Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Collection Development and Word of Mouth

Since the birth of my daughter, I've been attending two different La Leche League meetings each month. One is held at a public library, the other is held at a community center. They're both wonderful groups, with one major difference: the group that meets in a community center has its own small lending library; the one held in a public library does not.

This struck me as sort of odd and sad -- the lending library is a treasure trove of useful titles I haven't seen at any public library -- but it also struck me as an opportunity. Most public libraries host lots of group meetings every month. It's particularly common to host book discussion groups, literacy tutoring, ESL instruction, Girl and Boy Scouts groups, chess clubs, and so on. Are public librarians taking advantage of the expertise of these groups when it comes to collection development?

Major review periodicals can only review so many titles annually, but publishing in a variety of niche areas is exploding, which makes it likely that many titles of keen interest to devoted hobbyists and participants in such niche activities are likely to go unreviewed, and therefore unpurchased by most public libraries.

Wouldn't it be smart for clever, friendly public librarians to ask members of the clubs that meet in their facilities to offer a few suggestions for additions to the library's collection? For a small investment of time, you could reap any or all of the following rewards:

  • Increased circulation in the niche interest area;
  • Improved community relations with groups who meet in your library;
  • Improved word of mouth -- hobbyists talk amongst themselves. A lot. -- and possibly and increase in library membership among group members who previously only came to the library to attend their meetings;
  • A more diverse collection of improved depth and breadth;
  • The satisfaction of knowing that your library is helping to support smaller imprints and publishing houses.

I'm not suggesting that we open up collection development as a total free-for-all; rather, we should take advantage of expert advice right in our own backyards, and investigate further the suggestions of our public. It's another way of soliciting recommendations for purchase that goes beyond the typical suggestion form -- it's more personal, more memorable, and more remarkable (in the sense of it being worthy of remarking on).

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  • At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One thing that would surely help is to allow patrons to request materials -- and yes, I hear everyone saying that our library does have Request for Material forms and when someone asks.... But we all know that people are reluctant to ask. And they do not know that they can do this, or they think its only for something VERY IMPORTANT. We should find ways to make it more known. When the people come for the meeting, have the forms ready. Meet with the group for the express purpose of getting names and titles -- I did this with a local high school anime club. The teens were thrilled that we looked to their expertise, and over half didn't know that the library had anime and manga until that meeting. And the program we ended up planning together had over 100 teens attend!


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