Collection Development Manager
Kent District Library, Comstock Park, MI
MLS, Indiana University School of Library & Information Science, Bloomington, 2003
Library Simplified, an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant–funded project intended to break down barriers to library access
Photo ©2014 Michael Pilla
Shattering the Status Quo
In January 2011, when frustrated patrons at Kent District Library (KDL) found only seven ebooks available to check out, Melissa DeWild jumped into action. Realizing that dues from the ebook consortium to which the library belonged were hampering the ability to obtain new titles, she laid out a proposal to new director Lance Werner for a stand-alone collection. Though Werner had yet to attend a board meeting, DeWild’s convincing appeal swayed him, and despite a shrinking budget, the board granted $400,000 for the project. Her bold solution led to a 229 percent usage increase, and the ebook collection is now one of the largest and most used in Michigan.
Whether it’s revamping ebooks or moving her library’s classification system from Dewey to a bookstore model (all 18 branches in a little over a year), DeWild has always gone the extra mile for patrons—an attitude that extends well beyond her own library. At Digipalooza in July 2011, Nora Rawlinson of EarlyWord asked how public librarians could prove their relevance to the larger publishing world, just as IndieBound had raised visibility for indie booksellers. DeWild didn’t hesitate; she contacted Rawlinson and, along with 11 others (including 2014 Mover & Shaker Robin Nesbitt), became part of the pioneering force behind LibraryReads, a groundbreaking project begun in 2013 that each month lists the top ten just published titles most recommended by librarians.
DeWild’s tireless efforts exemplify librarians’ unique ability to generate buzz around new books and build audiences. On top of a busy day job, she organized the creation of the LibraryReads website, continues to publish the monthly blog post listing the new titles, and coordinates with publishing partners (including HarperCollins, Random, Macmillan, Penguin, and Hachette) to update the site with library marketing best practices. She also works with vendors such as OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, and Ingram to promote and disseminate LibraryReads selections.
DeWild is thrilled about the response—3,438 staff members from 1,881 libraries nationwide have submitted nominations, and the site received 11,000 visits in November 2013—but she wants more. “I would love to see every public library participating in some way…displaying [LibraryReads] books, blogging about it, [or] nominating titles.”
The sky’s the limit for DeWild: she’s planning new LibraryReads programs with the Association of American Publishers, and both she and Nesbitt hope to expand the initiative to include young adult and children’s literature. “[DeWild] excels at reaching out and working with librarians across the country on projects to improve library service,” says Werner. “She sees the big picture around the future.”