What Was I Thinking? Confessions of a Selector

June 15, 2011

In 1999 when I was just beginning my library career in Kansas City, KS, I once ordered an item on my children’s branch budget that turned out to be about 30% board book and 70% soap on a rope.  The Acquisitions staff there couldn’t resist teasing me about this.  Unsuitable either for return or for use in programming, the item hung in their department as a totem to taunt me into humility on subsequent visits.  This is when I first learned to be wary of “consumables.” 

This error was a relief, though.  At that time Baker and Taylor sold movie standees that would come up when you searched for a movie title to purchase. I realized uneasily I was only one stray mouse click away from accidentally ordering one of those displays rather than the movie itself, to the tune of $800.  Fortunately it never happened.

More recently, I have come to regard a few other choices I’ve made with gentle regret.  One of the most disappointing personally was poet David Slavitt’s George Sanders, Zsa Zsa and Me (2009), which managed to make Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Sanders uninteresting.  The Booklist review did warn “[Slavitt’s] memory in this deliberately unresearched piece serves him disastrously”* but I thought there had to be something juicy and witty in it.  I was wrong.  

Another dud that’s landed with a thud is My Dad is a Bro by the editors of Brobible.com.  I thought something like this would have Father’s Day appeal, but with less than a week to go only 2 copies are out and 3 on shelf.   I don’t blame people for mostly passing on this one.  Its series of gag photos with captions is more groans than giggles.   At least it wasn’t expensive.  If you feel charitable do you think you could give it a try?

Sometimes an item is otherwise great, but something about it makes it less suitable for circulation.  This was the case with Blood and Ink: The Art of the Tattoo by Russ Thorne (2011), a neat book about the history and symbolism of tattoo designs.  The problem is it contained a removable section of tattoo labels right in the middle of its binding.  We are circulating these without that section but it may shorten their life a bit. Handle with care.


*Olson, Ray. “George Sanders, Zsa Zsa, and Me.” Booklist 106.5 (2009): 16. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 15 June 2011.

Posted by Darren



5 Responses to “What Was I Thinking? Confessions of a Selector”

  1. Becky Says:

    I have to really look at the tarot books. Many of them come with a deck of tarot cards. Those tattoo books are always tricky.

    It’s hard to tell when a workbook is write-in or just thought exercises.

    Test books are listed “consumable” but we still need to keeep up with the incessant demand.

  2. David Says:

    My favorite “What were they thinking?” example was in a libary that subscribed to “TV Guide” — you couldn’t check it out when it was current, and nobody wanted it the following week.

  3. Nancy Says:

    Aw, heck, as long as we’re confessing, here’s my dirty little secret: Dave Eggers’ book WHY DID YOUR GRANDFATHER SEND YOU THIS PICTURE OF ME? I thought it was odd that there was no review but Dave Eggers is Dave Eggers so I ordered two copies because we had a request. When it arrived, it turned out to be a portfolio of (excellent) drawings (Eggers was a graphic artist at one point in his career).

  4. Darren Says:

    Thanks for the group therapy. It all makes it seem not so bad really.

  5. Jeanne Crisp Says:

    I love the behind-the-scenes insight into how you go about your work. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start sharing my mistakes. It would take too long. But thanks for the chuckles.

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