Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Series Collecting: How do you know?

Unless your library exists in the digital world rather than the physical one, everyone has experienced the limitations of shelf space at one point or another. With 3,000+ titles published each year for children, weeding is a way of life for the children’s librarian, lest our shelves begin to look like a particularly literary episode of hoarders! Older books and series that no longer have an audience have to make way for exciting new books and series that will become a whole new generation’s favorite books.

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures - and they're always checked out!
We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures – and they’re always checked out!

So my query today, fellow collectors of books for children, is this: how do you decide to take the plunge on a new series? There are some obvious indicators, like a rave review for the first title or a first printing size that indicates the publisher believes the book has legs. I place some of my trust in the selectors at Baker & Taylor, and ask to see all titles in my carts which my warehouse (South) has purchased 400 or more copies of.

Beyond that, deciding to purchase a new series that has decent but not astounding reviews becomes a puzzle with many pieces – do we have kids that read this type of fiction? Do we have similar series already? Does that series have any distinguishing factors, either character or plot, that will make it stand out from the pack? I admit that we have become very wary of purchasing new fantasy series without stellar reviews, as their popularity (at least in our library) seems to be on a slow decline.

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!
Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Our most recent series decision was a long time coming. We didn’t purchase those pink-and-purple, absolutely adorable Cupcake Diaries for the first 6 months of their lives, for a few reasons. The series was publishing at a fast rate, which meant we would have to devote ever-increasing amount of shelf space to it each month. Additionally, our library already had several multi-book series about girls, cooking, and cupcakes. Demand for the series rose and we made the decision to weed a few of the older cupcake/cooking series to make room for Katie and her friends. Of course, the series circ’d like hotcakes and I was kicking myself for not snapping them up immediately!

How do you know when to purchase? How do you know when to let a series go?

5 comments

  1. Abby Johnson

    It is so tricky! Especially with our paperback series shelving – they’re in spinner racks, making them easier to browse with lots of face-outs. Are they circ-ing because kids actually want THOSE books or are they circ-ing because they’re in kids’ faces and paperbacks are cheap (in case they would get lost)?

    When weeding series, one thing we consider is availability of all the books. Are some out of print and lost? Are kids going to be frustrated when they start a series, only to find that we only own #s 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, and 13?

  2. Monica

    I try to collect the first 3 of a series that I think will go out, then stand back a little bit to see how it’s doing. I get a lot of input from the kids (That’s why I decided to get the Cupcake Diaries, I started getting requests!) and just do my best to see what’s going out. It’s really hard with the series that publish 1 or 2 in a month, because you worry about falling too hard behind. I’ve also found that if most of a series isn’t circ’ing, I’m learning to be heartless about weeding, since we’re running low on shelf space.

  3. Jim Randolph

    As an elementary school librarian I have a lot of financial limitations so I try to stick to what the kids are asking for. I also mostly use Follett so I have a list in there of series stuff sorted by popularity. Once it’s a series I’m committed to I just throw the rest onto that list and let it decide what comes next. That way they’re happy when more than one series book shows up in an order. “Oh look, two more Babymouse, three My Weird Schools, an Elephant & Piggie, and a Fly Guy. Happy?” I also shy away from series that go to long. I have a couple of 5th graders asking for Naruto and I’m like, “Dudes, that’s a paperback series that goes on FOREVER. Pick it up at the local library down the road.”

  4. Julie

    The problem with weeding series is that as soon as we decide something isn’t popular anymore someone starts checking it out! I agree with Abby that being able to have the whole series is important, I’ll usually let things hang on a bit because we are part of a network and can borrow books quickly but when we only have a few left an can’t replace the series it is time to move on. As for making space we use clear plastic bins (shoebox size about $1 each at Walmart) our shelves are deep enough that they fit with the short ends facing front and they fit about 30 paperbacks. The best part is that they always take up the same amount of space whether there are only a couple of Geronimo Stiltons or 20 checked in so shelves don’t need to be shifted as often.

    1. Abby Johnson

      Ooh, I love this idea for shelving paperback series! We’ve been imagining a world where we don’t have to deal with our terrible series racks – the dividers are at an angle so the books are constantly falling out, books are so very easily mis-shelved by well-meaning kids… Thanks for the idea!

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