Proposition 5: Collection managers should relinquish control in certain areas of collection development in order to focus on more complex collection needs.
Over the last decade, academic libraries have become more comfortable outsourcing certain activities to vendors or part-time, paraprofessional employees. Many technical services functions, especially original cataloging, have been handed over to organizations like OCLC and vendors like Yankee Book Peddler (Bracke, Hérubel, and Ward, 2010). The handling of gifts, an incredible use of staff time and resources, is often given over to Friends of the Libraries groups (Chadwell, 2010) when those collections are not unique or essential. There is a general consensus in the literature that outsourcing these activities provides collection development librarians with more time for assessment, developing unique aspects of a collection, and participating in consortia operations.
The patron-driven acquisitions model, a change in focus for collection managers and the theme of this year’s Charleston Conference, offers to radically change the way materials are selected. Hodges, Preston, and Hamilton (2010) discuss the success of an ILL purchase-on-demand program at the Ohio State University Libraries and illustrate how patron-initiated purchases can introduce useful and well-circulated materials into the collection. Currently, there are too many parameters that need to be determined before moving forward with a permanent program, but academic libraries across the country are working to integrate these models. As Bracke, Hérubel, and Ward (2010) point out, patron-driven acquisitions models allow librarians to spend less time managing collections and more time managing knowledge, a trend already entrenched in the “access” paradigm of collection management.
Proposition 6: Collection development librarians will require new models of assessment.
The scholarly landscape has already shifted from a dependence on print materials to dependence on digital materials. Users have access to more information than ever before in human history and, correspondingly, the complexity of their needs has increased. While librarians should continue to assess collections using traditional methods (e.g. circulation stats, gate counts, web-clicks), they must also find new and innovative ways to gather data about how users interact with information via the library. Horava (2010) argues that we should assess users in terms of their research activities (new vs. mature researcher) and access points (local vs. distance learners) instead of their demographics. The ability of current technology to manage extremely large and complex sets of data provides a unique opportunity to see our collections in a new light.
Librarians should also broaden their levels of assessment to move beyond one-dimensional statistics. Borin and Li (2008) offer a flexible, faceted assessment model for examining collections in terms of general characteristics, subject-matter, users, usage, and various contexts. As collection librarians shift their focus from collection management to knowledge management, these new assessment methods will provide more insightful analysis of the library’s ability to provide for its users.
Summing it all up
The current and future state of collection development can be summarized as a paradigm shift: from ownership to access, individual use to social use, content management to knowledge management. The growth of the internet and the explosion of digital materials have radically changed how libraries collect and manage resources in ways that librarians could not have predicted. Forecasting the next step will prove to be no less difficult.
Perhaps this has always been the case, as some of the literature seems to suggest. Ranganathan famously stated in his five laws of librarianship that the library is a growing organism. Like any organism, it adapts to its environment or it risks extinction. The propositions outlined above do not provide a definitive prediction of what the future holds for collection management, but it is my hope that they provide useful food for thought. In exercising our faculties to consider these possibilities, librarians and libraries can remain agile, flexible, and ready to change when the need arises.
Borin, J. & Li, H. (2008). Indicators for collection evaluation: A new dimensional framework. Collection Building, 27(4), 136-143.
Bracke, M., Hérubel, J.V.M., & Ward, S.M. (2010). Some thoughts on opportunities for collection development librarians. Collection Management, 35(3), 255-259.
Chadwell, F.A. (2010). What’s next for collection management and managers? Collection Management, 35(2), 59-68.
Hodges, D., Preston, C., & Hamilton, M.J. (2010). Patron-initiated collection development: Progress of a paradigm shift. Collection Management, 35(3/4), 208-21.
Horava, T. (2010). Challenges and possibilities for collection management in a digital age. Library Resources & Technical Services, 54(3), 142-52.