In a recent article in last month’s Publishers Weekly, Brian Kenney of the White Plains PL focuses on recent trends in purchasing by public libraries. He utilizes purchase alert reports to examine where patron popular interests lie, explaining that the WPPL buys at least one copy for every 4 holds, at times, for even three holds. He states that this is not unusual among larger libraries, even Brooklyn PL tries to buy one copy for every 5 patron holds, despite their recent budget cutbacks.
Kenney explains his findings that librarians focus on materials that give the “best return on investment”, what he calls “high-interest, frontlist fiction” as well as a few popular non-fic titles. According to the director of the Chattanooga PL, they only buy non-fiction if it’s on the NY Times best seller list. The head of Brooklyn’s collection development services calls herself “very conservative” when it comes to NF titles, buying only as the demand warrants. In 2010, BPL cut reference & periodical budgets by 50%, reduced NF titles, and focused on buying high-demand fiction, world language collections & DVD’s and found that their circ counts increased 2.3 million over a period of 9 months,which amounted to a huge increase in their numbers.
Of course, the area with the least movement in purchasing is reference, with many libraries drastically cutting back when it comes to ordering reference titles.
Kenney mentions a “you ask, we buy” policy at White Plains which began last summer. Their aim is to respond to requests in 48 hours, and to have the material in-house within a week, which often amazes patrons when they discover this response.
On the digital front, a new product from Midwest Tapes has many librarians anxious to sample. Hoopla is a digital platform that will offer digital movies, tv shows, music & audiobooks. Given the current problem with E-book pricing and unavailability from certain publishers, Hoopla may give libraries a long- awaited edge when it comes to the digital world of collection development.