Letter in Library Journal

The following letter may in the May 15th issue of Library Journal. I would be interested to hear people's comments about this letter.
I may have missed a paradigm shift in LJ Book Review policy. LJ reviewed Dorothy Hamilton's Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry (LJ 4/1/10, p. 83), published by iUniverse, possibly the largest print on demand company currently in existence. While I don't in any way impugn the quality of some self-published works-especially given that the large publishers are primarily motivated by dollar currency and not idea currency-I really don't think reviews of self-published works are useful or helpful for collections librarians working with limited budgets and for clientele whose reading choices are largely driven by whatever is reviewed in the mainstream media.

In any given fiscal year, I am typically besieged by dozens of authors peddling their self-published works. In an attempt to mediate sympathy with fiscal responsibility, the policy I instituted...was to welcome donations of self-published works but not to purchase them. Generally, the authors are content just to have their works in the local public library.... Even when a self-published title seems germane to my collections mandate, the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Of course, it becomes awkward when library patrons request this material, but it usually turns out that they are either thinly veiled friends or family of the author.... At the moment, I have a shelf of these books in my office waiting to be cataloged. It is even more difficult to explain to these same people that the cost of acquiring the book doesn't factor in the costs of cataloging and processing. I'd be interested in hearing how other collections librarians handle this.

-Eddie Paul, Bibliographic & Information Svcs., Jewish P.L., Montréal


The review in question said "not recommended for libraries" so I'm not seeing that LJ hurt the letter writer's cause.

So, just because a work is self-published it *automatically* means no library patrons could possibly be interested in it? What a load of self-righteous bullshit. Reviewing them helps us find the gems, just as it does with traditionally published books.

with LJ reviewing these titles. It gives them exposure and allows those libraries looking for works on the subject to find this tough-to-find gems to serve their patron's needs. Get over it.

When the authors live in our town, we buy them. Yes, I do have to perform original cataloging because no other libraries own them, so they are a bit more labor-intensive than the average book, but I think it's great to support our local authors.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad was originally vanity press. If an item appears to be well written, I see no reason why it should not be treated like any other item.

Libraries should not buy books or read reviews about books from POD publishers or books that are printed by a vanity press. They quality of the writing is dubious. I stick with main line publishers because I know I am getting a quality book from them.

Take these examples of excellent books by main line publishers:*

Little Brown - How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

Henry Holt and Co - The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (John MacRae Books)

Anchor - A Million Little Pieces

Riverhead - Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival

* - If the sarcasm does not register with you; read the Wikipedia entry for each of these books.

My thoughts veer towards questioning the "backlog" of cataloging and the unchanged assumptions about the cost of cataloging. So very true one hundred years ago. An embarrassment today.
Johanna Bowen

I am not sure that "self published" should automatically negate the value or quality of a book. Even in the academic world, faculty are considering and using alternative publishing models, especially after tenure has been granted by utilizing the past publishing models.