The Power of Lists

I was going to make the Popular Paperbacks post my example of why lists matter, but then I realized it would be buried in a post about one list.

I was going to wait until after my state Young Adult Services Section  had finished all its deliberations about the Garden State Teen Book Award lists, but then decided it was better to tie that all together in a general post later this spring about state teen choice book award lists.

But I have my cup of coffee, and in many responses to the recent list discussions I’ve seen and read “it’s just a list, why the fuss.” So, and I’ll try not to be my usual wordy self, I just wanted to note why from a library perspective lists matter.

This is based on my personal knowledge — what I’ve done. What I know other librarians do from talking to them or reading their blogs or listserv comments or chatting in Twitter and the  like. If your experience varies, please share in the comments so we all have a broader understanding.

Libraries uses lists, from places like YALSA and ALSC to lists from websites and magazines, for collection development. A list from a respected organization, publication, or blog comes out and the librarian takes the list, checks the shelves for what the library owns and does not own, and in reliance on the entity behind the list buys the books.

The books being on the shelf now means teens can find them and read them. (Sorry, I have to be wordy, but see now the power of that list and the librarian, and how the end reader does not realize that the book is being read because their library has a teen librarian and a list existed! If asked, “why did you read Book X” they will only say “it was on the shelf,” and how often do we wonder why it was on the shelf?)

Booktalking (or, as booksellers call it, handselling) will be based on these lists and will be done in a variety of ways: formal classroom booktalks at schools, one-one-one discussions with individuals, displays, bookmarks, online lists. Often, to fill the need of more readers wanting these books, multiple copies will be bought for the increased readership.

Teachers looking to encourage reading will also use these lists to purchase books to create classroom sets, have book discussions, or encourage reading. So, again, more readers.

Does every list have this power? No. But before dismissing the power of individual blog lists (like, for example, my own personal Favorites Read lists), I want to share something I’m hearing and seeing more and more, both in person at conferences and online in listservs etc. And that is librarians saying they make decisions about books (purchasing, displaying, booktalking) based on blogs. Personally, in terms of library collection development policies as well as book challenge policies, I believe that those librarians are also relying on professional review journals but I can easily see blog lists/reviews being read first, a decision made to purchase, and then professional reviews found to meet policy.

8 thoughts on “The Power of Lists

  1. Well said.

    One point I’d like to make — my budget will only allow me to subscribe to SLJ and Library Media Connections. They cannot review every book that’s published. Therefore, I do depend on blogs and lists to introduce titles to me that I wouldn’t hear about otherwise.


  2. Lists influence individual readers as well. If I see a list of favorite reads (such as yours) from a trusted blog I’ll be more inclined to read what is on it as I’m seeking out other recommendations.


  3. I think blog lists can be really helpful because they tend to go more in-depth about why a book was, or was not, included. Also, if you’ve been reading a blog for awhile, it’s not hard to get a good sense of what the blogger’s tastes are and how they align with our tastes and those of your customers.


  4. For me, it’s about knowing WHO (whether individual or group) created a list, and WHY they created it. I like to know what standards were used in deciding to include a book in a list. I add the books from both the Printz Award and honorees and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers to my collection, even though they are very different lists, because I know why those lists were created, and what place those books have in my collection.

    As for getting reviews from blogs, like Paige, I can only afford a couple professional journals, so have to rely on other sources. And like Jennie, I feel like I’ve gotten to “know” a few of my favorite book bloggers (several of whom also write professional reviews in the journals I can’t afford), so when I read their reviews I can easily get a sense of whether the book they’re reviewing will fit in my collection–and often which students I’ll do best recommending it to.


  5. Well said, Liz. I am a big believer in lists as a source of good reading.

    I am currently reading a book that I got from the Best Translated Books 2010 longlist: Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation, translated from the German by Susan Berofsky (for adults, but some teens might like it too). I would not have found it if not for that list. It is an excellent books of connected stories about a house near Berlin–and about 20th century Germany but told through the stories of individuals.


  6. Michelle, have I ever talked about how I’ll pick up professional library books from the 1960s on, the kind that are full of “best of…” lists, and read them? I adore lists.

    Jennie, very true that the longer you’ve read a blog, the greater the trust in the list. And yes for the indepth part. Note to self: I still haven’t done just 1 blog post of all my 2010 Favorites with that type of annotations.

    Sara, I think a real benefit for blogs is the librarian who can figure out what bloggers have tastes (or teen readers) that match the kids & teens in the library. For me, one of those “go to” bloggers is Jen at Reading Rants. So fab.

    Susan, you always do great compilations of lists!

    And stars! I love the people who star-count books so I don’t have to.


  7. Excellent post! As a librarian who has some say in the YA collection development at my library, I definitely rely on lists and blogs when I make recommendations for books that we buy. I also rely heavily on lists and blogs when I’m conducting reader’s advisory with our patrons.


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