Recently, a comment came in from someone who read the blog. They wrote:
Can you please explain your book purchasing method? How do you determine which titles to purchase? Do you use specific resources or vendors to help you select newly published books?
Great questions. Let’s tackle each, then throw in a few more for good measure.
Can you please explain your book purchasing method?
- I tend to do 2 – 3 big orders each year. Follett is my vendor of choice for the big orders, and BTSB is in the mix for books that need a lifetime binding (read: graphic novels). Why those two? They were what was used when I joined a school library 15 years ago, and I’ve built relationships with the companies and regional reps. This year, I’m adding something new: ordering through specific vendors like Capstone and ABDO to get their deals (i.e., ABDO = order $1500, get 25 free books of your choice). When using vendors, I purchase with either the school credit card or a purchase order.
- Local bookshops and Amazon are used when I need a book (or sets of books) ASAP and can’t wait for a vendor. Shopping local makes me feel like I’m doing something good for the community – and I get 20% off, which is about what I get on Amazon. Bonus: I get to make connections with booksellers! An example of this: when ordering numerous copies of the Sasquatch Award nominees, I contacted my local bookshop Brick & Mortar Books. They got the books I requested, emailed me when it was ready, and I purchased them within a week. When ordering with bookstores or Amazon, I tend to pay with my credit card and submit receipts for reimbursement.
How do you determine which titles to purchase?
This one is big, as I’m never not thinking about books to purchase.
- Student interest: I’ve surveyed students, asking for what books they want to see in the library. Observing student use and interest works, too. Checking with teachers is another way to determine what is being used or is needed in the library.
- Conferences: I attend book/literary conferences with the goal to visit vendor booths and see what they’re advertising for the year. If getting to conferences isn’t feasible, keep an eye out for web previews from publishers like Penguin, Capstone, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Chronicle, Scholastic, etc. I take a ton of photos and write lists in notebooks.
- Indie bookstores: Visiting independent bookstores is something I love to do, as they often display the newest titles. They also have this fantastic newsletter – Indie Next List – that highlights upcoming titles that are getting buzz from independent bookshops around the US.
- Knowing kids: There are some truths I’ve observed in almost 20 years as a children’s librarian in what books are popular with kids – specifically nonfiction. There is always a need for excellent, updated, good-looking books about dinosaurs, rocks/minerals, pets, cookbooks, war, military, origami, Titanic, and wild animals. These interests are for all kids, regardless of language. In picture books: authors/illustrators like Jon Klassen, Ame Dykeman, Candace Fleming, Dan Santat, Christian Robinson, Peter Brown, Ryan T Higgins, Jacqueline Woodson, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, David Shannon, Mo Willems, and more fly off the shelf. In short chapter books: Scholastic’s Branches books, Press Start, Dory Fantasmagory, Jasmine Toguchi; MG books Warriors series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, I Survived series, Rainbow Fairies series, Ricky Ricotta series; and authors Tui T Sutherland, Katherine Applegate & Jason Reynolds are just a handful (off the top of my head) that are always in demand.
Do you use specific resources or vendors to help you select newly published books?
- I read book review journals: School Library Journal & Horn Book are the two I subscribe to. These let me know what is new in kidlit, especially in picture books, short chapter books, and middle grade novels. These are anytime reads: at home, on airplanes, at work (usually during lunch), etc.
- I have had vendors come into the library to share books, though this is not a frequent event. My favorites are the ones listed above.
- Sources like Junior Library Guild, while excellent for some, aren’t for me. I like selecting exactly what is best for my student population. There are ways to work around the selections in JLG, but I prefer to select each title myself.
- Blogs like Mr. Schu Reads and Nerdy Book Club are two that have been valuable over the years. Betsy Bird’s Fuse8 production at SLJ is pure excellence. Her year-end lists that run all of December cover everything I might’ve missed during any given year.
And a couple of others that may be of use:
Who processes your bookstore purchases?
- In a word: me. I catalog, print spine labels, affix barcodes, and cover/stamp all books I purchase from Amazon or bookstores. Hardcover books get book jacket covers from Demco or Gaylord; paperbacks get Kapco covers (hundreds were purchased by my predecessor) or (when they run out…Kapco covers are $$!) more standard book roll laminate. Running the dust jackets of hardcover books through the school laminator is, to me, a no-no. Some people really like it, but I much prefer how crisp a book jacket cover looks on a book. Plus, if the plastic gets ripped, recovering is easy (and the book looks brand new again!).
- Stamping books? Yes. Books are stamped twice: once with our district/school name/address, and once with the date of purchase (Month & Year). Both stamps are placed on the endpaper at the front of the book. By putting the date of purchase in the front (mine are at the bottom center), it allows anyone to easily see when a title was purchased without looking in the catalog. I don’t stamp at the back, on page 17, or across the top of the spine (though I used to when a school I was at had a stamp designed for this purpose).
What do you use to print spine labels?
- I like these from Demco. I also like the ultra-aggressive label covers from Demco to keep the labels affixed to books that do not need covers (like Dog Man, which is bound as paper over board). Note that the roll version of these label covers WILL stick to one another when unrolling unless you’re really careful. I buy the flat packages to avoid this hassle. I also do not cut the labels to make them last longer; I’ve found that when I do this, they tend to peel up at the cut corner. One label cover per label. 🙂
I hope you find this helpful. If there are more questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer.
Cheers, y’all! –arika