“I could not work as effectively as part of the Collection Development team if it weren’t for the many years I worked as a public librarian,” says Wendy, simply. With her extensive experience, Wendy knows what librarians and patrons need, like potty-training books and titles from 100 Books to Read lists parents look for, or books on leaves, pumpkins and apples that teachers want every fall.
Originally from New York State, Wendy began her librarianship career as a cataloger in Virginia. She learned a lot in that position, namely the importance of accurate metadata, an essential component of her current role as Collection Development Librarian. As much as she valued the orderliness of cataloging, the creativity of programming and planning appealed to her, as well. The following year, she received a promotion to become the Head of Youth Services for her mid-sized library system.
Wendy loved Youth Services, and she was Head of the department for 12 years. “It was a wild ride…fun, exhausting, constantly changing,” she says. Then, in 2017, she saw the job posting for the Collection Development Librarian at Ingram and thought it seemed fascinating. “I had never considered being a librarian outside of a library context, but now I’m a librarian who happily helps librarians.”
Can you describe a typical week for you as a member of the Collection Development team?
I go to meetings with publishers to learn about forthcoming kids’ titles and current trends within the publishing world. With that knowledge, I carefully decide how appealing those books will be for librarians and patrons. I curate the picture books, board book, and leveled readers and manage those standing order programs. I also create book lists for special projects, like those that come from grant money, and for Opening Day Collections. I build lots of other lists for ipage that librarians will find fun and helpful.
What book(s) are you currently reading, or have you recently read?
Well, it might be a sign of the times, but I just finished reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books for, like, the 10th time. They are unfailingly comforting to me, and I always circle back to them. Now, I’m in the middle of an advanced reading copy publishing in August, called The Family Plot by Megan Collins. I enjoy good psychological thrillers for most of my fun reading. I also belong to a YA book club with a few coworkers, which has allowed me to discover some great authors, like Rainbow Rowell. I’m a super fan of hers!
What skills do you consider most valuable to your job?
Having an open mind, having diverse interests, and knowing what libraries need and want.
Talk about your process of identifying appropriate titles for library customers. What factors do you consider?
There are lots of things that happen all at once when I research titles. Some titles are shoe-ins, like new books by Mo Willems, Keven Henkes, or Kwame Alexander, for example, because every librarian will want them. Those are easy. Others have beautiful illustrations, are very funny, or discuss a neglected but important topic in children’s literature. The selection process involves multiple factors, really, but primary ones are quality illustrations, a good story, and an intuitive sense that children will enjoy it.
Some books might be great bedtime stories, while others about, say, a comic book character in his underpants, will be a hit at storytime. How much I like the book comes into play, too. C.S. Lewis once said, “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” We’ve been in publisher meetings when forthcoming picture books have brought us to tears or to laughter. Those are must-have titles!
What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is that significant?
Oh, the last year has certainly been one of learning for me. We’ve homeschooled my 13- and 8-year-olds over the last year, which is something I had no prior experience with. There was no choice but to just dive into it. Homeschooling has given me a new appreciation for how I learn and explain things to others, and I think it has made me more patient. I’ve also concluded that teachers should be making a million dollars a year.
Is there a trend of any kind in children’s literature that you hope makes a comeback? Is there one you’d like to see emerge?
I’ve begun to see many more body positivity titles in juvenile literature, which I think is great. Although there is a long way to go, I’m thankful there is much more diversity across the board. This trend could only have a positive impact. And, then, I also notice a return to quiet picture books, especially ones focusing on friendship, kindness, and other elements of emotional intelligence.
As we prepare to launch iCurate inClusive, why do you think our suite of services help customers so well?
Librarians are always looking for the perfect books for their patrons, and it’s discouraging when you cannot find enough good titles on a particular topic to meet the needs of your community. On the other hand, it takes a lot of time (that librarians often don’t have) to complete regular diversity inventory audits of the thousands of titles on your shelves to be able to accurately evaluate your collection’s strengths and weakness. Our services allow us to share some of the tools we use every day to help fill gaps for libraries everywhere.
What’s something you’d like our customers to know about Ingram and/or the Collection Development team?
That we on the Collection Development team at Ingram love libraries, are passionate about books, and put a lot of thought and care into every list and project we complete.