Judging Books by Their Cover

booksSo, when you walk into a bookstore, what is the first thing that you notice when looking for a new book? Is it the size of the book? Perhaps it is the title or author? Or (let us get real here), is it the cover of the book? I think you and I both know the answer to that question; the cover.

We, as human beings, are very visual creatures. We make a significant number of decisions in our lives based off of visual cues: our mate, our meals, our clothes, and our home – all of these things we choose through our sight. However, the tradition in the academic library is to remove any coverings from a book. Why? Well, the old adage exists that we should never judge a book based on its cover, even though we almost always do; but, there is another reason, dust jackets increase the physical size of a book. I realize you might find that incredulous, considering how little space that must be to a collection, but trust me when I say that they do. You do not trust me? Then let me back this up with some facts.

According to the article “Value added: book covers provide additional impetus for academic library patrons to check out books,” by Steven A. Knowlton and Lauren N. Hackert, dust jackets add an additional 2.5% to the footprint on the bookshelf, equaling a full book for every forty books and 25,000 titles for every million (2015, p. 113-114). If we were to do that to our entire collection, and our collection were made up of only hard-bound books with dust jackets, that would increase our collection by 1,705 books! Since the library is not increasing the shelf space available, we would need to remove some of the titles in order to make room for the increased girth.

If we are going to lose out on shelf space, why even consider adding the book jackets? We want to see our patrons be interested in our materials and be willing to browse our collection. Unfortunately, removing the dust jacket, which contains information about the material, tends to make it difficult to really browse our collection. Therefore, we are enacting an experiment. If you have been to the library recently, you may have noticed a number of books on our study tables. These titles were chosen as they are appealing to both students and staff who enjoy fiction and engaging non-fiction. Some of these titles have a dust jacket, some do not, and some are paperback books. We are carefully tracking what titles get checked out in order to determine if including and protecting our book dust jackets is a worthwhile venture. Therefore, if you see a title on our tables that you want to take home; please take it home! We want to see our students utilizing their library to the fullest; including their leisure reading in-between their busy class routine.

We have dedicated our library to offering materials for students at all stages of their education. See one of our knowledgeable circulation or reference staff for all of your information and leisure-reading needs.

Let us know what you think of this project in the comments section.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 20 No. 1, Winter 2016.

Knowlton, S. S., & Hackert, L. N. (2015). Value Added. Library Resources & Technical Services, 59(3), 112-119. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=108503133&site=eds-live

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