I was recently pointed towards a distributor that was said to work with a number of small presses, with the suggestion that I might find some new and exciting things there that I was missing when I was ordering books.

I’m all for new resources, certainly I haven’t figured out everything there is to know about collection development, and so I shuffled over and signed up for an account.

Issue Number 1:  The signature on my work email includes the name of my library. Now, granted, there is both a La Crosse Public and a La Crosse County system, but it’s very clearly specified in the email I sent requesting an account where I belong. So when I got my sign in confirmation and logged in to be welcomed as La Crosse County, I was a little thrown. As there was no where for me to fix this problem, I needed to contact Customer Service again.

Issue Number 2: There are two options of finding materials on this site: search through their “topical lists” which included selection by library shows (in case you wanted to see what they took to Florida), monthly themes (XYZ History, etc), and “New titles” or a Known Item search of the catalog, where you toss in a title/ISBN/etc to see if they have it.

Issue Number 3: I looked at the “what’s new in Children’s” which took me to 15 (at the time) pages of things to scroll through without any sorting options.  Fiction, non fiction, picture books, grade levels I assume from birth through middle school. And it’s a bizarre mix of things I’m seeing in the review catalogs, things I’ve never heard of, things from big presses, reprints…etc. And when I looked under what was new for YA, I got a Dinosaur non-fiction book that would be great for a fourth grader. Our definitions of YA must be different. 

I emailed about the incorrect library system and I mentioned that I was having a really hard time finding any way to browse through the materials. I’d been told there wasn’t a print catalog of new things, but there wasn’t a good electronic one that grouped things well either. Generally speaking, I don’t usually take an hour or eight to wade through 15 pages of materials that may or may not be remotely applicable when I’m looking for new books. I have so many catalogs and publishers materials that are pushed to me, I only go out and search when it’s something I’m getting asked for a lot: e.g. more Star Wars books. 

The email I got in return, while bright and chipper, caused a *facepalm* with a potential side of *headdesk*. I quote:

“Once you get the basic understanding of the advanced search, most people find our website very simple to use.”

Hello huge barrier and condescension. I know, I’m a librarian, we’re all about mastering the advanced search, demonstrating our GoogleFu, whipping through full text queries at the speed of a flying internet. I’ve also spent enough years mucking around with Access to set up a pretty decent SQL query when one is called for, so I grasp how to add parameters to my searches.  

Their advanced search involves selecting options, one at a time, and then running a search. “Grade Level” = “Type in level here” (one at a time only please), Homosexual Content = yes/no, Height = enter parameter (in case I only want short books?). The “Intellect” option threw me—(umm…smart people only books?) but was for YA, Adult, child, etc..

Yes…I could enter all of these… and I tried a search for English/Fiction/K-8. Over 1200 results, which are only sorted by title. And I can’t narrow the query from there, I’d need to back out to the Advanced Search page and hone again. I can’t select more than one format at a time. etc…etc..

So, again, I don’t think I’ll be ordering from them. When I can’t find a way to get to your materials in a way that works for me, the end user…

Library lessons to be learned from this kids?