“Use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information.”
In 1620 Sir Thomas Bodley, a wealthy patron of Oxford College in England, set upon a distinctive idea to enlarge the then-small collection of the Oxford Libraries. At the time, the bulk of the collection stemmed from the gift of his personal library, around 2,500 volumes. He signed an agreement with the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (London’s Printing Guild, better known today as the Stationers’ Company) to supply one copy of every book printed in England to the Oxford Libraries. While this contract was not universally enforced, it still provided the impetus of growth that expanded the Oxford Libraries into one of the world’s largest academic collections. Of course, today the oldest and most revered library on the Oxford Campus is known as the Bodleian in honor of Sir Thomas.
Creating a coherent and useful collection today can be a far more complex, daunting task. The vast number of books published, of course, precludes the fantasy of collecting them all (at least aside from such vast institutions as the Library of Congress, the British Library, or the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) – not to mention the variety and extent of non-book items now collected. Instead, every institution has to judge its ongoing endeavors in collection management against its budget, its capacity, its standing collection, the needs of its patrons and its institutional emphasis. Of course, many libraries today take part in consortiums, so the current collections of partner libraries must be taken into account, as well (to avoid unnecessary duplication, or to augment supply of heavily loaned items).
It is easy to assume that the role of information professionals is to organize the creative work done by others. But this simplification does not do justice to the output of the information industry. In many different ways, information professionals create data in myriad forms. The digital infrastructure behind our information institutions – the metadata that operates information retrieval systems – needs to be created and constructed. Often this involves original work. Information professionals are also behind a variety of online and offline bibliographies, indexes and research documentation.
Questions of creation, and who should be involved, has become a particularly pressing issue in the realm of digital archiving. Once a traditional-bound profession, archival work is undergoing an awkward transition into the age of born-digital information. The current debate focuses on the point at which archivists should get involved in institutional records – should archivists wait until the data is produced, and handle it like they have traditional print materials? Or do they step in early in the creative process, work in conjunction with the Information Technology professionals of a given institution to set up digital standards that automate the processing of electronic materials? This places the archivist in the role of creator in ways that make some professionals uncomfortable. I analyzed two different perspectives on the subject for a paper in LIBR-256, Archives and Manuscripts with David de Lorenzo, and I submit that paper here. It is worth noting that these types of questions are not limited to archivists; academic librarians may be involved with Institutional Repositories and be faced with similar choices.
Evaluation, Selection and Acquisition
The basic concepts underlying the activities of evaluation, selection and acquisition fall under the departmental mantle of Collection Development. Different institutions draft varying procedures, some of which have become a controversial aspect of librarianship; recently, unionized Los Angeles County librarians went public with a complaint over centralized acquisition software that rendered them voiceless on material selection. Academic institutions tend to give their librarians more flexibility than large public counterparts; librarians at the University of San Francisco, where I interned, are given an annual budget for purchases that relate to the research subjects and University departments they serve as liaison for. These purchases augment a general purchasing plan based on subject bibliographies and the automated collection development system that is employed by the Gleeson Library. This strikes me as the perfect balance of automation, which keeps the shelves stocked and provides an impartial mechanism for collection, with an active human touch, which allows for special purchases by professionals well versed in the needs of their academic disciplines.
As evidence of my understanding of basic concepts in evaluation, selection and acquisition of materials, I submit a pair of related documents from LIBR-266, Collection Management with David Midyette . Together, they describe a plan for the creation and development of a special collection at a fictional Academic Library. The first, also submitted as evidence for Competency A, details the collection development policy and institutional structure that will govern the new materials. The second is a budget justification that evaluates the potential costs and specific material needs for acquisitions.
Preservation and Organization
The issues relating to the preservation of materials now extends far beyond traditional questions of broken book binding and other gradual wear-and-tear; the expansion of digital subscription services has created a scenario in which libraries frequently do not even own all the content they provide to users. Libraries, particularly academic ones, are effectively leasing a great deal of their content. Does the library have a right to materials if a subscription lapses or is cancelled? Largely no.
One consortium of libraries in Florida took steps to protect their journal collections through a jointly controlled repository of print materials that served as a backup to ongoing subscriptions. I took a look at an article about this plan as part of LIBR-266. I submit my summary of it as evidence of the consideration I have given to the preservation and organization of materials.
Exhibit F-2: Fictional State University: Njalsen Medieval Studies Collection (Collection Development Policy)
Exhibit F-3: Fictional State University: Njalsen Medieval Studies Collection (Budget Justifications)
Exhibit F-4: Collection Development Article Review #12