Know Your Sources: Breaking Down Journal Reviews

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

shutterstock_406713271Journal reviews have long been a staple of materials selection, helping librarians decide how to spend their precious resources. It’s extremely important to understand what types of materials journals cover, in what quantities and when, in order to capture the most timely, relevant, and vetted materials your patrons will want to borrow.

For adult selection, everyone knows the heavy hitters are Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Library Journal Prepub Alert, and Publishers Weekly. For teen selection, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and VOYA are the most dominant. For juvenile selection, the major journals to consult are Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal.

Though its coverage is considerably smaller, BookPage offers a good representation of key adult titles. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB) and Horn Book are also smaller, but vital for gaining insight into youth selection.

The chart below shows the approximate number of 2017 reviews, broken down by audience and classification.

Journal-1

Knowing what your favorite journals cover is only half the picture. You must also be aware of how far in advance materials are reviewed. Staying informed of prepublication titles is crucial to anticipating demand.

Journals-prepub

The chart above and table below underscore that the bulk of 2017 reviews appeared within a month or two of a title’s publication. With the exception of adult fiction and some nonfiction (LJ Prepub Alert), it is rare to get more than three months’ advance notice of an important title. It is also interesting to note the number of reviews that appear many months after publication.

Journal

Here’s a quick overview of the main journal sources.

  • Booklist covers titles for all ages from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • BookPage contains primarily adult titles from the current month.
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books focuses on juvenile and teen from one month before, through one month after publication.
  • Horn Book offers juvenile and teen titles from the current month and one month after publication.
  • Kirkus leans more toward adult titles but also has a strong representation of teen and juvenile titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • Library Journal is a resource for adult titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • Library Journal Prepub Alert focuses on adult titles six months prepublication.
  • Publisher’s Weekly also leans more toward adult titles but also features teen and juvenile titles from three months prepublication through six months post-publication.
  • School Library Journal is for teen and juvenile, three months before through six months after publication.
  • VOYA is for teen, two months before through six months after publication.

shutterstock_437872339Clearly, not all journal sources are created equal. When choosing which journals to consult, it’s important to consider audience, coverage, and timeliness. In general, reviews for adult and juvenile materials outnumber those for teens. Fiction is covered more thoroughly—and sooner—than nonfiction. And some collections such as board books, large print, and Spanish rarely get reviewed. Some of these discrepancies are a simple reflection of the publishing industry (for example, there are far more adult books published every year than there are books for teens).

But journals are just one piece of the collection development puzzle. Bestseller lists, awards, and forthcoming title lists should all be utilized to ensure a well-rounded representation of material. Taking into account sales demand and print run is also a great way to keep up with what’s trending. Combine these with your own personal expertise and you will be well-equipped to make purchasing decisions that will instruct and delight your patrons.

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

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