This article, by Elizabeth Taylor, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on October 15, 2023.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there’s debate over who has the best job at the library. Everyone else is wrong; I have the very best job at Pima County Public Library. Yes, I’m the winner, it’s me. As the adult nonfiction buyer in the Collection Development Office, it’s my job to select nonfiction titles in all subject areas, in all formats, for all the libraries. It’s amazing!
Imagine if you walked into a massive bookstore with the goal of buying materials for everyone in your huge family. These relatives of yours are voracious readers with wide-ranging interests: your aunt is traveling to France, your niece is taking the MCAT, and your dad has questions on pickleball’s kitchen rules. Your cousins require new amigurumi patterns, your mom is redecorating, and your friends are foraging for mushrooms (please be careful!). Did I mention the cookbooks?! If you ever see dozens of them hit the catalog at once, I confess, I was hungry. Each day is an adventure in discovering future releases; I’m making decisions on what to buy, how many copies to get, and what library to send them to. Tomorrow, my family might have moved onto different topics, like enneagrams, preparing for the Gem & Mineral Show, or raising chickens. While I’m not a subject matter expert, (what is Python again?), it’s my goal to select items covering a range of subjects and interests for all library customers.
In addition to selecting nonfiction, I am one of several Collection Development staff who review and respond to your Suggestions for Purchase. Some library materials are purchased based on our vendors suggesting titles to us, titles expected to be popular and of interest nationally, some are automatic purchases based on author popularity, and other purchases are requests from library customers. Reviewing your suggestions is one of the most fascinating parts of collection development, in a “our customers ask for the darndest things” kind of way. And we love it. It’s a peek into the community’s interests, and while we can’t always get what is requested, we do look at every title. My favorite part of suggestions is when we get multiple requests for the same item at almost the same time, because it’s so obviously trending, thank you Oprah, Reese, the Nobel Committee, etc. I also love/hate when customers request titles releasing months in the future. I know you’re SO EXCITED, and I’m excited for you. That you are willing to wait months, maybe over a year, just to check it out from PCPL, makes me wish I could get it for you sooner!
I wanted to be a librarian, (or an astronaut), since I was little because libraries are just the coolest – there’s a book for everything! Friends and family having been suffering from years of me following them around describing my workplace purchases. “Today I bought a book on the history of ice, it looks really neat…don’t you want to learn about zambonis?!” (Ice: From Mixed Drink to Skating Rinks by Amy Brady, FYI.) Or maybe a not-so-subtle interruption, “cough, cough there’s a book for that…”. To be in my vicinity is to subject yourself to an ongoing commentary of “I bought that”, “Book X is releasing next month”, and random “did you know” trivia I’ve picked up while looking over both nonfiction titles and customer suggestions.
The best part of the best job is there’s always new materials to buy. Not a single day passes without adding cool and interesting materials to PCPL’s collection…and if you ever wondered who ordered ten different cookbooks about pie, well, that was me.
Elizabeth Taylor is celebrating her 11th year at Pima County Public Library. She is an avid reader and a member of the Library’s Ravenous Readers team. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, and of course, reading.