The Riddles of Collection Development

Untitled Document

When I volunteered to write a Collection Development FAQ, I thought it would be easy. After all, I have been answering librarians’ questions for 27 years. Then I sat down to write and was immediately overcome by the enormity of the topic. Should I include questions about publishing? Selection criteria? Vendor services? Brodart-specific questions?

I decided to start with three questions masquerading as riddles, which address frequently misunderstood terms:

  • When is a hardcover not a hardcover?

  • When is a reprint not a reprint?

  • When is a vendor list not a vendor’s list?

When is a hardcover not a hardcover?

When a book is bound to a higher standard than a trade hardcover (trade hardback), it can be considered either a publisher-reinforced edition or a library edition. Most librarians are familiar with the library editions provided by children’s publishers (think Capstone, National Geographic, and Random House, with trade hardcover and library editions). However, the “hardcover reinforced” edition is somewhat misunderstood. It falls between the high standards of the library edition and the everyday retail-ness of the trade hardcover. It has some reinforcement and is generally only available in one edition—hence the term “single edition” or even “school edition,” which is sometimes seen in bids and publishing documents.

Librarians will often tell us NOT to include hardcover reinforced editions on their lists, but when they do so, they miss some very popular titles from publishers such as Atheneum, Dial, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster. They would even miss some Mo Willems titles published by Hyperion or Disney-Hyperion. My advice: when in doubt, include all hardcover binds. When offered multiples, pick the one that best suits your needs and budget.

When is a reprint not a reprint?

For this one, I have to beg the forgiveness of publishers everywhere before answering: “When you’re looking at publisher data!” It makes perfect sense that publishers are trying to sell as many books as possible, so they aren’t going to put a big red flag on a book that translates as, “You probably have this already so don’t bother.” To my knowledge, publishers do not include any indication that a title is a reprint in their electronic data feeds to wholesalers (all of us, not just Brodart). So we are left to figure this out on our own. I’m sure other wholesalers have matching logic, as we do, but publishers don’t necessarily use authority control on authors, and there’s really no such thing as title authority control. Maybe the titles will match; maybe they won’t. So we pore over the data and do the best we can to protect you from accidentally buying something you already have. I think we catch most of them, but we’re not perfect. Honest, we’re not trying to fool you!

When is a vendor list not a vendor’s list?

You’ll notice the two halves of the question are slightly different. Here's the translation:

  • Vendor list: Any list of titles produced by a vendor and offered on their website or through custom delivery

  • Vendor's list: A list of titles that the vendor is promoting. Brodart produces a number of lists that serve as promotions, as all vendors do (Our examples are monthly catalogs, McNaughton and Purchase Plus selections, and KidSafe Graphic Novels)

So when is a vendor-produced list NOT a list of titles the vendor wants you to buy? When the list is created entirely from a library’s custom parameters. The best example for us would be our Diamond TIPS lists. The library chooses the sources (review journals, publishers, series, and authors); the formats; the age ranges; the classification; and even the frequency of the lists. The resulting lists represent what the library wants to consider, not what the vendor wants to show them. If you want to adjust it upward or downward, simply change your parameters. If you want to know what other libraries are buying, add a “demand” parameter (e.g., Show me all adult nonfiction titles that rise to the demand level of High). If you want to see titles sooner, don’t rely entirely on reviews (Whoops, that’s an answer to another question).

Some of our customers have been using TIPS lists for over 20 years. The librarians who created the original profiles have long since retired or flown the coop. I often remind current staff members that these profiles are their own to tweak and fine-tune as they see fit. If you inherited any TIPS lists and don’t understand how they are created, please check with us and we’ll send you profile summaries and talk about options. We’re partners in this collection development effort!

I’ll stop with the riddles now. Check back next month for answers to additional questions about collection development.