Sacramento Public Library

Meet the Selectors: Barrie and Chelsea

Where do our books come from? Go behind the scenes with our dedicated selectors.
Did you enjoy the last book you checked out from the Sacramento Public Library? If you so, you might want to thank Barrie Olmstead and Chelsea Couillard-Smith. After all, they selected it.
Barrie is our adult materials selector, while Chelsea chooses our youth materials. They each select not just books but ebooks, audiobooks, DVDs and more—a total of about 6,000 titles per month for adults, teens and children.
Our selectors also try to predict what’s going to be popular ahead of time by following professional journals, blogs, talk shows, entertainment magazines and other forms of popular media. By having access to publishing industry information like print runs, media plans and publicity tours, selectors can sometimes anticipate when a successful author is about to become a mega-successful one. A good example is when Barrie ordered extra copies of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn—before it became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller for eight consecutive weeks.
Both respond to patron requests and keep an eye on what titles are building up long wait lists. They also try to keep in regular touch with patrons and other staff. After all, many librarians are also big readers.
“Staff members email me the books they are reading,” Barrie said. “It’s a great variety, and the books I hear about are a daily reminder of how widely we all read and how wonderfully diverse our staff is.”
Chelsea regularly posts reading challenges and book reviews on the Library’s Goodreads page, and tracks other popular titles people post there. You can also find her working the desk in the Kids Place at the Central Library at least an hour a week in order to keep an eye on what kids are reading.
But she doesn’t just choose for us: Chelsea recently served on the John Newbery Medal committee, which annually selects the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
“I’m always on the hunt for high-quality titles that will appeal to our diverse community of young readers and encourage exploration and discovery,” Chelsea said.
Perhaps the most impressive detail about the good work our selectors do is how far they have to stretch a dollar. The Sacramento Public Library has less than half of the per capita materials budget of the average American library.* In order to bridge that gap, our selectors say they go for quality and diversity of titles to meet the needs of the community.
*Source: IMLS Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2011

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