This is the second of two posts covering the modules I completed in Semester 2 (Spring 2015) of library school. The first was on the Organising Knowledge module. Here is my general post about the librarianship course.
Collection management is considered a core skill in the librarian toolbox and encompasses developing and maintaining collections (physical and digital), understanding your users and their needs, the actual selection, acquisition and processing of the items, and the promotion and evaluation of your collections. I enjoyed this module because it addressed the classic principles of collection management and also wrestled with tough/emerging issues in the field such as censorship, the hybrid library and preservation of electronic material.
The format of the module was similar to others where we had course workbooks to work through, discussion board posts and readings in the set textbook, Collection Development in the Digital Age (2012) edited by Maggie Fieldhouse and Audrey Marshall.
The book was on the whole very good. The chapter on outsourcing (D. Edmonds ‘Outsourcing in public libraries: placing colleciton management in the hands of a stranger’, pp. 125-136) and subsequent discussion board posts were thought provoking. The chapter addressed the growing trend of outsourcing collection development in public libraries. Instead of library staff selecting, processing etc. new stock, this process is outsourced to save money. The arguments against outsourcing mainly centre on loss of local input in the stock selection process and homogenisation of stock across the country. In other words the concern is that outsourcing does not address local needs and that suppliers tend to choose only bestsellers with wide appeal rather than niche or local interest books. The entire chapter was very defensive, positioning itself from the vantage point of protecting a ‘core professional activity’ and described collections as the ‘heart of the library’. When collection-centric attitudes such as this continue to be held, I get seriously concerned for the future of libraries. Considering the severe cuts in public funding, perhaps it’s time to embrace some change and the chapter actually presents good evidence for the efficiencies and savings that can be made by outsourcing. Anyway off my soap box…
Hybrid libraries were another hot topic we discussed. ‘Hybrid library’ is the the term used to describe the middle ground we currently occupy between the print, hard copy environment of the past and the potential for library collections of the future to be totally electronic or digital. Hybrid libraries have both print and digital collections. In the music library, this is definitely the rule, as printed sheet music is still preferred by musicians over the current options for electronic music scores (e.g. digital music stands). A university library in Texas made headlines a few years ago as one of the first libraries with no physical collections (it’s all online). This however is still by and large the exception rather than the rule. The module underlined the conclusion that collection management is undergoing many changes as libraries shift their focus from being places to access stuff to places to learn. It will be interesting to revisit this topic in even 10 years’ time.
A quick word about the assignments. We completed a resource guide (bibliography) and report that addressed all aspects of collection management. I also included a Pinterest board as part of my resource guide, as it’s a good virtual browsing tool if you also include links back to your catalogue. We also had to submit a PowerPoint presentation that basically summarised the report, with the idea of it being something you’d use to persuade managers to develop your collection.