Ask a Librarian: Mandy Peterson

Putting your titles in the hands of librarians is an important part of any book’s success story. Librarians build collections for their library branch, pick titles for their own reading groups, and were the original comp-title recommendation engines before the age of algorithms. Librarians are book advocates in their community and beyond!

In our Ask A Librarian series, we ask librarians on NetGalley about what makes their community special, what they read, and how they stay up to date with the best new titles for their patrons.

Mandy Peterson, a Library Media Specialist at a high school library in Schuyler, Nebraska, fills us in about her work below:

Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services

Schuyler is a small town of about 6,300 in an area of Nebraska known for farming, ranching, and packing plants. Within the last fifteen years, our community has changed from mostly Caucasian rural folks to a vibrant mix of Hispanic immigrants, African and Middle Eastern refugees, and its original inhabitants. This rather sudden change has led to a community struggling to figure out who they are together. Since I work in the high school with around 650 of the area’s youth, my patrons range in age from 14-21 and speak a variety of languages. Our students are coming of age and finding their identity in a new home, in a new country, and within a community that is finding its own identity. It’s a very exciting time to serve them!

What resources or programs make your library unique?

I’m not sure how unique it is, but we have a Spanish section with both nonfiction and fiction materials. We also mark High Interest Low Ability books with a small black dot and shelve them with the rest of the library’s collection so students who struggle with language, ability, or desire to read can identify books that may serve their needs without being singled out. After a student survey, I spent the end of the school year reorganizing our fiction section by genre. Over 96% of our students voted for the change!

Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in?

Quick reads, no matter the level, are popular in my school. High school students are spread thin with homework, activities, and jobs. They want quality material without a bunch of extra. These are books we need more of. Often, our students like longer books but simply don’t have the time to finish them. Realistic fiction (gritty or romance), science fiction and fantasy, and mystery are the most commonly read genres right now, but every book has its reader. I’m completely open to recommendations!

What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print?

Although our district provides an iPad for school use to every teacher and student at the high school, our eBook check out is not very high. Students have mentioned that they prefer physical books. Reading on paper helps them retain the information and shows their teachers that they aren’t messing around when they should be working. 98% of my circulation is physical books.

What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection?

NetGalley is one of the primary resources. I also follow Epic Reads and many publishers on my library’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Amazon’s Coming Soon section has saved me a few times from missing sequels or new releases from authors my patrons love.

What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley?

I head straight for the Teens and YA section, sort by Publishing date, and start looking. If I see books my patrons will like (for example, from an established author), I screenshot the cover and release date and drop it into a folder on my desktop to remind myself to order the book later. If it’s an author I haven’t heard of or an author I love in particular, I will request books that interest me. About 90% of the time, we wind up purchasing those for our library. We love supporting independent authors that we have found through NetGalley, too!

What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books? Cover? Title? Description?

I am a cover junkie. My students are, too. (Someone please update covers for classics!) It’s very difficult for me to circulate a book without an appealing, genre-appropriate cover. Descriptions are important too. Most patrons look on the back of the book for descriptions, not the inside flap. I see a lot of books put down if the description isn’t on the back.

If you’re looking for ways to engage librarians like Mandy on NetGalley, remember to auto-approve all members of the ALA, and include your titles in the NetGalley newsletter: Librarian Edition. And, be sure your cover art is eye-catching! Check out our Cover Love winners for inspiration. You can nominate your own title for Cover Love here. The promotion is free if your title is selected. And, check out the rest of our Ask a Librarian series!

How have you successfully engaged librarians? Email insights@netgalley.com with your story. We look forward to featuring your successes on future Insights posts.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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