10 May 2010

The Popular Collection, Nine Months On

The students are all busy with exams, and the library is quiet as another semester draws to a close. Sounds like a good time to take a quick look at how the popular collection has grown and changed over the last term. We're in a fairly steady rhythm when it comes to ordering now; a dozen or so titles are added to the books each month, and we've just doubled the size of the movie collection (from ~30 to ~60) after a successful first six-week run. I don't expect any big changes in that respect at this point. There have been two major modifications to how the collection is managed, though: the list is now updated automatically, and we aren't just ordering the books from YBP anymore.

Managing the Lists
The original layout was simple: a webpage listing titles and links to their catalog records. The list was split in two (books and movies) as more titles were added, but each page was still updated manually as every new order arrived. That, understandably, got unwieldy. Visit the book[1] page now and you are presented with a series of links to the catalog, one for the complete title list and the rest for various genres. These lists are automatically updated each time a new title is added to the collection, thanks to the local 690 field. Each record is augmented with a collection description as well as a broad genre listing[2] (e.g. legal classics or mystery and thrillers); these genres were added to help book browsers quickly locate the type of book which interests them. The links on the collection page are subject/keyword searches based on that information. Although it creates a tiny bit of extra work to add this information once we grab the record, it also makes the webpage cleaner, more accurate, and takes readers directly to the record (and therefore more information about the book) without the intermediate step.

Our first orders for the popular collection were placed with two companies, Amazon (movies) and YBP (books). Every so often I'd run across a book YBP didn't carry, but the selection seemed generally good. As we moved beyond popular titles like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Pelican Brief, though, it got harder to find everything through Yankee. If it wasn't a perennial seller or new, it wasn't there. We buy a lot of mysteries and thrillers because they're checked out most often, and many of those authors write series. You can see where this is going, yeah? We could get #8 in the series through Yankee but not #1. We needed another source. There was a brief flirtation with the idea of getting books through Baker & Taylor, YBP's parent company, but we already had an Amazon account and got the movies there anyway, so Amazon won. When it comes time to place another order, I check YBP then Amazon as needed. Between the two, we can find pretty much any title we want to add.

I can't say how happy I am to see the collection continue to grow. Learning to manage that growth has been been a fantastic learning experience too, from deciding what to purchase and how to present the collection to navigating the vendor waters. Looking forward to what I learn next. As the Doctor said to the TARDIS, what have you got for me this time?

[1] At present, the movie page is still updated manually; that will change as more titles are added.
[2] Now, technically, the genres should be listed in the 655 (specifically a genre field), but our system isn't set up to search that, so the 690 it is.