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Bookshare’s Collection Development Manager Started a Love Affair with Books at a Tender Age

Guest post by Carol James, Bookshare Collection Development Manager

When I was a little girl, I would toddle into my parents’ bedroom many mornings. I’d pull books out of

Carol James as a young child "reading" books.
Carol James as a young child “reading” books.

their case and pretend to read them. When I was done (so I’m told), I would carefully consider where they should go as I put them back on the shelf. I can’t remember what I was thinking – but even then, I knew each book had a “right place”!

Looking back on a lifetime working in libraries, I guess I’m still doing the same thing – but on a different scale, with different tools. Like every librarian building a collection, I have two goals: that we have the book you want, and that it’s “shelved” where you’re going to look for it. If I’m doing my job right, you don’t know I exist, because you’ve found what you want with ease.

Before coming to Bookshare, I spent almost twenty years acquiring and cataloging materials for a large biotechnology library – mostly books and journals on subjects I knew nothing about! I had to learn how the scientists were going to look for and use the resources, so I could tag them with the words they would use when searching our catalog and make them available in formats they would find most useful.

Book cover of "To Say Nothing of the Dog," by Connie WillisI’ve come to think of Bookshare’s collection of digital books for people with qualifying print disabilities as many libraries pressed into one. We’re a school library for our student members; we’re an academic library for those who have gone on to college and graduate schools. For people who just love to read and stay informed, we’re a terrific public library with the latest bestsellers and popular books on all kinds of subjects. And, increasingly, we’re able to serve our members in their professional lives with great vocational, professional, and technical titles.

Over 850 generous publisher partners share their digital content with us, helping our library swell from fewer than 150,000 titles in 2011 to over 400,000 today. Thanks to our funding from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, we’re also able to create accessible versions of books needed for classroom use by our student members if we’re not able to receive an electronic version from a publisher partner. In addition, we are grateful for the many volunteers who submit titles to the collection. Our Collection Development team of eight dedicated professionals is working hard every day to make sure we have the books you need – and that they are easy to find and use.

It’s an exhilarating challenge to have – to serve the needs of such a diverse population of users, across Book cover for "Island of Ghosts," by Gillian Bradshawsuch a broad range of content. I don’t think I ever could have imagined having such a wealth of books to offer as we do at Bookshare when I started my first college library job, filing drawer after drawer of 3 x 5 catalog cards. My team and I are working diligently to find ways to make our collection easier for you to discover and use, and to share the wonderful new content that’s arriving every day. Of course, every title has a “right place on the shelf,” and we’re going to put it there for you to enjoy.

Take a fresh look at everything Bookshare has to offer!

In recognition of Children’s Book Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, and book lovers everywhere, Carol shares two recommendations from a long list of favorite books that are suitable for YA readers and above:

To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, this story is a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel… Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.

Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw – a historical novel about Ariantes, a Sarmatian, a barbarian warrior-prince, uprooted from his home and customs and thrust into the honorless lands of the Romans.

Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.
Carol James in front of books that have been scanned and added to the Bookshare collection.

For even more books, browse the Bookshare collection!

Carol James is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked in libraries at Pacific Bell, Genentech, and Elan Pharmaceuticals before joining the Bookshare team as Collection Development Manager in 2010. 

About Bookshare

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. In 2007 and 2012, Bookshare received two five-year awards from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 400,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change.

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