Re: RARA-AVIS: Library purchases

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 05 Jun 2000 wrote:

> Mario Taboada writes:
> << By the way, and only tangentially related to the above, have other US
> raravians
> noticed how hardboiled literature is eschewed (there, I knew some day I wold
> use this word) by public libraries?
> What's a typical sales number for a hardboiled hardcover novel?
> >>
> The Portland, Oregon, public library does a pretty good job on hb purchases,
> but they may be the exception (most of the branches are even open Sundays).
> I'd encourage readers to frequently request library purchases of titles that
> might otherwise be missed. I've also encouraged at least one small publisher
> to try to generate sales by asking buyers to ask their libraries to buy the
> books--a sort of grassroots marketing tool--not sure how it would work. I'd
> be curious to hear an answer to Mario's last question too. The other thing
> I'd be curious about: how low must sales drop before an author gets dropped
> by his or her publisher?

As a public librarian, and one who does the ordering for genre fiction, I have to comment on this.

I've noticed no policy to avoid ordering hb literature at any library I've gone to, and I certainly order my share of hb fiction. But the problem for most libraries lies in the amount of money available to order books (small) and the demands of the library's patrons (great). If two-thirds of the books which are checked out from a library's mystery collection are cozies, then it only makes sense for a library to order more cozies; that's what the patrons want, so that's what they're going to get.

I realize that this is something of a self-fulfilling dynamic; without the hbs, the patrons only get cozies, and so that's what they read. But every library I've ever worked at or known (and I was a contract librarian for two years, so I worked at a number of libraries) tried to order from every genre, to have a well-rounded collection. It just so happens that hbs, in the libraries I've worked at, are simply not in as much demand by the public as other genres. I have to tailor my ordering policies to satisfy my public. I try to give them things that they might not know about that they might enjoy, but when Pelecanos languishes on the shelves, unread, and I'm repeatedly asked when the next Left Behind (*gak*) book will be in...well, there's only so much independence I can show.

All of that said, if you want something that the library doesn't have, ask for it. We librarians can only go by circulation numbers (which are the surest sign as to what is popular with the patrons) and by what we are told by the patrons (which is the surest sign as to what we're not ordering that we should order). If you don't tell us what we need, we're not going to know what you want...and that makes nobody happy.


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