Beth first worked in a library on a part-time basis while an undergraduate, and she says that it “just kind of stuck.” After earning her MSLS, she worked at a small library system in North Carolina where she had the opportunity to do everything from reference service to troubleshooting the public computers to writing newsletter content and press releases. Beth then moved to a large library system in Maryland, where she was a selector for 10 years. Beth loved that job because it allowed her to learn and try new things. In addition to ordering for the library’s branches, Beth selected for several Opening Day Collections (ODCs) of various sizes, and learned a lot about collection analysis and how to use data to make positive impacts on a collection.
Beth found the Collection Development Librarian job at Ingram by accident, which turned out to be a very happy accident. Beth quickly realized that she was able to use many skills that she’d picked up along the way while working on projects for libraries across the country. Beth loves that every day is a real challenge at Ingram. "We work with libraries of different sizes, serving very different communities, so each project requires me to think about things in a new and different way. As a manager, I now get to work directly with customers to help plan their projects with us, and it’s so rewarding. I love to see pictures of the collections we helped build!"
1. You are the Manager, Collection Development Curation. In a nutshell, what does your role entail?
I work with our team of talented and experienced librarians to create curated lists and services that support our library customers. From iCurate services to ipage lists and ODC projects, we help librarians find materials they need for their collection out of the millions of titles Ingram carries.
2. What aspect of your job do you most enjoy, and why?
I love working with our customers! When a customer is clearly stressed about a project, we’re able to ease that pressure by providing support they need throughout the process.
3. What would you like customers to know about our Collection Development team and what we can accomplish for them?
When I worked in libraries, I knew vendors could help with ODCs, but I honestly didn’t understand the scope of services and support available. At Ingram, we have so many services and lists that will make librarians’ jobs easier.
Some of those resources are custom lists curated specifically for your library and project. I had no idea that an ODC list or grant list could be created for a particular project I had as a selecting librarian, but this is one service we often provide. We create each project list with that customer and project in mind.
We also provide hundreds of complimentary ipage lists, routinely updated, that can save librarians a lot of time. When I was a public librarian, I used to order big books to read during storytimes. If you’ve ever tried to search for them, you know how frustrating the search can be. When I came to Ingram, though, I stumbled across a curated list of big books on ipage. A resource like that would have saved invaluable time at the library, but I simply hadn’t known it was available.
Our team creates hundreds of curated lists each year, many of them on popular topics we see in publishing and the media. I urge librarians to take advantage of that work! We have monthly HITS (High Interest Title Selections) lists to help libraries find popular new titles; subject lists on perennially requested topics for your collection; Top Library Titles. We even have Virtual Book Display lists that are creative ideas librarians can use to augment their collection or to build a display. You can read about our new lists each month in The Library Life newsletter or on our Trending Curated Lists page.
4. Can you tell us about any unusual requests or conditions your team had to meet for a collection development project?
We’ve worked on projects for customers around the world, and some of my first projects at Ingram were for international libraries. For those projects, it was a real challenge to understand the cultural differences that might impact their project needs.
At other times, the challenge lies in what we can deliver to a customer in the time available. A couple of years ago, I had a library who needed to spend money on refreshing two collections --within 3 days -- to meet a fiscal-year spending deadline. I created all their project lists in about 27 hours, and they placed orders the following day. We delivered our work on time, but I think we all bit our nails to the bone hoping the customer’s titles would arrive on time! (please don’t ask me to do that again).
Recently, the biggest challenge has been helping libraries negotiate ODC projects during COVID. Project timelines commonly shift due to construction delays or things like that, but COVID brought a new layer of potential obstacles. We’ve helped customers work through circumstances that none of us expected or faced in the past.
5. Which skills do you feel are essential to your position?
Public library experience is crucial. That I worked in public libraries for years helps me truly understand our customers’ needs and gives me foundational information I need to help them solve problems they might encounter throughout a project. I’ve been in their shoes, and that experience is a major advantage.
Most days, though, the most important skill I have is problem-solving. We rarely go into a meeting with a customer with a full plan already in place. Our plan must evolve as we listen to the customer’s needs or what they’re struggling with. My job, while the conversation happens, is matching our data and/or services with the customer’s objective. I love that challenge, and I enjoy finding creative solutions I might not have originally considered.
6. The Collection Development team frequently meets with publishers/publishing reps. Talk a little about why this is so important for our customers.
Meeting with publishers is integral to what we do, because it allows us to learn about most titles approximately 6 months prepublication. This knowledge helps us prepare ipage lists, standing order programs, iCurate Coming Soon lists, iCurate Core lists, and even book buzz webinars more effectively. When we meet with publishers, they tell us more than simply what the book is and what it’s about. They tell us their marketing plans or more about connections that author has in a specific media channel.
That kind of information helps us highlight the right titles early for our customers. Our goal is to ensure our customers know about buzzworthy titles early to help them place orders and to have popular titles in their catalogs before patrons ask about them.
At the end of the day, our mission is to support our customers. If I do my job well, my customers save time and have a collection that will delight their patrons.
7. What’s your favorite book, and why?
I don’t have a favorite book, but my favorite genres are romance and true crime. I’ve been a romance reader for most of my life. I know a lot of people have a negative opinion of the genre, but I can’t help it if they’re wrong. 😊 Over the last few years, we’ve seen so many fabulous new authors who are taking the genre by storm. Some of my current favorite romance authors are Sarah MacLean, Nalini Singh, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Christina Lauren, Sonali Dev, Jasmine Guillory, and Alexa Martin.
8. Why do you love collection development?
Collection Development involves so much more than reading review journals and catalogs. I think that, as a Collection Development librarian, whether in a library or here at Ingram, one is never truly “off duty.” If we’re watching tv and see a commercial for an upcoming movie, for example, we make a mental note to order more copies of the book if necessary. If we’re shopping in Target, we likely glance through the book section to spy any titles missing from our collections. I used to snap picture of ISBNs on my phone to check later (doesn’t everyone?). In short, everything we see and do generates ideas of new things that will help us build appealing collections for our patrons. Collection Development is perfect for curious people.