All collection development librarians have found themselves facing the acceptance of materials into the collection that they know will be under-utilized and we’ve also all been in the position of having to turn down material gifts. Donated gift materials are such a fine line for all of us. We want to make sure we do not pass on something that could be a significant addition to our collections but at the same time we’re tryingÂ desperatelyÂ to not be saddled with materials that will have little to no use and end up in storage or potentially being weeded within a decade. Apply the three “w” rule to gift acceptance to give yourself the wriggle room for making your library material gift acceptance or denial.
First off and probably most importantly, WHO wants to make the donation/receive the donation? If the person making the donation is a well known public official either within your organization or within your local environment, accept the gift materials graciously. Even when you have twenty other copies lurking in various places within your library, accept these materials. Annotate the notes on the records for the copies currently available or replace current copies available with the donated titles and make it clear these material were provided by distinguished person X. It is not unheard of for a long time distinguished donor of library materials to follow up with a monetary donation and orÂ bequeath to your library. At academic institutions this situation can be applied to prominent and distinguished faculty and administrators. There is also a corollary to this type of library material gift acceptance. If a prominent and distinguished faculty, administrator, or public official wants your library to accept a particular material gift, then accept it. Acceptance does not have to mean retaining in the collection. You can still make your local decisions regarding the condition of the material received and/or number of copies held locally or within your consortium. For the material that shows up unannounced and unsolicited, feel free to reject readily. You are under no obligation to add library material just because someone has taken the time to send it in your direction.
Secondly, consider WHAT is being donated as potential library material. Sometimes that quirky phone call you receive from the timid voice on the other end of the phone line is worth following up on and investigating. If possible, ask all cold call donors to provide you with a list of material they are considering donating. People with material worth personal interest will take the time to do this and you can avoid accepting the gift at this point if a list is not provided. People not willing to make lists have already boxed up the material and have made a mental break with it and just want to move it out of their space now. Seven out of ten times, the person will make you a basic list, author title of what they want to donate in part because they feel a connection to these resources and want them to go to a good home. The list gives you the ability to either spot check and/or go through the entire collection in a remote way to see how much you would want to accept. If the person calling with the library material donation sounds particularly frail but the person has an interesting story to tell of their collection or due to a connection to a particular department or professor, offer to go to them to review the material being offered. Yes, this takes some time but this is where the treasure is found and how special collections get built. Again, the unsolicited library material donations that show up at your desk for the most part are not things you will want to add. However, every now and again, there are things of interest that appear this way so always open up these packages to give a cursory review.
Lastly, consider WHERE the library material gift is located. Is it a departmental library that is being abandoned on your campus or within your local government? If so, taking a cursory look at what is there is not difficult or too terribly time consuming. A good rule of thumb is the fifty mile radius. Is this material gift located within fifty miles of your library; usually, then it is not a problem for retrieval or acceptance. For gifts residing more than fifty miles away, the decisions regarding WHO and WHAT may over-ride the location or need to pay for shipping. In which case, you work out how best to delivery the material to your processing units. Most call-in donors are willing to delivery their collections to you and it is always best to state upfront that you do not have a policy for picking up gift material early in your conversation.
One last caveat, it is also good to relate to any given donor that since their library material donation was unexpected and potentially of a large size, that the material will not be processed or added to the collection immediately upon acceptance. This allows you any extra time to review duplicate copies for retention, determine the best location for the material, and work into processing queues or quotas in a thoughtful and strategic way.
There has been quite a bit of library news over the past five years about libraries stopping the acceptance of library material donations but we all know that it is impossible to not accept some library material donations. In all honestly, the best any library can do is to minimize the amount of effort that goes into accepting library material donations. By applying the three “w’s” of ready evaluation to each donation call, you can speed up both the decision making process and material donation process.
In libraryland, there is an endemic problem with our relationship with our resource and service providers. As a profession weâ€™ve tended to ignore the popular idiom: â€œYou catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.â€ In our discussions both with service or resource providers and amongst ourselves, we tend to blame-storm problems and issues being encountered instead of trying to find ways to positively engage with providers and seek solutions to these problems and issues. Â It appears that as a profession, librarians sometimes forget we are part of a knowledge community and must act accordingly within the information chain. There are five things we can do to positively shape our interactions with service and resource providers:
- We are an information seeking and providing profession. What if, when we first encounter a problem instead of expressing immediate frustration with the situation to our colleagues, we take a step back and follow the advice we give to our patrons? Letâ€™s start with investigating how the problem or issue came into being. By taking an hour or less to review press release documentation from the provider, reviewing the company with whom we have an issue or concern, reading news releases in American Libraries or Information Today, trolling & reading e-discussion lists for other librariansâ€™ take on a situation we become more informed about the issue or concern and not just react to our negative impression or experience. We are now informed and may understand better why a situation is being encountered. Now when we talk to the provider, we can engage in an informed conversation about the situation or problem encountered. Example: â€œIt looks like you surveyed a number of undergraduates to develop your new search interface, did you consider that this search strategy may not be appealing to graduate students and faculty?â€
- Instead of immediately posting a frustrated message to an e-discussion list about the problem or concern, what if we contacted the representative that we work with from the provider and asked questions? This could be an account representative or a technical support person. Ask specific questions regarding the situation and use clear language, for example: â€œWhen I do X, it seems that Y is happening and Iâ€™m trying to achieve Z. Can you walk me through this process so I can see whatâ€™s happening?â€ Be honest with your feelings regarding the situation: â€œIâ€™m finding this situation to be really frustrating, how can we resolve it?â€ â€œYour company X called me out of the blue yesterday, what role should I play in working with you?â€ Â When we indicate that we are willing to work on finding the solution to a specific situation, it goes a long way with reaching a satisfactory outcome.
- As a profession we are open to being disrupted. This is the essence of reference and patron service in our organizations. However, we tend to react negatively when this same form of disruption occurs from our service/resource providers. Just as we are open to help any constituent engaging with us, we should be open to responding to a resource/service provider. This is not to say that we cannot discourage cold calls but we should be willing to meet and talk with the service/resource provider as a mechanism for providing feedback and concerns about their products and services. It is part of our job to make time and room to be good stewards of the resources and services we are providing.
- Along these same lines, when we receive an email from a service/resource provider, it should not go entirely ignored. Many of these emails are news items regarding service disruptions or new products and do not require immediate feedback. However, when we do get a message from an account representative or a sales person, we should respond within a reasonable amount of time even if it is to say that the timing of their offer for a visit, a trial, Â and/or for a training session on product X will not work at this time.Â We all dislike it when we feel our emails and attempts to contact someone are not responded to in a reasonable amount of time and we should share this same courtesy back.
- Lastly, offer to be a beta-tester or to serve on a library advisory group for the service/product provider. Indicate that you feel strongly about the resources being offered and that youâ€™d like to support their on-going development or be able to give input on the cost model being utilized. There are benefits to being in on the ground floor of development and new practices with the resource and service providers such as reduced cost and helping to shape the eventual outcome of the service/resource provided.