It's not exactly a huge secret that libraries receive donated books. It's also not a huge secret that some of these donated books can end up in the library's circulating collection. This is how a lot of libraries supply their paperback collection, which I am vehemently opposed to. Yes, put some donated paperbacks in your collection, but for the love of all that is holy, don't make donated paperbacks 100% of your collection. You'll have a really shitty collection. Just sayin'.
As the adult fiction buyer for a large library system, I do actively purchase paperbacks. Not as many as I should, but probably more than some of the librarians want me to. Hey, circulation numbers don't lie. That's all I'm saying. Ahem, anyway.....
We do still supplement our collection with donations. I don't think this is a bad thing. I do my best to take care of all the "big" stuff with central funds, and donations are there to sort of round it out. Frankly, I don't have the money to buy every single romance published every month. Nor would I want to, since we'd run out of shelving space (and money) rather quickly. So yes, donations are good.
We tend to do paperback donations on the fly. The branch gets together a stack of what they'd like to add, then they send the information (author, title, ISBN) directly to cataloging, who then throws up a brief record so the title is searchable in our catalog. That's about it. Piece of cake. Even though I'm in charge of buying the adult fiction, I never saw these donations. They were out of my hands. Which was fine, in theory...until I got control issues.
So I asked my boss to put me on the distribution list for when these titles were sent straight to cataloging. I'm not micro-managing. I'm not vetoing any of them and I don't slow down the work flow. No, I just wanted to see what was being added. Mostly out of curiosity, mostly to make sure I hadn't fudged up. Oh, like the time I forgot to buy a Lorraine Heath book, a donated copy got added to the collection, and the waiting list immediately shot up. (For the record, I think it was In Bed With The Devil, and yes, I immediately banged my head against my desk and ordered copies).
I don't like being surprised. That, and I'm a freak. So now I'm seeing all the donated paperbacks coming in through cataloging. And I have to say, it's been surprising.
I assumed that most of what I would be seeing were Harlequin Presents. Or as I like to call them, Those Books With The White Covers And Dreadful Titles. So imagine my shock that after a month of seeing the incoming donations that the HP line has been seriously dwarfed by....
Harlequin SuperRomance and Harlequin Historical.
Well I'll be dipped.
Certainly this is hardly a scientific study, but I'd always heard that the HP line was Harlequin's best seller. Maybe HP readers are keeping all those books about billionaires, mistresses and tycoons? Maybe HSR readers skew "older," those readers have more disposable income and are therefore more likely to donate their unwanted books to libraries instead of, say, trading them on sites like Paperback Swap or taking them to the used bookstore?
Although that doesn't sound right, because I love the HSR line and I'm not that "old." Not yet anyway.
Who the heck knows?
I'm finding it very interesting though, and more than a little enlightening. But I'm a geek like that, and tomorrow I'll work on getting a life.