When you check out a book from the library, have you ever wondered how that particular book made it on the shelves? With millions of books to compete with, how does one book make the cut while another does not? These questions may not be of concern for the average library patron but for Leah Morris, collections administrator for Delta County Libraries, it is a daily consideration.
Morris began working for Delta County Libraries in early 2006, but her journey with libraries began long before that. As the daughter of a librarian, it was not uncommon for Morris to spend a lot of time at the library, surrounded by books. "I remember shelving books with my mom when I was about seven," Morris reflects. By age 15, she had her first paid job in a public library and within a few years, Morris had a good understanding of how libraries function. "I think I was fluent in the Dewey Decimal System before I graduated from high school," Morris states.
With Delta County Libraries, Morris' role has evolved over the years from a substitute position, to teen programming and circulation and to moving full time to the administrative offices in Hotchkiss. Since then, Morris has taken on a wide variety of administrative tasks including cataloging, marketing, web design and technical development, program planning and promotion and, finally, the position she just started that focuses on collection development.
The opportunity for Morris presented itself when the most recent collections administrator, Myrna Westerman, announced her retirement in 2015. Since then, Westerman has been working with Morris to shift the responsibilities of the job over completely. Westerman is very enthused about Morris moving into the position full time. "Leah has amazing technical skills and has been instrumental in upgrading our circulation system and adding new technologies like databases and downloadables. Her natural enthusiasm and positive attitude will be real assets in this position." And with Morris transferring most of her former responsibilities to other staff, she is finally ready to give the job her full attention.
Developing and maintaining a shared collection for all five libraries in Delta County can present some unique challenges, especially with a tight budget. Morris will need to pay close attention to which materials circulate best in each location and use that knowledge to make informed purchasing decisions. "This is a process that will take time as I get used to the reading habits of each community. We need to continually balance the needs of our users on a limited budget." Westerman also acknowledges the financial challenges facing the libraries in the future. "It will be a juggling act to determine the best use of limited funds for the majority of library users."
When it comes to evaluating numbers and assessing needs, Morris is in her element. She loves reviewing reports and studying books and has occasionally referred to herself as "the hermit in the basement." Despite that image, Morris keeps her eye on the bigger picture and the ongoing service element involved. "I hope that the work I do for the Delta County Libraries will have a positive impact throughout the county. I appreciate that I have been given this opportunity and I will do my best to thoroughly respond to patron and staff requests, questions and ideas."
So, while library patrons aren't making the final decision about which books end up on the shelves in Delta County Libraries, they should feel good knowing that there is someone in a basement in Hotchkiss paying very close attention to what the people of Delta County want to read.