For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
February 12, 1997 - What's Hot -- Holds Lists
A couple of weeks ago, News-Press editor Rich Bangs called me to say he was devoting a section of the paper to books and local writers. As a librarian, I enthusiastically approved. (And as a poet, I'll even be submitting a piece or two.)
He also asked the library to contribute a weekly list of "What's Hot." We define that as items that have more than three people waiting to read them. You'll be seeing that listing weekly.
But I thought I should explain a few things about how the library does business.
When you see that the number one title on our "what's hot" list is John Grisham's "The Partner," you may want to sign up for it. But when you see that 248 people have signed up ahead of you, you might get discouraged. And if you search our catalog and see that the library hasn't even received the book (because it hasn't been published yet, although it has been ordered), you might get very discouraged.
It might help to know that, in general, the Douglas Public Library District buys 1 copy for every four requests.
That means that you still may have a waiting period. Our new books check out for 3 weeks. If each new book in fact stayed out that long, you could be waiting as long as 12 weeks to get a hot new bestseller. Three months can seem like a long time.
But there are two caveats. First, most people don't keep bestsellers the full length of the loan period. That tends to move things along a little faster.
Second, we don't stick strictly to the rule, for obvious reasons. Sixty-two copies of "The Partner" would cost the library $1,000 or so. Yet, a year later the demand for the book is likely to drop significantly. Sixty-four copies eats up a lot of shelf space (although we tend to pass on the old, extra copies to our Friends of the Library book sales). So for the big blockbusters, we buy fewer copies than usual, which tends to slow things down a little.
Third, sometimes we have copies of hot titles in other formats. For instance, it might be available in large print. Or there might be an audiotape version. If either of these is acceptable to you, you can get the item faster. It's worth the bother to check our catalog.
I analyzed the current list of "What's Hot" to see how we were doing in terms of how many copies per request. In general, things look pretty good.
For instance, we have about 5 copies per request for "Hornet's nest," by Patricia Cornwell, 4 copies per request for Michael Crichton's "Airframe," 3 copies per request for Sue Grafton's "'M' is for Malice," 3.8 copies per request for Tony Hillerman's "The fallen man," and 3.38 requests for Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The deep end of the ocean." In short, the library is doing a good job of keeping up with popular demand.
But if you have another view of this matter, please give me a call at 688-8752, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While there is much more to a library's collection than what's the rage at the moment, we do strive to keep up with public expectations. That includes yours.
WHAT'S HOT - Items with more than three holds
# of holds, (number of copies), title, author
248 (not yet published) The partner, by John Grisham
157 (30) Hornet's nest, by Patricia Daniels Cornwell
141 (40) Airframe, by Michael Crichton
114 (40) "M" is for malice, by Sue Grafton
107 (not yet published) The ranch, by Danielle Steel
93 (24) The fallen man, by Tony Hillerman
88 (26) The deep end of the ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
75 (not yet published) Chromosome 6, by Robin Cook
68 (15) The clinic, by Jonathan Kellerman
60 (28) Silent honor, by Danielle Steel
59 (10) Small town girl, by LaVyrle Spencer
58 (not yet published) Evening class, by Maeve Binchy
58 (12) The book of Ruth, by Jane Hamilton
57 (14) She's come undone, by Wally Lamb
50 (19) The laws of our fathers, by Scott Turow
49 (15) Drums of autumn, by Diana Gabaldon
47 (not yet published) Dancing floor, by Barbara Michaels
47 (12) The cat who tailed a thief, by Lilian Jackson Braun
45 (not yet published) Illusions, by Janet Dailey
45 (12) Sole survivor, by Dean R. Koontz
45 (not yet published) Unnatural exposure, by Patricia Daniels Cornwell
44 (not yet published) Sanctuary, by Nora Roberts
42 (7) The English patient, by Michael Ondaatje
41 (15) Hawk O'Toole's hostage, by Sandra Brown