How a Book Gets on the Shelf – It All Starts With You
“A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit,” wrote 17th century author John Milton. Even in the Internet age, books continue to play a major role in research, study, and teaching. With more than two million volumes in the collection and thousands of new titles added each year, Mac’s University Library has much to nourish the spirit.
But where do all these books come from? You might be surprised to learn that the process starts with you. Most of the Library’s new books are purchased based on recommendations and requests from the McMaster community. Each academic department appoints a Faculty Library Liaison, whose responsibilities include reviewing weekly lists of newly published books in their subject area and making purchase recommendations to the Library. New book suggestions can be made by any McMaster student, faculty, or staff member by using the Book Recommendation form on the Library’s website. The overall development of the Library’s collection is guided by collection policies, which we use to help us evaluate and prioritize requests.
All of your recommendations are received in the Collection Services unit, where they are assessed by a librarian and assigned to a specific part of the Library’s book budget. Each request is also assigned to the company, or vendor, where the book will be ordered. The Library has two primary vendors for books in English, YBP and Blackwell. For books published in Europe or in other languages, we look to vendors there, especially Harrassowitz and Jean Touzot.
Using these suppliers helps the Library in a number of ways. Because they buy for many libraries, vendors can place very large orders with book publishers. This allows them to get a discounted price, which is passed along to their customers. Vendors also get information from publishers about new books, which we use to create the weekly lists mentioned earlier. Finally, we’ve opted to have our books supplied “shelf-ready,” meaning they arrive at the Library with our barcode and other labels already attached. This lets us get new books out to their home in Mills, Thode, or Innis quickly.
Sometimes vendors can’t supply everything we need. When this happens, the Library turns to the same places you do. We order heavily from Chapters and Amazon and shop at Titles if the book is available there. For older books and those published outside of Canada and the U.S., websites like AbeBooks and BookFinder let us search bookstores all over the world.
So, the next time you come to the Library, make sure to stop and look through the new titles on display. Like John Milton, you’ll find that “good books” are coming to the Library, and one of them might have been suggested by you!
by Wade Wyckoff