Hi. My name is Jessica and I'm a bookaholic. I've been reading since I was 4 and I've never stopped since. I try to tell myself that it's not my fault since I come from a family of readers, but my book addiction has even gotten in the way of my adult life on occasion. I go through phases when spend too much money on books and I stay up late reading every night. These phases happen more often then I'd like to admit. My need to read even influenced my career choice. When it came time to pick my path, I knew I wanted something with both art/literature and math/science. You can find that combination in so many careers, like landscape architecture or video game designer. However, when librarianship came up as an option, it was no contest. I get art/literature and math/science and books, books, books. No contest. Since then, it's gotten worse (better?); as my career has evolved, I have developed expertise in running collections in the subjects I love most.
My joking aside, I really do have a love/hate relationship with collection development because of how much I know. At the center of this love/hate are the hardest/easiest of my areas: education, graphic novels, children's literature, fiction. They are easiest because I've been collecting in these areas for years, so I know and do the kinds of things you need to know and do to have a successful collection: I know who the important authors/researchers are; I'm aware of the trends and up-and-coming voices; I know which publications/publishers to monitor for new directions; and I regularly check in with people in my community who know. They are hardest because of the passion I have for them
If you're confused about why having a passion for something can make it harder to do, let me refer you back to the first part of the title of this post: "The Fox in Charge of the Hen House." I love children's literature so much that it sometimes confuses people that I'm not a children's librarian. My opinions about genre fiction, and fiction in general, are such that I have an ongoing, friendly argument with an English professor about "what is a good book?" I'm a big-time comic book nerd, even though I wasn't before becoming a librarian. And my second master's degree is in education. What I'm getting at here is that it's hard not to let my personal tastes and interests constantly influence what I buy for the collection.
I say "constantly influence" instead of just "influence" because I know it's fine, even expected in some circumstances, for a librarian's personal tastes to influence what he or she buys. If the purpose of a collection is to suit the needs of the members of your community, then it's important to remember that the librarian is also a member of that community. So, sure, there are maybe a few more children's books about cats in our children's literature collection than there might have been with someone else in charge of the collection, but the balance is still there. (In my defense, I'm not the only one in my community with a penchant kitty cat kid lit.) Besides, if you could see the length of my "To Read" list, you'd know that this librarian/fox has learned some self-restraint when it comes to devouring the books/hens.
So, what about you? If you have collection development responsibilities, what are your hardest/easiest areas and how do you find the balance? If you aren't responsible for collection development, what do you think would be hardest for you and why?