March 5, 2019
The almighty library book selectors
by Christina Cerio
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has 16 selectors and helpers. These 16 people are responsible for choosing the books that get a space on the shelves that will later be shared freely with New York City residents. Winnie Hu of The New York Times reports that to hold this honorable title, you must have a masters degree in library science and a love of reading. Who in their right mind pursues a masters degree in library science and doesn’t love reading?! Anyways… The selectors are responsible for filling the shelves with books that all kinds of people would like to read, not just their favorite releases.
There aren’t enough minutes in the day, however, to read all the books they bring in. Hu writes that more that 476,000 books were added to the NYPL last year alone. That would come to 29,750 books per selector, per year— 81 books per person, per day—and that only includes the books that were accepted! Some books, however, don’t need to be read to get a spot on the shelf. Best selling authors or additions to popular series are usually automatic shoo-ins, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming or the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.
Hu shares a few instances where the library patrons decided what books to bring in. There was a self-published book that was originally overlooked by the selectors but was brought in after it was requested by multiple library patrons. Some immigrants ask their local librarians for books in their first language and some picks are based on the ever-changing dieting or cooking trend that library goers want to try out.
TL;DR: Although the selectors have the powerful sounding title, the real power is held by members of the community. Providing free access to great books for the community, after all, is what libraries are all about.
Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.