19 July 2013

Collection development on a shoestring

Not sure whether this may become a series of posts, Collection Development On A Shoestring. For now, just a couple of ideas.

I have been thinking about the implications of the forthcoming funding cut on learning resources in my college; I expect 40-45% drop in comparison to the last year. Two immediate ideas regarding book collection development: (1) reducing the variety of titles we purchase and (2) moving more copies to short loan and reference-only status.

Collection development will have to become more focused on the most essential and only best titles. The number of their copies may stay the same or even increase. Anything additional, optional will have to go. Eventually, this may lead to better utilisation of the collection.

Last year I noticed a huge increase in enquiries for books on Marx. We’ve immediately purchased a good selection of them. Almost all were snapped by a couple of students: each could borrow up to ten different titles. If we bought just two carefully selected books, six copies each, then six students could have them at the same time. This, of course, poses a question about how strong the library’s links with tutors are and how much of help tutors can be.

The only exception I can think of is Access to HE students: they often research unusual and polemical topics, and therefore they may suffer from a too prescriptive collection development practice. E-books may be the best solution for addressing their needs. It’s easier with HE students: they normally get detailed reading lists and universities expect college libraries to provide access to the titles on those lists. Most of FE-specific programmes rely heavily or even exclusively on one textbook. Providing those textbooks may be of more importance to learners than books purchased “just in case”.

More reference-only copies will be disappointing to students who don’t have time or desire to study in the library. Librarians should promote copying and scanning services the CLA licence affords us with to address – at least partially – this problem.

15 July 2013

Libraries: from providing access to enabling and organising

Today, a college colleague of mine working on PhD asked me to help her access an article she identified on Google Scholar. My first thought was to check her university’s e-journal collection... That was a daunting task – the interface was pretty unusable; students’ reluctance to use peer-reviewed journals is not groundless, I thought.

To speed up the process, I repeated the search on Google Scholar, found six places the article was available from, one of those places was academia.edu – a social platform for research paper exchange. (The rest were paid-for platforms, we ignored them).

This made me to think that in the world were the published research becomes available free at the point of use more often, the role of libraries and librarians will be moving further towards enabling, research community organising, facilitation, advice and curation – away from offering access to the paid-for resources as their central function. Saying that, I am surprised that academia.edu was invented not by librarians – we’ve been in the business of institutional research publishing and archiving for years.

That, of course, relates to HE. For the FE sector, the picture is murky. I have just completed the last year SAR; most of the traditional KPIs (active borrowers, number of loans, even ebook usage etc.) are flat, growth happened in use of ILT/ICT equipment, PCs and learning space utilisation. If we logged IT- and study/research skills-related enquiries last year, those numbers would go through the roof too. And so, the murky picture starts getting shapes... One of my forthcoming posts will be on that.