Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Profiles – Laura Irmscher, Chief of Collections Strategy, Boston Public Library

by Gina Perille

Next time you walk into the Boston Public Library and find exactly what you were looking for, think of Laura Irmscher. As the library’s Collection Development Manager, she and her staff are charged with purchasing and managing everything from books, DVDs, and CDs to electronic resources such as eBooks and databases. It’s a daunting task, considering that it includes not only the Central Library in Copley Square, but all the branches.

It’s a challenge Laura embraces.

“The heart of the collections are the things people are excited to use,” she says. To decide what those things are, Laura relies on a number of sources. Many suggestions come directly from users through email, the library website, Facebook, and Twitter. She also works closely with the librarians at the various branches. “We use a lot of data about what’s being checked out to find out what the trends are,” she says. “In one branch, DVDs might need more shelving. In another branch, it might be romance.”

One thing is certain. A lot has changed since librarians relied mainly on traditional book reviews to decide what to acquire. “We look at a lot of websites and magazines,” Laura says. “We’re always taking the pulse of what people are interested in as a culture.”


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