February 17, 2018

Barry Trott | Movers & Shakers 2003

Balancing the Books


Barry Trott has only positive things to say about his experience at the Snowbird Institute he attended just before becoming a departmental manager. “First off, I learned a lot about how I operate,” he says. “But just as important are the contacts with people around the country. Anything we do to expand our understanding of what other people in the field are doing can keep us from stagnating.” That doesn’t seem to be something Trott has to worry about.

Though he now oversees the library’s reference operations and adult collection management and chairs its web committee, Trott retains a passion for readers’ advisory (RA) that helps tie these various jobs together. “We sometimes lose site of books and reading nowadays,” says Trott. “That is an essential area where public libraries can maintain our relevance to the community.” To that end he makes sure the library is current with the “standard approaches: reading lists, discussion groups, and staff trained to feel comfortable with an RA interaction.”

In addition, Trott sees technology as a way to promote books, not something in competition with them. In FY04 he has money budgeted to expand RA services via e-mail. And the library web site has a bulletin board where patrons can post questions or opinions about books. “A lot of people are too busy to take part in our discussion groups,” observes Trott, “and this gives them a chance to be a part of a community of books.”

Elsewhere on the web site is a section for staff reviews (though “it needs to be reactivated,” he says). There the focus is on promoting midlist titles that do not get reviewed in the Washington Post
or New York Times. This approach demonstrates how “RA can be crucial in tough financial times, when you cannot buy 60 copies of a best seller,” says Trott. “You market the collection you already have by suggesting [to patrons] a read-alike at the same time that you put them on hold for one of the 30 copies you did buy.”

Trott is likewise cost-conscious about his discussion groups. He tries to obtain small local grants to support the initial purchase of multiple copies for library-run sessions. Then he bundles eight to ten copies together and circulates these “gab bags” for six weeks to private book groups in the community. “The groups really appreciate having a choice of what to read without buying all the individual copies,” he says. “And it helps us make good fiscal use of the materials.”




Current Position: Adult Services Director, Williamsburg Regional Library, VA

Degree: MSLS, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1997

Leadership Training: Library Leadership Institute at Snowbird, 2000