Rebecca Allsopp: self-publishing and library collections

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My problem is about library responses to changes in the publishing industry, specifically with regard to the increasing popularity of self-publishing. As the number of self-published works increases so too does the variety. The extant collection of self-published works now includes everything from traditional “vanity press” titles to (a few) genre best-sellers by first-time authors to established authors who reject publishers’ offers in favor of a DIY approach.

Collection development policies typically do not include self-published works unless there is a high public demand for a particular title. This is a responsive policy, but as the publishing world changes and self-publishing becomes more established and respected, libraries will need to be more pro-active in their selection of self-published works.

My question is how to develop new policies that allow for greater inclusion of self-published titles while still maintaining the role of the library as an arbiter of quality. This is not so much a question of which titles to add to the library (this will still be subject to local needs and purposes and gets to the theoretical heart of what a library should be) but how to identify and acquire relevant, quality self-published works given limited staff, time, and financial resources.

Rebecca Allsopp

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There are 2 comments. Add yours.

  1. Rebecca, and Jamie LaRue, I commend you both on your desire to include self-published works that are popular and of merit on library digital shelves. As the author of Self-Publishing for Virgins: The first time author’s guide to self-publishing, and as a book coach, and editor, I have helped many authors independently publish their books. The New York Times best seller lists include many self-published titles. It would be a shame if libraries did not include some of the valuable, and quality books available from indie authors. As the new publishing paradigm unfolds, we see more and more that readers determine what is read instead of a few editors, sitting in isolation in New York ivory towers. It is my hope that libraries, by providing access to good books no matter how they come to market, will play a vital role in giving fair access to both traditionally and self-published works. As libraries morph into cultural centers rather than archival depositories, readers will want and demand access to the books they want to read, and they won’t care how those books came into being. Thank you for your dedication to giving access to good books … no matter what their publishing background.

  2. Hi there. We’re working on the same issues. Our new digital branch will role out with about 11,000 titles from commercial publishers, about 8,000 of independent and small presses, and 10,000 self-published (provided by Smashwords.com). I think you’re right: self-publishing will be huge, and we need to start getting smart about it.

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