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Canadian Books Count… A Study of the Ontario School Library and Public Library Acquisition Process

December 12, 200612 December 2006

Literacy, Libraries and Publishing

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This report, based on interviews and an online survey with library sector representatives, highlights the acquisitions processes in Ontario public and school libraries, especially with regard to Canadian books. The results are intended to assist publishers in marketing to library decision-makers.

The report finds that wholesalers, or “jobbers”, play an important role in library acquisitions, with purchases through jobbers representing 81% of public library purchases and 57% of school library purchases. According to the report, wholesalers “deliver two important benefits to under-staffed and under-budgeted libraries: the convenience of one-stop shopping and volume discounts”. The role of jobbers is even more important than a simple wholesaling function, because they often play an important role in decisions regarding which books to buy.

In public libraries, patron and staff requests are also important influences on title selection. In school libraries, curriculum connection is most important, with teacher and student requests also having a significant impact. Other factors include awards, nominations, book reviews and Canadian content or authorship. The report notes that, “while it is ‘never the most important factor’, Canadian authorship, content, setting and themes are generally taken into consideration when librarians select books for their collections.”

Despite the interest in Canadian books, the report finds a lack of awareness of Canadian books and authors as well as significant difficulty in identifying which authors are Canadian. Because of this, Canadian-authored books are not tracked in most libraries’ collections. In libraries for which an estimate of the proportion of Canadian books in their collections was provided, the average proportion was about 26% for public libraries and 34% for school libraries.

In order to encourage librarians to buy more Canadian books, the report recommends that the publishing sector create and adopt criteria regarding the definition of “Canadian books”. The publishing sector is also encouraged to raise awareness of Canadian-authored books and to make Canadian books easier to find and identify. Funding issues are also important: many librarians indicated that “increased library budgets and government grants aimed at the specific purchase of Canadian books would also contribute to raising Canadian content in library collections”.

With regard to what messages publishers should communicate to librarians to increase the purchases of Canadian books, the survey found that librarians “strongly agree that it is important ‘to have Canadian books in libraries’ and ‘to encourage the writing and publishing of Canadian books’.” In terms of how publishers should communicate with librarians, the survey found that a variety of communications methods would be required, including email, the internet, the media, book reviews and journals.

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