Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Things I Never Learned in Library School: Problems with the Supply Chain and What it Means for Libraries

If you build it, they will come. If you buy a book, it will be on your shelf. Except when there are problems with the supply chain.

If you’ve been to the grocery store or a restaurant lately, you’ve probably seen signs saying something to the effect of, “due to problems outside of our control, the item you want may not be in. We apologize for any inconvenience.” That problem beyond their control is the supply chain and it is also affecting the book biz, which is and can affect libraries.

My Twitter timeline is full of bookstores, publishers and authors noting that the supply chain issue is impacting the sale of books and you should order early. I know that when I look at various public library catalogs books with release dates in the past still show as not being in the catalog and this, too, is the supply chain problem.

Here are some articles on this very issue:

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/manufacturing/article/86833-high-costs-services-disruptions-plague-book-biz-supply-chain.html

https://www.bookweb.org/news/book-industry-supply-chain-delays-impact-holiday-season-1626295

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-25/the-world-economy-s-supply-chain-problem-keeps-getting-worse

You can also google “supply chain issues” and get a lot of interesting articles on the topic. It’s not just being caused by the pandemic, though having millions of people sick and dying certainly isn’t helping. It also has to do with our tendency to rely on on demand sales as opposed to having stock of certain items. Like all things economics, it’s complicated.

Also of note, there is a paper shortage that actually began before the pandemic but continues to be a problem. Forbes ran an article on it way back in 2019, when the world made a bit more sense.

What it means for libraries is this: books aren’t arriving when we think they should. Book publication dates are being pushed back. There is no way to predict what is going to happen with our book orders because the normal rules no longer apply. It’s anyone’s guess when or if that book will come in so that you can put it on the shelf. If you order a book, it does not mean it will come and if it does come, it may come far after you thought that it would/should.

This isn’t the type of post that I normally share, but it has popped up so much on my Twitter timeline this past week and I know we’re not all on Twitter so I thought I would take a moment to bring it to everyone’s attention. One thing I would recommend is that if you are finding that your books purchased before publication date aren’t coming in by publication date due to this issue, let all staff know about the supply chain issues affecting publishing. I know that as a person working with the public I would love to have this information in case a patron complains about us not having a book at release date; nothing is worse than being a person who has to deal with patrons face to face and not having the information you need to answer their complaints and address their issues. A quick message to let all library staff know about how supply chain issues are impacting the book publishing business may just help a coworker answer the complaints of a patron who doesn’t understand why you don’t have the book they want on the shelf in a timely manner. Also, I always think it helps libraries prove they are valuable and reliable information community resources when we actually have timely and valuable information to answer their concerns.