The following letter may in the May 15th issue of Library Journal. I would be interested to hear people's comments about this letter.
I may have missed a paradigm shift in LJ Book Review policy. LJ reviewed Dorothy Hamilton's Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry (LJ 4/1/10, p. 83), published by iUniverse, possibly the largest print on demand company currently in existence. While I don't in any way impugn the quality of some self-published works-especially given that the large publishers are primarily motivated by dollar currency and not idea currency-I really don't think reviews of self-published works are useful or helpful for collections librarians working with limited budgets and for clientele whose reading choices are largely driven by whatever is reviewed in the mainstream media.
In any given fiscal year, I am typically besieged by dozens of authors peddling their self-published works. In an attempt to mediate sympathy with fiscal responsibility, the policy I instituted...was to welcome donations of self-published works but not to purchase them. Generally, the authors are content just to have their works in the local public library.... Even when a self-published title seems germane to my collections mandate, the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Of course, it becomes awkward when library patrons request this material, but it usually turns out that they are either thinly veiled friends or family of the author.... At the moment, I have a shelf of these books in my office waiting to be cataloged. It is even more difficult to explain to these same people that the cost of acquiring the book doesn't factor in the costs of cataloging and processing. I'd be interested in hearing how other collections librarians handle this.
-Eddie Paul, Bibliographic & Information Svcs., Jewish P.L., Montréal