Monday, June 04, 2007

Where Do Books Come From?

There are several answers to this question depending on what the asker means. What is the creative origin of a story? What is the physical source of a book? To answer the question in a general way: books come from the creative consciousnesses of their authors and are then sent through a rather complicated publishing process -- moving from author to editorial departments (possibly via an agent) to marketing experts to production people to a sales force to bookstores and libraries. Finally they arrive in the hands of readers. Along the way books are often read in "galley" (pre-publication) form by book reviewers and other folks who then comment on the books as a guide for potential readers.

Libraries most often purchase their books from wholesalers (book distributing businesses in the middle between publishers and libraries) so that they can easily place one order that includes books from numerous publishers. Librarians read professional journals (such as the Horn Book Magazine, Booklist and School Library Journal) to learn about new books and view expert opinions of their value for certain readers. They also go to bookstores to hold and look closely at books they are considering purchasing or to be inspired by books they haven't read anything about. At Lawrence School, the library purchases books throughout most of the school year, in order to respond to the needs and interests of teachers and students. The waiting time for popular books can be fairly long; sometimes wholesalers have run out of particular books and need to wait for the publishers to print more! It takes quite a bit of concentration and organization to keep track of the books a library needs. But that is part of the fun for librarians; it's both challenging and satisfying to try hard to make good choices.

I am thinking about putting out a Suggestion Box for readers in our library, though no one is shy even now about requesting books!