It was wonderful to have Laura Lutz come in and talk about her real world experience with collection development. I particularly enjoyed hearing about blogs and Amazon, and how important they both will continue to be as tools for collection development. Having worked in a public library and assisted with collection development, I have my own experiences with both blogs and the ever-useful Amazon.com. One of my favorite teen lit blogs is Books By Their Cover, which is written by a “young adult blogger”, which I believe means she is a “young adult” herself, though I’ve heard young adults are now defined as people ages 14-23 so she does not have to be an actual teenager. However, posts detailing her midterms and showing off her collage for art class lead me to believe she is actually in high school.
So, you’re probably wondering: what’s so great about Books By Their Cover anyway? As you can guess, the blogger evaluates the cover of the book, along with the actual story. Making things even easier, she rates each book with stars and gives each cover a grade and then, to make things even easier, she sums up her take on the book in a sentence. All of these are useful when scanning through reviews, though the actual full text review is more nuanced than any of the rating systems. I also like that it is an actual teen/young adult doing the reviewing. Currently, I have basically no interaction with teens so I can evaluate books based on teens I used to know but this is better. This would also work for someone with Laura’s old job who was sitting up in a cubicle making decisions about collections (though I’m actually not sure if she bought YA books as part of the children’s collections but the idea is the same).
The reason Books By Their Cover popped into my mind while Laura was talking was because covers are one way books are marketed to their target audience. If marketing truly is a part of collection development, and I’m willing to believe that it is, then as librarians, we should be thinking about book covers. I’m not saying the book should be judged by its cover, per se, but to a certain extent, it will be. Especially by tweens who, according to the assigned article on the “tween market,” are looking for instant gratification. We’ve also discussed how visual tweens are. Both of these mean that tweens are likely to grab books whose covers look good. Especially at a library where my favorite part is grabbing things that look good; it’s free, so if you wind up hating it, you can always give it back.
Books By Their Cover is also on my list of helpful blogs because she often reads “fluffy” books that often are not quite as favorably reviewed in some of the professional journals. As the article notes tweens (and some teens) have a lot of leisure time to spend reading and they don’t always want something literary. Libraries need to have fluffy books in their collections, which doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing quality. Reading blogs like Books By Their Cover, or one of the many other great teen/tween/kid lit blogs can help librarians find quality books that are also popular.
As a side note, in the recent American Libraries Direct I received, librarians are reminded that there are lots of online resources to find comments and reviews of books for children and adults. They go on to list some of their favorites. Laura is right: relying solely on professional journals for collection development is a thing of the past!