By Charles Clemence
If you’ve been around WRLS for a while you know that I’ve long been interested in the relationship between borrowing material and buying it. All things being equal, it’s always better to buy an item then to borrow it. In these days of shared automation and easy ILL, this is perhaps less true than it used to be. We all know that sharing helps to reduce unnecessary duplication of purchases. Besides, popular material is seldom on the shelves, whether your library owns it or not. Still, the basic principle remains the same. If your patrons are requesting a title it should be in your collection.
That being said, we know that all things aren’t equal. In these days of shrinking budgets and expanding formats it’s hard to buy everything you should. Or even to keep track of everything you would buy if you had the funds. Years ago I used to write a “Books you should buy” column in Whirlpools. This included titles that had been repeatedly requested through ILL and were too popular to borrow. The purpose was to encourage libraries to buy these titles if they could.
Changes in the way we did ILL made producing that list impractical, although I did continue to send out purchase alerts for individual items. After most WRLS public libraries joined WRLSWEB we were able to do a more organized approach to purchase alerts. Shanneon Grant, who works with acquisitions for La Crosse PL, used to send out a regular purchase alert report to let WRLSWEB members know about what items were being requested a lot. Lately we haven’t been able to produce that list, but do hope we will be able to get back to it in the future.
Along with these lists, WRLS has also worked closely with our resource library – La Crosse Public – to purchase items that are too popular for interlibrary loan. Whenever items requested in WISCAT default to me I try to find locations where I can send or resend the requests. When I see items that are in use everywhere, especially if there are long waiting lists, I look at them for possible purchase. If they seem to fit LPL’s collection development guidelines I send them to Shanneon. The final decision belongs to her and the LPL selectors, but 99% of the suggestions I send are purchased. I recommend a similar process for all libraries. If you see a title that is being requested a lot by your patrons you should strongly consider getting a copy.
Recently a new weapon in the collection development arsenal has been added by Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning (RL&LL) – an “In Constant Demand” list. Included are titles RL&LL finds to be difficult or impossible to borrow through ILL because of heavy local demand. I know Shanneon is looking at it to try to see that LPL owns most if not all listed titles. Its main purpose is to inform libraries of titles that shouldn’t be requested through ILL. But you should also try to buy as many of those titles as you can. Check it out some time soon. The list is linked from the WISCAT search screen: