Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thank Goodness for Junior Library Guild

You know how sometimes you get a cold phone call and the person on the other end wants to send you a box of books? "Just keep the ones you want. We will pick up any that you don't want. You'll only be charged for what you keep." In the end, you keep them all because it just seems easier that way.

A couple of years ago, one of our principals wanted to fill some holes in his school library collection (and there were many). He answered "yes" when they called. What he got was an expensive box of 6 year old books. In a school district of over 180 schools, only a handful of the books were already in the district database. Not even considering his collection needs, I can tell you that if 200 schools haven't needed those books in 6 years, his school could probably do without them too.

Now I know that not all "we'll send you a box" companies send you old books. However, I have always been of the mind that I can choose what I need by myself, "thank you very much." So, of course, I also resisted Junior Library Guild. They send you books each month, kind of like a Book of the Month Club. You pay in advance, like a magazine. One day, while visiting one of my schools, I saw really new books that I had just learned about. "How did you get these? I didn't tell you about these yet." The sheepish reply was, "I know you don't like them, but I wanted to get my money spent. I bought JLG."

Well, for Pete's sake. I looked at the titles and there was nothing there that I wouldn't have chosen. Turns out JLG has spies- library spies. They have librarians like us who get advanced copies. They sometimes see what's coming out before I do! (Publishers also send me review and advance copies.)

So where am I going with this? On Monday, ALA announced the award winning books and media. So, like many of you, I checked our library, the Instructional Media Center, to see how many we had in our collection. When I pulled the books, I noticed a pattern. Almost all of the books that we had were Junior Library Guild Selections or they were ARCs or publisher review copies. Hmm. I thought. How about that? Now why is that?

First, I haven't had money to spend on our collection since last March. Just before the money that I had was swept, I renewed our subscription to JLG. If it weren't for JLG (and the publishers who want me to know about their books), I wouldn't have any of the award winning books. It was the best decision I have made for spending money on books. The money is spent, but the new titles keep rolling in.

Too many times my money has been saved for late releases and swept before I got a chance to spend it. Do yourself a favor. After you buy your ALA award winners, spend the rest of the money on a subscription to JLG. Keep the best new books coming into your library. JLG has my blessing.

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