Upcoming ALCTS Continuing Education Events
- Turning Statistics into Assessment
- Role of the Profession in Academic Research Technical Services Departments
- Federal Depository System (in conjunction with GODORT)
- Library as Place: Making the Library an Inviting Environment
If you have additional eâ€‘forums ideas, please contact Kristin Martin.
- The Future of the Integrated Library? (August 1)
- Universal Access to All Knowledge (September 5)
- Demand Driven Acquisitions: Part 1 and 2 (September 19 and October 3)
- Digital Preservation: Part 1 and 2 (October 10 and November 14)
- Principles of Classification (October 24)
- Holdings Comparisons: Why are They So Complicated (November 28)
- Fundamentals of Acquisitions (September 17 â€‘ October 12)
- Fundamentals of Collection Assessment (August 13 â€‘ September 21)
- Fundamentals of Collection Development/Management (August 20 â€‘ September 14)
- Fundamentals of Electronic Resources Acquisitions (September 24 â€‘ October 19)
- Fundamentals of Preservation (September 10 â€‘ October 5)
Posted on behalf of the ALCTS Continuing Education Committee.
Information is a dreadful word – stuck somewhere between theÂ cold mathematics of Shannon and Weaver and the commercial commodification of even worse words like “content” and “product.” But how else do we describe the “content” of a library? “Knowledge” and “data” have special sorts of meaning that don’t always apply to what a library provides. Information is what libraries do. Without information, there isn’t a library.
That is going to strike many in the library profession as an old fashioned, even reactionary view. In recent years, we’ve come to think of libraries and librarianship as a suite of services and activities that cannot be reduced to a dictionary definition about a collection of materials or the location in which the collection is housed. We put up quite a hullabaloo when OCLC published Perceptions of Libraries in 2010, which suggested that when people thought about libraries they thought, “books.” ARRRRRRRGH would generally describe the librarian response in the blogosphere. We don’t want to think of ourselves as the sum of all information in a collection. We’re more than that!
I think there are several explanations for the development of this reaction against “the library as collection.” First, of course, is that the library is largely virtual. It doesn’t exist in a place the way it once did. The fact that the information of a library exists less and less in a physical container suggests that the actions required to access and use information are more important now than the physical embodiment of the information. Then, since information is disembodied, as it were, it is everywhere. People don’t have to come to libraries to get information. It is floating in the air. They can find it on their phone. Our declining circulation numbers attest to this and at the same time give us a sense of doom about continuing to pin our star to “the library as information.”
Of course, libraries have always been a combination of things and actions. We acquire books. We organize and describe materials. We help people find information. We teach people to navigate a sea of data. Sometimes a single person provides all those services. Sometimes there is a division of labor. Sometimes there is conflict and disagreement between one division and another. Each group thinks of itself as the “heart” of the library enterprise.
There seems to be a growing belief that the actions of libraries are more important than the things. A library isn’t information–it is the ability to find information. It is a place that will teach you how to find information. It is a service that enables the provision of information. Maybe it is even a place where people gather to create information. Yes, all of those are true. I embrace all of those visions of a library. But here’s the thing: information is the object of all those actions. They are sentences that are incomplete without “information.” Even in a world where we don’t own or physically hold the information, where all of our actions are directed away from a local collection, information is still the reason we exist. If a library isn’t information or the means to access information, then all of our actions could as easily be ascribed to or performed by schools, businesses, consultants, or other entities. We don’t need libraries in that case.
Because libraries are a constellation of actions that point towards information, we need to continue thinking of information as central to our mission. Otherwise, we are doing something other than librarianship.
Here is an interesting workshop for those in K-12 being offered by ALA Techsource:
“Choosing an E-Book Platform that Works for Your K12 Library”
being lead by Buffy J. Hamilton
Don’t miss the ALCTS Collection Management Section forum at ALA
“Emerging Research in Collection Management & Development”
Collaborative collection development has been on our lips for 30 years. It’s one of those topics that, to paraphrase Mark Twain (or whoever), everybody talks about but nobody does anything. I exaggerate. There have been a lot of what I’ll call prospective collection collaboration: shared subscriptions, buying clubs, cooperative approval plans. But retrospective collaboration is a tough nut. “Retrospective collaboration?” you say. What to do about managing existing collections, especially monograph collections, in a collaborative fashion? How to weed our monograph collections in an extensive fashion (creating spaces for other activities), while still preserving the greatest diversity of the scholarly and cultural record? Now THAT is on my lips all the time these days.
And its on the lips of several great presenters for ALCTS. See this ALCTS virtual preconference to learn a lot more about this kind of collaboration:
Local Collections, Collective Context: Managing Print Collections in the Age of Collaboration
June 4-6: there are three sessions, 90 minutes each,Â beginning at: 11am Pacific, noon Mountain, 1pm Central, 2pm Eastern
Sign up now! I’ll see you there.
I had tea yesterday with a long-time Medieval Studies/English Literature faculty member here. She has always been a heavy user of the library and a real supporter of everything we do. She’s actually retired but still doing a lot of things in the English Department on a part-time basis. Yesterday, she turned to me and asked earnestly, “why is the library going so electronic in everything it does?”
How would you answer that question?
A verdict has finally been issued in the Georgia State University e-reserves case (Cambridge University Press et al v. Patton et al). Several publishers were suing GSU over their electronic reserves practices. The judge’s decision is mostly favorable to libraries. Most of the particular claims of infringement were rejected. The case, however, may establish some specific guidelines or safe havens that may not be exactly what librarians would want.
Further summaries of the case:
All I’m thinking about today are legal issues. Is this what library collection development has come to? And are they teaching students about this in library school? There are, of course, the usual license agreements for subscriptions and electronic resources, but I have some other more specific issues on my mind:
- Hathi Trust: we’ve been thinking about joining this collaborative organization. I think they are doing important work to ensure the preservation of digital collections. They started with a base of materials digitized by Google from libraries in the Big 10 (and some others), but Hathi is managing these digitized materials with more of the librarian’s concern about preservation, more than Google, certainly. But now there is the sword of Damocles, in the form of a lawsuit from the Authors Guild, hanging over Hathi’s head. I don’t really know all of the ramifications of the suit, or how much it might affect the benefits of joining the organization. But it gives one pause.
- WEST: this is another collaborative organization that my library HAS joined. The organization is working to create a distributed print repository of print journal holdings. The idea is to ensure at least one print copy of selected journal titles exists within the member libraries of the organization. In order to make the print holdings as complete as possible, some libraries will ask others to contribute journal volumes to fill out a complete run. Here is where the legal issues come in. My state has specific laws about disposing of state property (including library collections of state universities). Can I convince our legal counsel that sharing some volumes from our journal holdings with another library in another state is legal and in our best interest? If we can’t contribute toward the collective holdings of the organization, are we even valuable members?
- Costco v. Omega: who would have thought that a lawsuit between a mega-store buying club and a Swiss watchmaker would have any impact on an Academic library? This issue came up because someone donated a 6-volume British publication to my library. I mentioned it online and someone suggested that Costco v. Omega may come in to play, especially for a donated book. You see, the Supreme Court ruling (or none-ruling) in this case upholds a lower court ruling (at least in the Ninth Circuit Court) that libraries do not have the protection of the right of first sale regarding materials not manufactured in the United States. What that means is that libraries may not even have the right to circulate foreign publications. Sheesh! Some legal beagles are saying not to worry. There are other protections the cover library activities (beagle1.pdf and beagle2.html). Some of the protections suggest that if you bought the material in a legitimate way, there is a presumption that permission to do library stuff with it is understood. That also presumes, however, that you can demonstrate how you purchased the material. Because of the vagaries of our ILS, we do not even maintain purchase orders for books in our system for more than 2 years. We still have copies of the invoices. But how would we match a particular book purchased 5 years ago with its corresponding invoice? We also do not have title-by-title records for most donations. Extra Sheesh!Â I wonder what libraries in the Ninth Circuit are doing.
Thus, I spend the day worrying about the law and not thinking about how to build a good library collection. Maybe I should go to law school.
I’ve been working on a tech timeline (both personal and library) that I thought more appropriate over on my personal blog. Tell me about the technological change you’ve experienced in your career.
Date: February 22 & 23
Description: “Join us to talk about all the ways our collections are changing and discuss topics such as handling new formats, preservation methods, repository services, planning for the future, best practices for moving forward, and budgeting for changing times. Come share your success stories about how you are meeting the research, teaching, and recreational needs of your users of today and tomorrow.”