adding another facet to selection

We’ve been working on ramping up to a fully-functional cooperative collection development stance for most of this year, and we’re … sort of getting there.  Our major thrust is to reduce duplication of titles among a core of about a dozen SUNY campuses, based on the notion that if more than 3-5 of us have the book, the system does not need an additional copy, and we should purchase something that will add more depth and breadth to the collection as a whole, instead.

A few interesting observations from the ground:

  • Subject area matters. Some of our librarians are finding far more duplication in their faculty request lists than others, particularly the sciences.  One of the issues raised is that there are only so many books published, for example, on certain mathematics topics that are accessible to and appropriate for undergraduates.  Publishing depth becomes an issue.
  • Specialization matters. Our music librarian isn’t engaged in this project beyond the theoretical, because it doesn’t make sense for him to be.  We have a specialized and well-respected music school.  It needs a certain kind of library that can respond to the needs of a curriculum reliant on print materials, and it is relatively unique within the SUNY system.  It’s appropriate for us to take the lead in collection building there.
  • Faculty relationships matter. Some of our faculty have been more accommodating and understanding when we bounce requests back to them than others have been.  Both responses — the accommodating and the frustrated — highlight how important relationship-building is to this process.
  • Defining “local needs” consistently is nigh-unto impossible. It’s kind of like “professional judgement” — it could mean anything.  But while a hard-and-fast rule is reassuring, sometimes you need it to be a flexible definition.  Local needs so far here have encompassed books for reserve, faculty publications, new course topics, prominent programs, frequently stolen books, new faculty requests, and on, and on, and on.

Even given all that, we’re still reducing duplication.  We think.  We hope.  We’ll know more once we have a year’s data to review…

One comment

  1. So many odd human behaviors to deal with here. Participating libraries and librarians don’t want to give up any of the subject areas they [think they] cover in order to cooperate with another institution. I think many subject librarians don’t know as much about their local constituents as they should.

    On the other hand, faculty often request things that they never actually use: their friend’s book, a subject area they covered in their dissertation (but haven’t cracked a book about in 10 years), stuff from the particular page of a publishers’ catalog they happen to be looking at. Humans are the embodiment of the Heisenberg Principle.


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