Ever wonder how books actually get into the library? Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, yeah, the librarians buy them and then put them on the shelves.” To some extent this is true, but the process is way more interesting than that—at least I think so; I should say (in the spirit of full disclosure) that I love libraries and topics related to them—I’m a librarian after all. In any case, collection development is a big part of being a librarian at MA, and Derek and I give it a lot of thought. Here then is a compact report on the process of how the books you love finally come to live on the library’s shelves.
The library currently holds almost 15, 000 books (not to mention our extensive selection of magazines and databases), and we are lucky to have diverse content—but often we discover that what we need is not that broad overview of World War I, but that very specific topic of women who served abroad between 1914 and 1918 (actually, we have this book, it’s called Women in the War Zone: hospital service in the First World War; we bought it last year to support a student’s project). We really like specificity; we still have room for new books and like to fill the shelves with books we haven’t seen before.
And there are a lot of books we haven’t seen! New discoveries arise, surprising thoughts are published, and new artistic movements emerge as we speak. This is also how we choose books: what is current! As an academic library, we strive to make sure that contemporary perspectives and ideas balance with the classics. Often our community recommends these titles: students need resources for academic projects, faculty members need books to support their curriculum, and anyone in the community can recommend a book for the rest of us to read. Recently, a student interested in media and culture recommended a book called Supergods: what masked vigilantes, miraculous mutants, and a sun god from Smallville can teach us about being human. Already it’s been checked out twice!
Of course, many of us also just like to read a good book! Reading for pleasure, while certainly granting cognitive and academic benefits, is ultimately its own reward. Life-long learning is always one of our primary goals, and I believe reading for pleasure is the first cornerstone of promoting this sort of life. Librarians love to read, and we love when our patrons read—so fundamentally we try our best to acquire books for our community’s academic, curricular, and personal interests. At the library, we believe that everyone should “Think, Question, and Create” and we like to collect those books which promote, support, and illuminate this noble endeavor.