Gina began her career as an elementary school teacher at a small, private school in Ohio, then moved to a larger school system in Georgia. She believed in teaching’s mission and loved working with her students, but she didn’t care for the overly regimented environment she experienced that she felt prioritized rote learning instead of critical thinking skills, creativity, and a love of learning.
After making the difficult decision to leave teaching, she got a job as a page in a public library, work she thoroughly enjoyed, and considered her future. “I wanted to help make the world a better place and to live a life of servitude. I just had to figure out how to do that!” says Gina. So, she investigated joining the Peace Corps. “When teaching stateside didn’t pan out, I thought teaching overseas as a volunteer just might be the perfect thing. Plus, I wanted to travel, and languages and cultures fascinate me.”
Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances made the Peace Corps an untenable option, but an aunt, who also worked in a library, suggested library school. Gina says it was a “lightbulb moment,” and she enrolled in the MLIS program at Kent State University.
I’ve worked in almost every position existing within a public library. I worked as a Circulation Assistant the entire time I was in library school. Then I took a job as Children’s librarian in South Carolina. Not long after, my manager announced that she was moving out of state for her husband’s job. So, suddenly, I found myself as the temporary branch manager and, soon after that, the permanent branch manager.
Five years later, I took my dream job as a Collection Development Manager back in the Ohio library where I’d begun my career, and I stayed there for 6 years. Then I saw the position at Ingram. Ingram had long been my favorite vendor as a public librarian, so I knew I had to apply. And here I am!
I really like my category because I’m a nerd. I like trivia. Honestly, there is no Dewey range I don’t enjoy (though I admit I could do without test prep). It’s all interesting to me. Collection Development is like dipping your toes in water to find out what else is out there. You learn about things you didn’t know about previously, and how things you DID know about are being covered. You’re always discovering.
I’m reading a children’s fantasy novel called The Library of Ever, which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year in 2019. I’m also reading a sweet little Christian novel I inherited from my mom’s bookshelf. Nothing deep, but very enjoyable.
First, a comfort level with working in spreadsheets, looking at numbers, and data processing. Second, flexibility, because things can shift overnight, so you have to be prepared to change directions. Third, open-mindedness, because you’re searching for the best books in a particular subject area – like test prep books – regardless of how you feel about them. This certainly applies when looking at more controversial topics. You’ve got to set aside your own prejudices to select quality, appropriate titles for your client. With that in mind, fourth: self-awareness.
But the most important thing to know is that you don’t know everything. In collection development at a library, it’s easy to get comfortable with certain authors or topics, and you think you know your library like the back of your hand. But knowledge is always changing, and you might occasionally be surprised at those changes. But you need to respond accordingly.
I experienced this as a collection development librarian with a title like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I started off by buying a couple of copies for a few branches. After I got over my shock at patron demand, I ended up buying a dozen copies for every branch, knowing there would STILL be a huge holds list!
A collection is a shifting target, and we librarians have to be willing to look at trends and patterns, because what you decide is a good title for your library one day could sit and rot on the shelves the next. You just never know.
Ha! I actually DID once have to explain my job to elementary school children. The Children’s Librarian at my library was giving a local 4th grade class a tour of the building, and when they all came into Technical Services, which was where Collection Development was housed, I told the kids that I get paid to buy books for them to enjoy, and that it’s an awesome job! It’s a lot of responsibility, but very fun.
I wish our customers knew the depth and breadth of our knowledge and services we offer to help them. I had no idea about this when I worked in libraries, but I’ve learned this since I’ve come to Ingram. We have the info! Come to us!