How many Harry Potters do you buy?

This is from a reader’s email. I know if you’re a bookstore you can pretty much order as many Harry Potters as you can, because you know they will sell, but how does a library decide how many Harry Potter books to buy? I do a lot of work in libraries, but I have never been on the book ordering ends of things. I know how librarians choose which books to buy, but not how many. If anyone would like to help out with some simple explanation for my library patron reader, I’d appreciate it. update: Glenn asks a good question in the comments: do libraries want our “old” copies when we’re done with them? I know there are a lot of HPs that are already gathering dust in homes across the US.

26 thoughts on “How many Harry Potters do you buy?

  1. At the Boston Public Library we purchased 500 copies of the new Harry Potter. Part of that quantity was based on the number of the previous Harry Potter title we bought, but the main measure is based on the number of requests we get. In this particular case, we set aside 250 “walk-in” copies; i.e. copies that were available for people who walked in on Saturday. Subsequently, all walk-in copies were shifted back to copies that would fill holds. This way, after the first check-out, those 250 copies were used to fill holds. As it stands, we checked out just over 200 copies on Saturday, some to fill holds, some for people who walked in and got a copy. Any remaining “walk-in” copies were then switched over and filled a bunch more holds.

  2. Related question: Do libraries want used, but good condition copies of Harry Potter books? Or are there just too bloody many? My wife and I each bought a copy to read of Book 7. We don’t need two copies after we’ve each completed our first read; we can share on re-reads.

  3. At my small borough library (pop. 11,044). We ordered 3 copies. We normally only order one copy of any book, and rely on resource sharing within our system. But HP is unique in that it gets requests from adults, teens, and the kiddles. We use the first two copies to fill holds, and offer check out on the third copy as a door prize for our Potter Party.

  4. I work for a medium sized multibranch system (170k population) and we cap our numbers at five copies of ANY book per branch including Harry Potter. This is largely due to the book ownership arrangement in Western Australia (the State Library owns 65% of our stock) and the correspondingly smaller book budgets each of the branches have.

    In general, for in demand items, I use a 7:1 (holds to copies) ratio to determine if additional copies should be in our system.

    Surprisingly we have had fewer requests for this release than earlier releases. I guess the die hard fans are buying their own this year.

  5. Chicago Public Library purchased ten copies plus a CD version per branch–with more going to our regional and main branch. Last I checked about 600 copies had been checked out with another 300 in transit to holds and 100+ holds that didn’t yet have a book assigned to them. This seemed to be par for the course on how they ordered last time, for which I was not present.

  6. After looking at the structure of this book (over 700 pages, and fanglued?!), libraries had better have a standing order of this book, as they are destined to fall apart after only a few reads. I’m amazed these books are not sewn together. Perhaps there should be a Potter collection box at the front of all libraries.

  7. I am a school media specialist and I never order more than 10 copies of a book. I try to keep my ordering to 4 unless it’s going to be used for book club (which I also run). This year I have less money to spend, so HP7 was my last big order. Book club participants will have to buy their own or check them out from the public library.

  8. Libraries don’t order the library edition? Or do only school libraries use that edition? I guess that must be. (I am a library n00b). You’d think if the trade edition literally falls apart after only a couple readings, it’d be worth the extra dough for the library binding, at least for the copies you hope to keep around after the craze is over.

    Hmm…I wonder how big their first printing was for the library edition.

  9. I’m in a small danish library (6 libraries to a total population of just under 50.000). So far, we’ve bought a grand total of 2 copies. That number will swell, once the translation comes out, sometime this fall.

    My guess based on the previous books? Approx. 3 books per branch, 18 total, to be supplied if and when the hold-numbers grow to unsupportable numbers.

  10. Our smaller library ordered 10 print copies and 2 audio copies. We usually order one book for every 5 requests. We only had 25 requests, so half of the people who requested it got it first and the other half are waiting.

  11. Let’s see… A quick count in the catalog shows we bought 25 copies. If the number of patron holds from our library surpasses 4:1 ratio of holds to copies, we’ll buy more. In the county (we all share a system), there are 537 copies of the book (all out)with an outstanding holds list of another 680-some people. Much improved from what it was. The county-wide standard is to order more copies if the holds ratio exceeds 8:1.

    As to “Do libraries want your old copies?” the best thing to do is ask the library. I once wrote a reply (see someone on Slashdot who was upset that the books they donated to the library got sold at a library book sale. Really, it depends on how big the library is, if they accept donations at all, if they need copies of the book, if they have book sales, etc. You can’t generalize because different libraries work it differently.

  12. Our school library would love old copies. Many times the cost of the library binding is too expensive (we order from Mackin and they charge 30 for trade and 36 for library binding). We have limited funds and only certain places to get the books. If someone would be interested in giving us their old HPs we would definitely take them!

    Discovery Middle School
    10050 Brummitt Road
    Granger, IN 46530

  13. I work for a smallish library (10,000 items) in a tiny Bush village (winter pop less than 400) and we get our current books through a rental service. We historically have ordered only one copy of each Harry Potter and, except for this time, McNaughton has had our book here on schedule for us to match the official release date.

    In the first weekend, we pass it hand to hand amongst a small group of the fastest readers (the library’s only open three days a week and so a situation like this calls for trust and inventiveness) and then by midweek it’s back in and working down the waiting list in more typical circulation mode. Within the month, we have donations coming in and can return the rental copy.

    Even at our low circulation level, the books are falling apart after about a year and so we keep the donated copies back for spares–usually two of each on the shelf and a couple more in the store room. So for us, donations are an essential part of keeping the book in stock–we’re all-volunteer and have only about a $6000/year state grant budget so every popular book like this we don’t have to shell out cash for is a bonus.

    But this time we haven’t gotten our copy, so there is a lot of fretting going on while those who ordered their own are reading away and the rest of us are waiting for them to finish and donate so we can read it. Kind of makes the library look behind on things, where in fact it’s our vendor or the shippers who have left us out–but of course we’re a small customer and so it’s not much of a problem for them if they let us down. Still, this will make our donated copies all the sweeter. Bring them on!

  14. We here in Stowe (population approx. 5000), we purchased four copies, two for the children’s room and two to circulate for the summer and maybe the fall in the adult collection, which we will then weed out.

    It seems that even though people are always buying copies of the books, any copies at the book sale always go. Donations in GOOD CONDITION are always welcome, aren’t they?

  15. Where I work bought 2, with more if holds soar (at the moment there are only 5 holds) – can you tell I’m a school librarian?

    My local public system bought 500, for 800 holds.

    As far as library vs. trade binding – both are terrible for the later HP books. They are just too big for the binding they use.

  16. The large, multi-location library system I work for bought 6 copies for each library which works out to 528 copies. We had over 800 names on the request list.

  17. My library system (with 41 branches) bought 800 copies of the book, and had about 2400 people on the waiting list, which is comparable with the number we purchased for Book 6. From what I remember after Book 6 was published, our waiting list was depleted about 2 weeks after the book was released. This means that after a few weeks, each branch had on average 20 copies of a 3″ book sitting on their shelves, taking up space, at a cost of, at a guess, say, $15 per copy, which works out to $12,000.

  18. This is in reply to Glenn Fleishman: I cannot speak for all public libraries (obviously) but it seems to me, it depends on the library and especially the size of the community you are in. I have worked in libraries where donations were not accepted for books that were incredibly popular and which we had many, many copies of anyway. However, each library is different, especially considering the funding needs of the individual library. It does not hurt to go to your local library and ask. This library may accept it into their collection or put in their used book sale.

    My thinking is that with Harry, many libraries would’ve ordered oodles of copies. HOWEVER, that may not necessarily be the case, and the demand could be so high, any new copy could be welcome. Again, it really depends. And of course, they may in fact tell you no. I’ve also worked in places where new donations were not accepted for a temporary period of time, due to a high backlog and lack of staff.

  19. We ordered 4 copies: one for each branch and one for the Bookmobile. With budget cuts this year, that is all we could afford. Thankfully, we are able to buy new copies of the older books from the local Scholastic Book warehouse sale, and have several copies for replacements. (At the sales, we can generally pick up a hardcover for around $5.00)

    Donations? Yes, please, as long as they are still in good shape to stand up to multiple check-outs. Some of the donations we receive are — well, you probably know from your own donation room — useless! (But to the patron, they are in mint condition!)

    Jim Elliott
    rural North Florida

  20. Well I remember that in NYPL, books are brought based on demand by reserves. Because Children and YA had their own budget, I am unclear as to how many Harry Potter books they brought, but I do know that the adult division brought about 900 copies.

    Then most of the time, the books either become misplaced and if that’s the case then if budget allows for it, the library will buy replacements, but if books collect dust as people have said of the older Harry Potter books on the shelf, then it is up to the librarians to weed out copies for book sales.

  21. Most of the libraries I work with have some sort of official holds-to-copies ordering ratio for ordering books. Most of them are in the 1 book for every three holds – 1 book for every five holds range. Once the title is no longer as popular, they discard the extras, sell them in a book sale, or place them in storage to use as replacement copies.

    Really big titles such as HP usually get special treatment. Some of our libraries went as fas as to lower their book-to-hold ratio to 1:2 or even 1:1 (or close to it!) so that they could get the initial demand out of the way. The number that are actually kept on the shelves will almost certainly decrease dramatically once that hold queue diminishes.

    Still, our libraries tend to keep a lot of copies of the HP on the shelf. I was asked for an interview recently how many copies our system had of books 1-6 (all formats, all languages). This was before 7 came out, so we couldn’t accurately count that. Still, I totaled up 5,777 copies in all (in 10 languages), even though none were the current book. Not bad.

  22. We are a fairly large District Library on items that we know will be in high demand we order half the number of holds. HP had 325 hold so we ordered 150 books to fill holds plus an extra 25 that are on a first come first serve basis. Those copies lasted all of 2 hours at each branch.

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