Ingram Blog

Get to Know (Y)our Collection Development Team: Becky Walton

Becky read her first Stephen King novel as a middle-schooler. And, just like that, she became a lifelong, devoted reader. A self-described book nerd.

 “From then on, I was known as the girl who always had a paperback in her hand,” says Becky, laughing. “I read in between classes and any other time I could, and I continued this through high school.” 

Becky devoured any book she could get her hands on, but King’s novels spoke to her. He wrote characters she could identify with, and eventually Becky realized this was because King’s protagonists are often people who are different in some way, perhaps especially shy, like Becky was.

After graduating with a BA in Business, Becky worked in academia and, later, in a law office, but neither environment felt true to her. She felt professionally adrift. One Sunday morning at church, however, a well-known parishioner, who was the well-respected town librarian, played a lovely piece on guitar. Enjoying the music, Becky’s thoughts wandered until, suddenly, it occurred to her: librarianship! That’s it!

It was a lightbulb moment. So, that fall, she enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s distance M.L.I.S program and, in 1995, obtained her degree. In the intervening 25 years, which includes 13 years working in a county public library system as well as at Ingram, she has never looked back. For Becky, becoming a librarian is one of the best and most life-changing decisions she has made.

What is your role in Collection Development?

I’m a Collection Development Librarian for adult nonfiction, and I manage the Forthcoming Popular Nonfiction standing order program.

What are some changes you’ve seen in your position over the 12 years you’ve been with Ingram?

When we migrated several years ago from Access to an SQL-based platform, it completely transformed our work. We became much more productive and efficient. In the process of transitioning, programmers worked with us for months and learned our workflow needs. The result is an incredibly powerful, proprietary database tailored specifically to our needs as a department serving libraries’ collection development strategies.

We can immediately evaluate and eliminate titles if inappropriate for a public library. We can apply value-added metadata (gained from many sources, especially with our industry knowledge and meetings with the publishing houses) to a big pool of titles. This enables us to select titles that will meet the needs of patrons in a particular community, be it a small library in Alaska, a large library in New York, a library that needs popular titles only, a library that wants classics and standards, and on and on.

In other words, SQL is much more agile for what we strive to do. It allows us to target a specific library's community and build a collection that will delight, educate, amaze them... and that will circulate highly!

How have you made your position your own?

Because I always was sheltered and a little quirky as a teen, there were things my peers understood that I didn’t. I remember when someone in high school once used a word that everyone else in the group got but I’d never heard before. I was far too self-conscious to ask anyone to explain it, so I simply checked out a book from the library and read it to learn the word’s meaning. As soon as I understood what it meant and its proper context, I wasn’t as intimidated.

So, as a collection development librarian, I want to ensure everyone’s worldview is represented, and that everyone’s information needs are supported in their libraries. Maybe there’s another shy teenage girl out there looking for something to help her feel more confident and connected to her classmates. I want to make sure there’s at least something in the library for her.

Can you talk a little about what changes you’ve seen in popular nonfiction, as a genre?

At the adult level, there are far more political books. And, for children, certain publishers are more intentional about publishing books that really engage kids intellectually and emotionally. There are more titles now that try to teach kids to think critically, to ask questions, and to be better citizens.

What have you learned in your role at Ingram?

That just when you think there are no other topics a person could possibly write about, along comes a book that will happily surprise me! There are always exciting new books!

What do you enjoy most about being a Collection Development Librarian?

Learning about forthcoming books before the general public does. I love the thrill of harboring a fun little secret. Plus, I’m very nosy, so there’s that. I love the fact that librarians get paid to be curious.

What would you like customers to know about Ingram?

I’d like customers to know that, like them, we’re librarians too. We adhere to a code of ethics, and we know you’re responsible for your taxpayers’ dollars. My colleagues and I want to give you books that are going to be wildly popular, that are going to wear out, and that you’ll have to replace to fulfill community demand.

What would you like to say to customers?

We care about your library and your customers as much as you do. When we’re selecting titles for complimentary lists or more specialized projects, we put ourselves in your shoes. Always.