How Does the Library Choose Its Items?

How do you decide which materials to order?

We strive to have a collection that represents the scope of views in our community, so we put our own reading and personal preferences aside when making selections. We review professional journals, NYT bestseller and award lists, look at what’s going on at the PAC, the Museum and local theaters, include titles that support APL’s Strategic Plan, and order extra copies of items that have long holds lists. The selectors also love to fulfill patron requests from Suggest a Purchase on our website.

Fun factHave you been pleasantly surprised to learn about a new must-read book and find that the Library already has it? That’s because the Library keeps up with industry news through e-newsletters such as Shelf Awareness to figure out what’s going to trend next.

Logistically, how does the ordering process work?

Eight librarians on staff serve as selectors and they each oversee different areas of the collection, such as digital, romance or young adult. Additionally, branch managers select the new leased books for their collections to match their community’s interests. The Library orders new materials monthly and once orders have been placed, the Technical Services Librarian Stacy downloads the records into the catalog, which makes the materials available for holds within a day or two after they've been ordered.

Fun fact: the Library “leases” popular new books so they can have lots of copies of trending books and keep holds lists short, without being stuck with the extras when interest wears out.

How does your budget work? How do you allocate between print books, digital, and everything else?

It’s a struggle. When I first arrived twelve years ago, there was fat to cut: obsolete reference titles and expensive, unused databases. As the years have passed and the budget has remained flat or has decreased, we just do the best we can to keep our public happy and keep up with a community that has a wide variety of interests. I also work to allocate as much as possible to our youth collections to make sure we are investing in our kids' futures.

Not so fun fact:

Back in the day, a Library could buy a single book and keep circulating it until it wore out. Now, with the same budget, the Library has to supply that book in multiple formats, such as eAudiobook, Book on CD (which are surprisingly popular!), eBook, and Large Type. While the Library negotiates lower rates for print books, it's charged more than retail for digital items. For instance, Tara Westover’s Educated cost $15 for a print book, $95 for an eAudiobook, and $55 for an eBook (with a license that expires after two years!).

When you get extra money from the Friends and Foundation, how are you able to put that to use?

These donations are critical and are used for: Book Club Bags, the annual Battle of the Books order, extra copies of hot titles for youth for Summer Discovery, and expensive DVDs, such as Alaskana titles or the sought after documentary Resilience. If there’s any money left, we put it toward digital content, which we always need more of.

*Previously published in the Anchorage Public Library Foundation Summer 2019 Donor Impact Report