How do books get our attention? Library purchasing stories…

Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a panel of librarians at the Educational Books & Media Association conference in Austin, Texas.  Why were librarians there?  It was an experiment to allow publishers to get more in touch with how librarians discover book titles and how our ordering processes work.

photo by Rich Dupre

Whenever we have the opportunity to build bridges between librarians and other professionals it is a great chance for improved understandings!  (This is an example of why saying “yes” leads to unexpected learning opportunities.)

It was also a great opportunity for me personally to be reflective about what my own methods were for gathering book titles for orders and thinking about how books get my attention.  So–a big ask — I am sharing  this in the hopes that you will respond to this post and share YOUR habits so that publishers can learn from more than just our one panel!

What gets your attention?  How do you find books?  How do books find you?  (including audiobooks and ebooks?).   Check out some of the questions below and share your comments, too, so we can all learn from each other.


Questions to reflect on:

  • What catches your eye?  How do new books get your attention?
  • How do you decide on what books you purchase?  How big a role do curriculum connections play in what you buy?
  • Role of ebooks in. your decision making?
  • Would webinars or online presentations of new titles (like book buzz) be helpful?
  • How often do you like to receive information about new books? Is there a difference between information for fiction and non-fiction titles?
  • How important are reviews to your purchasing decisions? Have you ever read a publisher’s ad in a journal/magazine and made a decision to purchase based on it?
  • Do you attend library shows at the regional/state/national level? How useful do you find this in determining what titles to purchase?
  • Do you prefer print catalogues or emails to learn about upcoming titles or featured products?  What other methods would you like to see?
  • Do you use social media for libraries? If yes, have you ever made a purchasing decision based on a post or a tweet from a publisher?
  • Do you use any electronic preview tools like Edelweiss or Netgalley or others?  What’s your process?
  • What  gaps do you see in children’s/YA publishing?
  • Do you see any trends starting to surface …at the elementary school level? Middle school? High school?
  • Are you being asked for other languages? If yes, would you like to see the books as a bilingual edition?
  • Are your purchases influenced by teachers or students or do they have input into the process?

Hope you can share your reflections in the comments area below on how you pay attention to purchasing!

My own habits?

I realized in sharing that I have a variety of ways I engage with book titles.  There’s no one “route” I take but seek discovery in many streams.  Just like we share what the library has to offer in many different marketing ways, I similarly “discover” new book titles and publishers through many different avenues.

One thing that is really helpful to me since my job has several different roles  is sessions at conferences that are overviews of many upcoming
titles, or book talks, or author panels.  I love skimming booths at conferences for Starred Titles or other titles of interest(though often my time at the exhibit hall is very short).  I like getting very targeted fliers – best new graphic novels, best new SEL titles, etc. that I can grab and go, or if they come in the mail, I can set them aside for when ordering.  I do use ads in School Library Journal and other magazines to alert me to titles that might be of interest.  I take note of books on booklists and state award lists, definitely, and do order many of those.

Social media and influencers

I notice books recommended by influencers within our field, too…people like Jennifer LaGarde and Andy Plemmons in particular. Because I know colleagues like the two of them have exemplary tastes, I pay attention to their recommendations.   I notice posts on social media, whether they be Twitter photos, Instagram, or Facebook comments on book titles.

Online trail – Email and newsletters 

Like some of you, I’m inundated with emails, so often I never have time to peruse newsletters I sign up for.  They have to have a very unique voice like Book Riot’s to get through to my “reading list”- but the ones that DO make my list, I regularly read.  They have to be short enough to consume in one sitting, link to good content, and inform me about more than just a good book.

I do look through catalogs at peak ordering time – particularly at nonfiction titles when trying to fill gaps.  I use Amazon best seller lists and GoodRead recommendation lists also as a discovery tool for titles in certain categories.  As I said, I do cast my net pretty widely when discovering titles.

Student and Teacher voices

Titles that students and teachers recommend always go on my ordering list.  Units they are working on change from year to year, so being sure that I have the books they require or titles they want to read is of paramount importance.  We keep a student suggestion line open for students and send out periodic requests to teachers for new titles they would like us to add.  We want to create a culture that feels communal in terms of purchasing.

Trends I’ve noticed lately?

#Weneeddiversebooks of course is a huge influence, and more and more diverse and authentic titles are coming out. Also SEL titles are being requested at our elementary libraries, and with several new Spanish immersion campuses in our district, Spanish titles, in particular, are needed.  STEM titles are still big and there’s still a need for #LGBTQ titles.   We also need more well written dystopian series with nontraditional male leads and more YA fiction that incorporates video gaming and technology naturally into the content – fantasy/sci fi especially.  Authentic voices are a big trend which is such a positive — the titles that are surfacing aren’t copycats or formulas, they are authentic stories by authentic writers who have compelling stories to tell.  I encourage publishers not to resort to easy “formula” books but to make their more authentic books discoverable by thoughtful lists shared with librarians.  Submitting your book titles for state awards lists are a way to get them noticed as well.

What are your preferences and processes?  Would love to have you share in the comments section below!  Or write your own blog post and ping me so we’ll keep this thread going!

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