With her bachelor’s degree in hand, the business of books had already proved to be a field Ann thoroughly enjoyed and one for which she possessed a natural talent. Throughout childhood, she’d escaped through books, and as a college undergraduate, she’d begun working at a well-known local bookstore. By graduation, she’d worked her way up to become a manager.
After college, there were offers to edit magazines, but Ann instead chose to become a district manager for a large bookstore chain. She thrived in the role, but after the birth of her daughter, she realized the frequent work travel would no longer work. So, she became a stay-at-home mom, during which time she obtained her master’s degree from the University of Tennessee.
On her daughter’s first day of kindergarten, Ann began a new position as a reference librarian for a busy public library. She remained there for 7 years, until she one day she saw a job posting for the Manager of Collection Development Programs at Ingram Content Group. With ample library and retail book experience, it seemed a perfect fit for Ann, and ever since she joined Ingram 10 years ago this month, it has been.
Promoted to Senior Manager of Collection Development in the fall of 2019, Ann now oversees a staff of 11 master’s-degreed librarians, a highly skilled data analyst, and 4 talented administrators.
Which skills and/or qualifications do you feel are vital to your job?
I’ve been involved in bookselling and collection development since the early 90s, and there are 2 primary skills I bring from previous positions that are vital to my current role as Senior Manager of Collection Development: management and book knowledge.
Considering collection development from a marketing perspective helps determine what’s going to circulate. At the same time. thinking about things from a customer’s perspective is essential to our success in working for our customers’ success. We must anticipate our libraries’ and their patrons’ needs and be proactive in response. At other times, as last year taught us, we have to react and pivot to unexpected circumstances.
Talk a little about obstacles Collection Development faced, and might continue to face, as a result of the pandemic. How did Covid-19 influence the way Collection Development works with publishers and libraries?
On an immediate level, it led to the shrinking of our physical workspace and processes. Before last March, we worked at one specific location, we touched and looked at physical copies of titles, we met face-to-face with publishers. Almost overnight, all of that disappeared.
For 10 months now, most of us have worked from home exclusively, and like other organizations, we had never expected this drastic change. But we’ve done it, and continue to do it, well. Still, that victory doesn’t come without glitches and adjusted expectations. Even though librarians are known to be introverts, we’re a very connected group here in Collection Development. We work very well together and have our own book club and renowned annual Halloween celebrations, for example. When many Ingram departments – hundreds of employees – began working from home last March, we galvanized as a company and as a department while the physical space between us dispersed. We had to adjust to supporting our customers in this new paradigm, because their worlds had turned upside down.
We remotely helped thousands of our library customers who had to put their orders on hold. We also began meeting virtually with publishers, though some were gone for weeks at a time. While doing that, we consistently communicated to our customers that we were here for them, and that we would continue to be. During a time when other vendors were abandoning customers or frozen in fear, ILS stayed open, communicated constantly, and supported libraries in a way that no one else did."
Which Collection Development accomplishment from 2020 are you most proud of, and why?
We rolled out two new services – iCurate Coming Soon in late 2019 and iCurate Core in early 2020. Of all our achievements, I’m most proud of these, because they incorporate some of our best services and make them more affordable for a greater number of libraries to enjoy. This can make a big difference for a lot of library customers who have limited collection development budgets, especially now, and who otherwise might not be able to afford custom lists of forthcoming titles or a thorough gap analysis.
Transitioning to SQL for the adult team, which made our work processes more effective, was instrumental in creating Core and Coming Soon. We do the same evaluation as for custom lists, but we can accomplish this in significantly less time and distribute to more than one customer efficiently. The result is quality lists for a fraction of the cost.
As we begin a New Year – 2021 – what are your hopes and goals for Collection Development in terms of our customers?
This is difficult because we are not yet at the end of the COVID tunnel, and as we write this, we are hitting new hospitalization numbers and some libraries are shutting down again. Still, we want to keep dreaming and moving forward, and we have an exciting new service that one of our Collection Development Librarians created to help libraries that we will share early 2021. As librarians, we are helpers, and we want to be able to partner with our librarian customers, especially during the hardest times. It’s great to work for a company that took precautions while also keeping up with the work—we always want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
What book are you reading, or did you most recently read?
I usually read 3 books at a time, one fiction and two nonfiction on disparate topics. I just read Whale Day, a collection of poetry by Billy Collins. I love him to the point that other people at Ingram joke about it. And I needed something that would help me think, laugh, and look at the world from an odd but hopeful way.
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
I really like problem solving, and a lot of this job involves just that. When identifying what a library needs and determining how we can best meet those needs, there’s always something to think about and almost always different ways to tackle that something. And I value the fact that we can continually adapt and improve.
What most surprises you about Ingram and/or the publishing industry in general?
For almost 30 years, I have been struck by how down-to-earth and truly kind people in the book publishing world prove themselves to be. They are intentionally, purposefully thoughtful and generous. I’ve read that reading builds empathy, and, from my experience, I believe this to be true.
What’s something you wish more librarians knew about the Collection Development team and/or our services?
I wish more library employees knew how much support our Collection Development team provides, whether as part of our services, like iCurate Coming Soon, or our complimentary ipage lists that we regularly update.
I also wish our customers realized that if they have a question or a particular need, all they have to do is ask someone on our Collection Development team for assistance. As a former public librarian, I can understand why they might not inquire, because it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask my vendor for something I felt I should do myself. But that’s precisely why we’re here: to help. If a library receives grant money, for example, we’ll build lists specifically for that library. And we’re happy to problem-solve with them, because we’ve all been there ourselves.
Talk a little about one thing you’re learning right now. What do you hope it will teach you, and what’s the significance of that?
Over the last year or so, I’ve been relearning to paint, which is something I hadn’t done in a long time. I hope it will teach me to see things as they are, not as how I think they are. This is a fundamental concept in painting, and one I think we struggle with in life, as well. We think we see people accurately, but in actuality, we peg them according to how we classify them. Painting teaches how to extricate ourselves from bias and preconceived notions.