Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thinking out loud: Library Strategic Planning

Please forgive the length of this. This a bit of thinking out loud (read slightly disjointed thoughts) in regards to some things I was contemplating this week about the direction/strategic planning of the library. I appreciate your comments.

The reading for this week of class in Academic Librarianship revolves around the accessibility of digital materials and the budget issues involved with the 'renting' of these items. These readings are alsmot enough motivation to pile the enecyclopedias in a large pile on the front steps, douse the pile in gasoline and toss a match. Unfortunately I need those encycs for volume count (accreditation) and until I can replace them with something else they need to stay on the shelf. My library currently reflects the thinking about libraries that was prevalent five-ten years ago. That philosophy can be summed in one/two hypenated word(s): 'double-up'. Buy two of everything. This is not just dropping one copy in reference and one copy in circulation but often two, three or sometime four of the same volume in circulation. (To be fair, I'm not sure nor have any way of knowing which of these were donated and which of these were bought. I am more understanding of adding a second volume of a donated work but less understanding of buying a second work especially without confirmed use.) Hence why I have 2 complete sets of the Biblical Illustrator and 3 complete sets of Calvin's Commentaries. The library is rather unequipped to deal effectively with the changing needs of students in their research. I was thinking about this today and I think a good model to pursue is the plug-in model of programming. What is first required is an outline/foundation that can be abstracted out enough to accommodate foradjusting to multiple situtations, both planned and unplanned. Once that outline/foundation is tested and solid different objects can then be plugged into it.
How I think this model plays out in my library:
What's the goal of the library? To provide scholarly, solid informational resources to the students, staff and faculty in an efficient and cost-effective manner. (This needs some tweaking)
What are the current plug-ins (the items that are going to be doing actually/supposedly the work)

1. Digital resources (subscription database/open access stuff/ other online tools)

2. Circulating Print resources (Circulating books. Our collection keeps suprising me both with what students find and what I find in both good and bad ways.)

3. Serials/Journals: (I cannot begin to describe to you how much of a waste of money journals are and how much street cred they carry with administration and accreditation. I'm fairly certain that all of 5 people a year read these journals and yet this is a major item on any accreditation sheet. Also the fact that most/many of our journals are available in full-text online.)

4. Reference resources (I received a 1300 page book in the mail for a test-drive yesterday on the world's major religions. The publisher wanted $371.00 for it. The book is sitting on my desk waiting to be mailed back. The odd thing is I didn't even ask for this one; it just showed up and the spine was crushed on the bottom. This pricing is typical of reference works which get used even less than circulating items especially with stuff from Sage/Gale.)

5. DVD/CDs (Both of these are good esp. as DVDs have a high circulation rate but they get scratched easier than sunburn victims at a cat convention which means you have to buy new ones.)

6. VHS/Cassette Tapes (Same burn pile as the encycs. out of 5,000 tapes under 200 circulated last year with less the year before. Sounds like a good use of space to me.)

7. Microforms (The library had purchased 9,000 titles from TREN which five to ten years ago would have been a huge shot in the arm. Now it simply causes issues as the microfiche just confuses the nonsense out of the students because the catalog records don't explicitly state that these are microforms so they wander around teh library until I ask if they are looking for sometihng. Sad but humorous.)

Based on my reading and talking with students the best plug-ins are Digital Resources, Circulating Books and CD/DVDs. However the area of digital resources is the most expensive one, even with consortium help. Also the idea that you are renting access with nothing to show for it if the company goes out or raises their prices that you cannot meet. The renting model for digital resources frightens me quite a bit especially as we (libraries) are buildling our library access around them. In terms of circulating books, I really love buying books for the library. It is like Christmas when new orders come in. However trying to balance not a lot of money across a large subject area especially whne including keeping sections updated is a bit tricky and I'm definitively still learning that process.
This article * talks about creating a "new competitive attitude" when it comes to thinking about the purpose of libraries. The reason I want to focus on my top three plugins is that these areas give the best versatility and flexibility in approach to reaching the needs of the student population. I don't have enough storage room to hang onto every book that comes into our door. I don't think that approach fits the strategy of the institution as well. By eliminating archaic and outdated medium the library will be, and I think appear, more relevant and approachable.

*Ross, Lyman; Sennyey, Pongracz "The Library is Dead, Long Live the Library! The Practice of Academic Librarianship and the Digital Revolution" The Journal of Academic Librarianship Vol. 34 No. 2 pages 145-152 2008.

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