Dollars & Sense #7 – Collection Development on a Shoestring

How do you continue to add new materials to the collection when your budget is slashed? Or when, as happened to a friend in a neighboring town, the board says, “What do you need new books for? You already have a bunch…” Even with zero budget, there are some strategies that you can use to put new materials into your collection. Here’s how:

BE STRATEGIC

Assess your current collection. What do you have? What do you need? When is the last time you weeded? What are you going for? Quality? Popularity? Curriculum support? Leisure reading? All of the above? Hone your focus by determining the needs of local population. Poll the teens, talk to your local colleagues, and decide which way your collection leans.

Prioritize your budget. Know exactly what you are spending your money on, and break down what percent you are spending on new, retrospective and replacement materials by genre and Dewey decimal number. Compare your percentages to your circulation figures. Are you buying items that the community wants? That western might have won an award, but do kids in your town read westerns? Assure bang for your buck by looking at turnover rate in addition to circulation statistics, and by employing meaningful participation: have your teens help you read reviews and make purchasing decisions. Add incentive by putting the books they select on hold, so the teen that orders it gets to check it out first.

Spend thriftily.
Consider waiting for paperback editions. I used to keep a file of titles that weren’t 5 star reviews, or that sounded good, but might be sleepers, for lower priority ordering.

Take advantage of networks! Talk to other YA librarians in your local network to do some resource sharing for series, especially graphic novels and audio books – have each library commit to an author or series, and then circulate items between libraries.

Shop around for discounts. Library jobbers have deep discounts on many materials, but if your spending is flexible, check local booksellers for remaindered titles. Register for accounts with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders (they often email coupons). Shop secondhand stores for replacement or retrospective titles.

SOLICIT FREE MATERIALS

Review, review, review. Looking back at a previous YA services report, I see that in FY ’02, I read and reviewed 75 YA & children’s books and added them to my library’s collections, saving the library approximately $1200 in materials. It was all thanks to the NMRLS Youth Services Book Review Group. Sound impossible? It’s a little more than a book a week. Some were short.

My library’s regional office had established a book review group, with the youth service consultant establishing rapport with publishers, requesting titles, and sending copies of reviews back for the authors. You don’t need the backing of a consortium to start your own. Train participants in how to write good reviews, decide on a meeting schedule and location, and away you go.

You can also start your own book review blog, or ask to join someone else’s – School Library Journal recently profiled ten children’s literature blogs. Once you start reviewing, you can request review copies from publishers.

Attend local conferences and book expos. Yes, it costs money to get there, but you might be able to walk away with freebies that help justify the cost. ALA is experimenting with free exhibit hall admission at Midwinter in Boston this year. Take advantage of it if you are local enough, so you can pop in and pick up ARCs and galley editions, and review those. Remember that ARCs and galleys cannot be added to your library’s collection, but if your assessment of the material is positive, you may be able to get a free copy of the item by sending a request for the published version, with the review to the publisher and author.

Pay attention to contests. YALSA has a Great Book Giveway every year (applications were due December 1, 2009–mark your calendar for next year!), and many authors post about contests to win free materials on their blogs. Don’t have time to troll the Internet? Put your TAG to work scouting out these opportunities.

Join ALA and YALSA, and register for events like Teen Read Week and National Gaming Day. Sponsors often send free materials as incentives for early bird registrants.

Write a grant. Grant writing isn’t difficult; MANAGING the grant, once you have it, is! Grant writing is all about asking the questions asked, clearly, concisely and completely, and having an innovative twist that will make your application stand out. YALSA has a $1000 collection development grant sponsored by Book Wholesalers, Inc (BWI). Entries are due December 1, 2010; you have a year to plan! Choose an area of the collection that needs improvement and plan your compelling case.

SOLICIT DONATIONS

Ask for donations. People in your community don’t know what you need until you ask for it. With permission from your administration, start an Amazon wish list, and publicize it. Make sure the community knows they can purchase an item and have it sent to the library. Don’t forget to THANK your donors! Send a note, put their name on a bookplate, thank them in an article or letter to the editor, put it in the library newsletter, announce it at a meeting.

Make it easy to donate. Work with your development office to create opportunities for donors to earmark monies for YA materials. Make it easy for potential donors – especially those who only have a little bit to give – to be generous. Why not put a DONATE button on the library website, like the John C. Fremont Library in Florence, CO?

Cull the donation bin. If you don’t have one yet, start one! Establish a donation policy, then put out a copier paper box labeled “Donations.” I got lots of YA interest titles that I could add to my collection or use as summer reading program programs every year, everything else went into the Friend’s fundraiser booksale.

Invite local authors to donate copies if they do not approach you first. Use the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators directory to see who is local.

Got other tips to share? We’d love to hear them! Click “comment” to share.

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.
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