What's cooking?

For the summer I'm working as the Science Library Circulation Assistant at a women's college with fantastic programs in the sciences.  I'm totally in a building full of books that I want to read (except for the two volume Biology of Ticks, which is made of my nightmares), and it is awesome.  While the library largely supports students during the school year, we also have a healthy pool of local residents who borrow from our collection.

Now, the position is not a "professional" one - my MLS is not at all necessary, and in fact during training the person I was taking over for told me to not even bother trying to do "any MLS stuff."  However, I have develop the skills set and experience, even if in a public instead of an academic setting, so I have the opportunity for input now and then on the collection.  The main area in particular is one that I'm familiar with: cookbooks.

One of the first tasks I was given, "when you can get to it" was to put together a display featuring our cookbook collection.  As it turns out, in the recent years an effort has been made to expand the cookbook collection, and it has been well received by borrowers.  The display finished, and the discovery that I have something of a familiarity with cooking and cookbooks from several areas of my professional life, I have the opportunity to give input on future cookbook purchases.

Combing through articles passed on to me by my supervisor I come across a dilemma - do I include diet (weight loss) books in my suggestions?

The collection as it stands has books about cooking within different dietary bounds (vegetarian, vegan, gluten), however none of the titles specifically address weight loss.  And I really like that (as does my student employee).

I know from my years working with non-fiction collections that dieting books circulate very well in a public setting, regardless of the viability of said diet.  I also know that there are good reasons to have diet books on hand, particularly ones that deal with the science of a diet since we are in a Science Library.  Lastly, I also know that as a gender, we face a lot of pressure regarding our bodies to the point of severely skewing our perceptions.

As an academic library, our overall collection focus supports a set of scholarly pursuits, and further enlightenment outside of just assigned readings in those areas.  So a collection of cookbooks is almost novel and outside of our collecting area (though it can be argued that cooking is indeed a science).

At this point I am doing what I can to avoid books focusing on dieting, though I will include recommendations on well written, well supported, cookbooks focusing on healthy eating.  I don't think that as both an academic and a science library that we have a need to provide books with subtitles like "lose 30 pounds in 30 days."  We do have a solid collection of nutrition books focusing on the actual science of what you eat in a different area of the stacks, as well as cookbooks on different types of dietary choices.  Those who want to learn about the science of a diet or are looking to improve or expand their dietary choices I am happy to support, but these women don't need to find books on achieving the "perfect" body staring at them mixed in with their school books.

Perhaps I am exerting a form of censorship, but I feel that this fits within the collection development policy as well (and I am only making suggestions, I am not the one placing the order).  We have many books on exercise and fitness regimes, but none of them are "how to tone your butt" or similarly focused books.  If a patron particularly wants books like this they can be obtained easily, likely through ILL, and if the demand grows the collection can expand to meet it.


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