Shelf Life

With an extra staffer at the reference desk for the summer, we had the opportunity to take some time for collection development. The process, in reference as in other parts of the library, goes something like this; weeding, withdrawing, replacing, ordering new, donating, transferring, and cataloging books.

During the weeding process, the reference staff determines if a book has reached the end of its shelf life, whether by date of publication or relevance. We also have a list put out by the American Library Association to make sure we retain certain reference books in our collection. Decisions are made to buy newer editions, transfer the item to nonfiction, or withdraw the book. We withdraw or delete books from the catalog that we, including the reference manager, deem is outdated, damaged, or no longer relevant.

We have withdrawn a 1995 reference book titled Blue Book Dolls and Values, by Jan Foulke. We are replacing it with a nonfiction book by the same author. VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever, published in 2000, is also being withdrawn. We are not replacing it because we have the latest Leonard Maltin guides. Once it has been stamped, “Withdrawn,” we typically place it on the free cart in the lobby.

At one time, reference books, which don’t circulate or check out, were often cataloged simply by their higher price tag. Now, in addition to cost, we have to determine the risk of losing a reference book to theft versus the reward of having patrons be able to check it out.

We now have two collections in reference that patrons can check out. Using a new holdings code (reference circulating) the reference books that check out are identified with a sticker on the book binding. When patrons search the catalog for reference books that check out, the books are now shown as “Available,” and the new collection is identified as “reference circulating,” along with the reference call number. American Architecture: A History, by Leland Roth, is just one example of many books that will now be able to leave the library, one week at a time. Nursing, medical, law, and literary criticisms will not check out, as we have patrons, including Faulkner State Community College and high school students who frequently use these resources in the library. Patrons can check out test preparation books, located behind the reference desk, with a deposit. The most “missing” book in Baldwin County is always the GED test book. Rather than buy it, patrons seem to think their card entitles them to check it out and never return it. It is cataloged as a Non-Check Out but with a $20 deposit, new test preparation books check out of the library. You can also hand over a valid picture ID and use the books in the library. For test preparation online, visit our website or the catalog to find Learning Express, a great “at your own pace” practice test database. We also have a subscription that allows patrons to check out eBooks too.

We don’t purchase all our books, many come from donations made to the Friends of the Fairhope Library cart in the lobby, which are sorted by volunteers. Some authors and annual editions are on what we call standing order, which means that are sent directly from our wholesale book supplier automatically. Popular novelists like John Grisham, Stephen King, Nora Roberts are books being shipped automatically by Ingram to libraries. All libraries are different and their standing orders differ as well. For example, in our library there is very little nonfiction on standing order. To supplement our purchases, staff members and patrons can submit book purchase recommendations to the director. I’ve recommended and the director has ordered hundreds of books and movies I’ve suggested over the years. Below is my summer request list.

Helter Skelter, Leo Bugliosi, 1976 TV Movie DVD

Hooch: Simplified Brewing Winemaking Scott Meyer

The End of Night, Paul Bogard

I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place, Howard Norman

Cotton Tenants, James Agee

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalk

I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman

The Joker, Andrew Hudgins

The Emotional Eaters’ Repair Manual, Julie Simon

River Road Rambler, Mary Sternberg

After getting new hardwood floors installed in my home, I decided it would be a good time to weed my own shelves. I have a collection of about 250 books that had mushroomed to over 300. So I weeded my own books, donating many to the Friends for them to sell, and dropping a few books already in our collection on the free cart, and the rest were cataloged. These books can now be circulated to library patrons throughout Baldwin County.

Boston from the Air, Elizabeth McNulty

Symphony Hall: The First 100 Years, Boston Symphony Orchestra

50 Favorite Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, Diane Maddex

Lou Gehrig: An American Classic, Richard Bak

The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch

The Transformation, Franz Kafka

The Made-Up Self, Carl Klaus

The List, Robert Belknap

Who Says I Can’t, Jothy Rosenberg (amputee)

Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace

The Iambics of Newfoundland, Robert Finch

Christ in the Passover, Ceil Rosen

The Making of a Poem, Eds., Strand and Boland

The Best American Essays, Ed., Adam Gopnik

Smell the Love, J. D. Crowe

Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Faye Greene

Chuck Klosterman IV

Mr. Boston Bartender Guide

Candy Girl, Diablo Cody

True Grit, Charles Portis

Slow Way Home, Michael Morris

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived, Lazar Karlan, and Salter

Drinking From My Leg, Paul Martin (amputee)

Travels with Alice, Calvin Trillin

French and German in the Mississippi Valley, Ed., Roark

All the books are in the new section, next to the reference desk. For clarification the books we put on the new shelves are not always freshly published but simply “new” to our collection.

There is something sweet about seeing the books you’ve purchased and read sharing space on the new book shelves in a library. Having first three books on my list already checked out means even more.    


1 thought on “Shelf Life

  1. Two years ago, when I sold my house in Atlanta, I gave away about 70 books to a book sale for charity. The very next day, a neighbor showed up at my door with a gift — a first-edition Hemingway, something I’d only dreamed of owning. I wish you the same kind of great book karma!

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