South Carolina Librarians Rock!

The South Carolina Collection Development Mini-Conference was an absolute blast! What an amazing event. Three days devoted to collection development, sponsored by the South Carolina State Library. There were 80 attendees every day, and folks were going home at night and letting their colleagues come in, so it wasn’t the same 80 people each day. One day was devoted to ebooks, one to adult collections, and one to kids and teens.

I was very fortunate to present for the adult collections and the teens on genre fiction. And, I was able to attend the day on kids and teens. Wow!

My presentation for the crowd on adult collection development was about genre fiction selection. “The Brave New World of Genre Fiction Selection, the Rap Sheet on the Fiction Vixen, or what the Locus are all these book blogs about?” It was a big title for a pretty big subject. I want to encourage collection development librarians to use book blogs as selection tools.

Why? The bloggers, including yours truly, cover more than just the traditional publishers. We cover a lot of ebook-only titles. Blogs may be the only review source for most ebook-only titles.

Blogs are as much, probably more, labors of love as they are anything else. Many are niche publications. If they cover a subgenre such as steampunk or biopunk or paranormal romance, they cover it more thoroughly than a general review magazine that has to cover the waterfront. And for a patron who wants stuff in their love and only their love, a specialized resource is where it’s at.

The slides for the presentation included pictures representing some of the different subgenres, along with breakdowns of the components that make up those niches. A lot of us who read in a genre throw around our own jargon, like steampunk or  cyberpunk or dystopia, and assume that everyone knows what we mean. (Us librarians do that too!) Hunting for images to show not just what cyberpunk looks like, but displaying a formula of what pieces of what genres make it up (Science fiction+ hackers+ artificial intelligence+ post-industrial dystopias+ very hard-boiled detectives) seemed to go over well.

I know the bibliography (webliography?) of recommended bloggers for book reviews I handed out disappeared like snow in July. I could have done a magic trick with that thing.

The kids and teens day on September 14 was absolutely fabulous. Pat Scales, an expert not just on children’s literature but also on intellectual freedom issues (Pat is a member of the National Coalition Against Censorship Council of Advisors) spoke eloquently about ratings systems as censorship tools. The post-lunch panel discussion tackled a broad range of questions, including the debate whether users should find the materials they want in the library or should only be able to find “quality” material. This version of the “give them what they want” conundrum is usually applied to so-called trashy fiction, but is just as applicable to SpongeBob SquarePants. The audience participation on this question was spirited. I think nearly everyone in the audience believed that every patron, no matter what their age, should find both their entertainment and their educational needs met at their local library. If we provide entertainment fiction, then we provide Spongebob.

After the Great Debate, the Talk Tables started. I had a two-table sized group on the endless proliferation of vampire books in teen fiction. “V is for Vampire, W is for Werewolf, Z is for Zombie,” was the title. But I didn’t intend to talk about just the vamps. As one member of the group commented, in every box or cart of teen books, all the books are grey or black, with just a tiny hint of red on the cover. Everything is dark and angsty, whether there are vampires involved or not. It seems as if things are always darkest just before they turn completely black. Even the non-creepy books are dark and gritty. Based on the group discussion, teens may be tired of vampires in particular, but their literature isn’t turning toward sweetness and light any time soon. Just towards a different shade of grey. Or black.

This was a great conference. I really enjoyed the energy. And I truly believe that book blogs are a terrific resource for library collection development, and I would love to have the opportunity to take the show on the road again. Hopefully to a library conference near you!

From Columbia to…Columbia!

Reading Reality is going on the road again. On September 13 and September 14 I will be at the South Carolina Collection Development Conference taking place in Columbia, South Carolina.

The entire day tomorrow is devoted to adult collection development. There will be talk tables and a keynote speech in the morning. I’m the afternoon speaker. My topic: “The Brave New World of Genre Fiction Selection, the Rap Sheet on the Fiction Vixen, or what the Locus are all these book blogs about?” I’m going to be encouraging collection development librarians to use book blogs as sources for not just reviews, but as trend spotters, to help them find what readers are looking for. I’ve got a whole list of my favorites. I’ve also got a whole lot of slides to show, not just the increasing importance of genre, but what some of those genres are. Steampunk is just so much cooler when you have a picture!

On Wednesday I’ll be leading one of the table talks. Wednesday is the children’s and teens CD day. A lot of YA literature these days is genre fiction, particularly of the creepy-crawly variety. And that’s where I come in. I’ll be leading a table talk on the “creature features” of YA fiction, titled “V is for Vampire, W is for Werewolf, Z is for Zombie: the continued trend of the dark, weird and scary in teen literature”. It should be a scream.

The official title of the conference is “Collection Development for South Carolina Libraries”, and it is presented and sponsored by the South Carolina State Library. I was incredibly excited when Kathy Sheppard from the SC State Library emailed me last month, right after I got back from Missouri State Library Summer Institute in Columbia, Missouri. The happy coincidence makes for a good omen. And I’m looking forward to thanking Kathy in person for inviting me.

Missouri State Library Summer Institute

One week ago, I was standing in front of one of the Advanced Classes at the Missouri State Library Summer Institute, all geared up to conduct three days of presentations on Collection Development and Acquisitions.

Let me say this up front, library folks in Missouri really rock! Everything was set up and ready for me, from the hotel arrangements to the PC setup to the class lists. Sharla Lair, the coordinator for the Missouri State Library, did an absolutely bang up job, and I can’t thank her enough for all of her help.

The people in my class were a terrific group. They represented libraries from all over the state, at every position from clerk to director.

Class started after an early lunch on Tuesday, and ended just before lunch on Thursday. In that time, I needed to cover not just Collection Development, but also the basics of Acquisitions.

That’s both a long and a short amount of time. There’s an old joke about the true theory of the relativity of time. How long “just a minute” is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.

On the one hand, 16 contact hours is a lot of content to prepare for. On the other hand, 16 contact hours is not as much time as I would have liked to cover everything in two very big topics.

The agenda distilled into some big building blocks. It’s difficult to talk about something without defining it. We all know what collection development is, but that’s mostly by doing it. Looking at what it is and what it isn’t makes for a very interesting discussion. Acquisitions, after all, is what we buy. Collection Development is what we keep.

A lot of class discussion concerned determining who the community is that we are developing the collection for, and then determining what that community wants and needs. It’s not just about getting stuff, after all. It’s about figuring out what stuff to get. And what stuff not to get. And the best way to allocate staff time in selecting which stuff to get. I introduced the class to a new range of selection resources for fiction, ranging from the tried-and-true like fiction-l to Locus to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Fiction Vixen. This part was probably the most fun.

Policy-writing is not fun. It’s just necessary. The policy-writing discussion and the intellectual freedom/materials challenge class exercise turned out to be even more on target than I had planned when I prepared the class. The Republic Missouri school board banned two books, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and the Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five from the high school curriculum and the libraries in April 2011. A third book, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, was challenged but not banned. The challenges were filed in the summer of 2010, but it took the Republic School Board a year to decide the cases because they first had to formulate a materials challenge policy and procedure.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is offering free copies of Slaughterhouse-Five to students from Republic High School.

It’s hard to beat both local relevance and recent news coverage for giving a class more immediacy. But I tried. Digital is a big issue for collection development. If 8% of the US population owns a tablet, and 12% of the population owns an ereader, and 20% of the people in book groups use one or the other to read their book group’s selection each month, what does that mean for demand of ebooks? Even knowing that those populations have to overlap? And how does the purchase or license of ebooks affect both collection development and a shrinking acquisitions budget?

I know I learned a lot during my three days at the Summer Institute. I’ve always said that teaching a subject is one of the best ways to learn it. I believe that everyone in the class took away some knowledge that they didn’t have before. I think they also had fun. I know they had chocolate.

I also took away some great insights about Missouri libraries and library workers. And some really good stuff about what to do to make my next presentation even better.


Reading Reality on the road

On August 9 through August 11 I will be in Columbia, Missouri at the Library Skills Summer Institute hosted by the State Library of Missouri. For those three days I will be presenting a workshop on Collection Development and Acquisitions.

I am so thrilled to be doing this workshop. Collection Development may be the most fun thing you can do at a library. A friend once told me that  one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is a good book recommendation. Collection Development is like giving your entire community book recommendations. And you get to be a trendspotter, following what’s hot and what’s not.

And do we ever have a lot to cover! When the folks at the State Library asked me to teach this session, the instructions were to cover the nitty-gritty of Collections Development, and just a little bit of Acquisitions, in three days. Starting from after lunch Tuesday, to just before lunch on Thursday.

The topics are intended to be practical, things that people can use when they go back to work on Friday, or Monday. But I packed a lot into those three days, because Collection Development is so “hands-on”.

A couple weeks ago, I had a middle-of-the-night revelation. We often conflate Collection Development and Acquisitions, but they aren’t quite the same. At 3 am, it came to me. Acquisitions is what you buy, Collection Development is what you keep! The auditors only care about Acquisitions. Your gifts policy is Collection Development, but not Acquisitions.

The workshop goes into the reasons why every library needs to have a Collection Development Policy, and how to write one. Materials challenges come in all shapes and sizes, but they are much, much easier to handle when your library has a process outlined, and that process is part of the CD policy.

There’s so much more to cover. I can only hit the high points in the time available. And I hope that everyone walks away believing that we had a good time together, and that we learned something together. I know I will learn a lot. The best way to learn something is to teach it.

Now if only the butterfly convention would move out of my stomach. There must be some other presenter somewhere who needs the adrenaline way more than I do.