things in perspective by thinking of donations as a way of letting your patrons communicate their support for the library, not as a source of Free Stuff or a chore.
Vendors: Pros & Cons We currently track about thirty individual sources, and use 20-25 of them in any fiscal year. Here’s a quick overview.
Ingram Booksellers BEST BET FOR: • General purchasing, standing orders PROS: • Consistently top-notch discounts • Outstanding online sales/account interface, with ready access to warehouse inventory, order status both before and after shipping, lots of other info • Fast shipping – 24-48 hours from order to ship, 4-5 days from order to reciept. • Recent pricing and shipping charge restructuring make media a better deal than in the past CONS: • Impersonal customer service, slow conflict resolution. Ingram is a big company, and it shows. • Shipping charges can be high when individual items ship from secondary warehouses.
Book Wholesalers, Inc. BEST BET FOR: • general purchasing, standing orders, children’s materials PROS: • discounts good, consistent • excellent customer support, sales staff, collection development services • only company offering individual purchases of Playaway audios CONS: • young company, history of slow/inconsistent delivery, but this has improved steadily and dramatically over the past two years
Where are Brodart/McNaughton and Baker&Taylor? • We took a close look at McNaughton this summer and declined to switch from Ingram for two reasons: first, McNaughton’s discounts on hardcover are better but Ingram has the better trade paperback prices and we buy a lot of trade; and second, we’re just not unhappy with Ingram. • After many conversations with sales reps and reviewing many comparative discount sheets, I’ve come to the conclusion that big primary vendors are almost indistinguishable in terms of value. Occasionally (every 12 to 18 months) do a cursory review of the competition to see if the balance changes, but if you’re happy with your primary vendor, why change? • We DID switch out bestseller standing order from Ingram to BWI two years ago on the strength of BWI’s customer service. If the dollar bottom line is the same, go with the company that treats you well.
Recorded Books BEST BET FOR: • Bestseller/simultaneous release audio; audio standing orders; off-mainstream film PROS: • Easy media replacements (free for first year after acquisition) • Consistent, early delivery of standing order items • Good selection of media • Outstanding sale support • High-quality, durable, guarranteed packaging • CONS: • Fixed-selection standing orders • List prices are generally high; discounts are okay, but not great.
Blackstone Audio BEST BET FOR: • Classics, literary fiction in audio PROS: • prices good, free bonus items with standing orders • free media replacement • excellent core inventory of both adult and juvenile classics • flexible standing order plans • excellent packaging • MP3CDs CONS: • inconsistent inventory - some bestsellers, more important but slightly obscure literature and nonfiction
Junior Library Guild BEST BET FOR: • Children’s materials from beginning reader through advanced/mature YA. PROS: • Outstanding selection • Structure of standing order is very flexible, customizable for individual library needs • Outstanding customer service, returns/exchanges CONS: • Fixed-selection standing order • Books arrive quarterly, and not always on release date; some arrive early, but a few hot titles this year have arrived one or two months after release. • Individual title selection process means that customers may receive some but not all of a particular author, making it difficult to dovetail JLG with other SOPs.
Thorndike Press Large Print BEST BET FOR: • Simultaneous release bestsellers in large print PROS: • Simultaneous release means exactly that. Many titles arrive before release date; some arrive before BWI EliteStreet standard print hardbacks. • Lightweight paper in library binding under original-release covers=attractive to patrons. • Occasional great sales. CONS: • Discounts in the 25% range. • Fixed-selection standing order • Recent changes in format mean that backlist titles may be very cheap, but not as attractive as new releases.
Amazon.com BEST BET FOR: • magazines, single DVDs, recently out of print items PROS: • free shipping for purchases over $25 • best prices for individual DVD purchases • excellent deals on magazines and backlist titles occasionally available • Prices on recently out-of-print items usually better than aLibris CONS: • magazine pricing inconsistent • shipping on third-party purchases can be high • prices on new items inconsistent and usually not as good as wholesale • Prices on older or rare items usually not as good as aLibris
aLibris BEST BET FOR: • Out of print, especially older/rare/regional/classic texts PROS: • Sometimes significant savings on both new and used items • Consistent source for out-of-print items • Free shipping if ordering ten or more items at the same time • Donate-a-Book program CONS: • Shipping charges can be very high for single items • Prices on OOP, especially recently out of print, not usually as good as Amazon.
Bookmooch.com BEST BET FOR: • replacement copies, series fill, slightly obscure books, dispersal of unwanted items PROS: • receiving items directly from previous owners – consider Bookmooch to be a wider pool of donors • excellent wishlist feature • very cost-effective CONS: • quality/condition of materials inconsistent • poor selection/access of hot bestsellers and very obscure items • cost does not directly translate to items received • must use service as a point of dispersal in order to earn credit for new items
eBay.com BEST BET FOR: • high-ticket items, especially media; some rare books PROS: • exceptional deals sometimes on very expensive items; i.e. multi-DVD sets, rare books • lot auctions can be a fast, cheap way to build new collections, especially DVD, music CONS: • shipping charges can be high • requires a lot of staff time to track and secure auctions • be alert to problem sellers
Direct purchase from author/publisher BEST BET FOR: • local & self-published titles, magazines PROS: • only way to acquire some local/specialty titles • often better deals on magazines directly through publishers than through clearinghouses • great deals often to be found at book fairs/conferences • opportunity to match new items with programming/events CONS: • discounts often poor • high rate of billing/shipping errors, especially when buying from vanity presses • researching/purchasing titles one at a time is time consuming and costly • duplication of shipping charges; shipping almost never free
Preview-based distributors (Mid-America Books, Lookout Books, Greyhouse Publishing, etc.) BEST BET FOR: • core collection series children’s books, rapid collection-building PROS: • convenience, consistency of subject and format across series • often very up-to-date content • virtually always library bound CONS: • discounts usually poor; but often increase proportionally • if not intending to purchase whole collections, sorting for selections can be time-consuming
Known individual donors BEST BET FOR: • extra copies of bestsellers, mass market paperbacks, general collection growth, interesting and unusual titles PROS: • cultivation of social currency, local support • Free! • Surplus donations can supplement FOL sales for further fundraising/support • If patrons identify themselves when donating, we can provide them with tax deduction receipts • Visibility=generally donations of better condition • Patrons may be willing to discuss needs with staff, donate items to • match specific wishlists CONS: • Surplus donations, especially from active, loyal patrons, must be dispersed with tact and discretion • Significant expenditure of staff time for sorting
Anonymous individual donors BEST BET FOR: • backlist, general collection growth, interesting and unusual titles PROS: • Free! • Surplus donations can supplement FOL sales for further fundraising/support CONS: • No way to thank donors or offer them the benefit of a tax deduction • Poor/inconsistent condition of materials • Low signal to noise ratio, expect to invest lots of staff time in sorting out unwanted items for discard/dispersal
Institutional giveaways BEST BET FOR: • reference material; regional/specialty material PROS: • Usually free, may pay shipping • Can be the only way for a low-budget library to maintain high-ticket or rapidly outdated items (PDR, encyclopedias, etc) CONS: • Material often slightly dated • Requires attentive staff following Libnet, etc. to secure best items
Federal, state, and local government BEST BET FOR: • reference materials, consumer/citizen information PROS: • Often cheap to free • Important consumer and citizen awareness info not available from commercial sources CONS: • Materials are often bulky, rapidly outdated, and duplicate information available online • Ordering can be cumbersome and time-consuming
Local brick-and-mortar vendors BEST BET FOR: • Backlist items, local interest titles PROS: • Supporting local business directly benefits the tax base upon which the library’s budget is dependent. • By cultivating a relationship with local stores, you increase the likelihood that they will think to donate unneeded stock to the library, also encouraging an atmosphere of cooperation beneficial to programming • Used items can be very cheap, and a used bookstore can be the fastest, cheapest way to fill a single-title gap in a series • May be best/only outlets for local authors CONS: • Discounts vary from store to store and can be poor, especially on new items • Limited and inconsistent inventories – again, varies from store to store
What now? You’ve cultivated a healthy, vibrant donor base. There will be items you can’t use in your collection. Maybe LOTS of items. But they can still work for you.
Dispersal • Points of dispersal should not just be points of disposal. Turn surplus materials into needed materials, or turn them into cash! • Use social networking! • Be creative! • Just like vendors, points of dispersal can be one all-encompassing service or many services tailored to their individual strengths. If you don’t have the space, volunteer base, or local support for a full-service FOL bookstore, consider some of these partners:
Better World Books ACCEPTS: • Hardcovers and disc media in good condition; newer paperbacks, textbooks, travel books in like new condition. DOES NOT ACCEPT: • Many paperbacks, encyclopedias; periodicals, cassette audiobooks; book club editions. • Acceptance guidelines have recentlychanged; the range of accepted items is wider, but also complicated. • BWB provides boxes and pays all shipping costs and pays 15% commission on all sales of items not previously picked through for offering to other outlets.
Bookmooch ACCEPTS: • No limitations on print/audio. Listing entity is responsible for disclosure of condition and other issues DOES NOT ACCEPT: • Videos, music. • Bookmooch is based on an inflationary barter currency: each time you complete a transaction cycle (list an item, send it to someone, use that credit to request something from someone else, leave feedback on the item you received) you come out 20% ahead.
Book Prospector ACCEPTS: • Items on a case-by-case basis. DOES NOT ACCEPT: • Generally, items with high availability through other vendors (i.e. recent bestsellers). • You enter an item, the system accepts or rejects it on the basis of anticipated sale price. Book Prospector pays for shipping, but does not provide boxes. A good outlet for textbooks and for rare/unusual books, especially nonfiction.
Direct Sales/Giveaways • Donate to other libraries or agencies through Libnet, regional library listservs, county listservs, and personal contacts • Maintain specialty giveaway baskets for high-interest groups (homeschoolers, discussion groups, etc.) • Take-one-leave-one honor shelves for paperbacks, magazines, VHS movies, or other high-volume donation items • Set aside interesting items (extra copies of local-interest books or nicely bound classics, children’s books, etc) for prizes and gifts • Friends sale shelves, bookstores, and sales – labor-intensive and may not offer a high return, but generate a lot of goodwill and volunteer interest
Managing the information flow • Information is the most important tool at your disposal. Find the information sources that work for you, and work them. • You will have a huge amount of information at your disposal. Good management procedures are essential. Identify and use a personal productivity system that works for you. • Learn to use RSS feeds. Never leave an e-mail unread (and when you’re done with it, get rid of it! File and delete ruthlessly). • All of the sources in this presentation, and a list of information sources and information-management tools, are included in your handout. It’s a good start. Toss the ones that don’t work for you, and cultivate your own!