Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Hyde Park Debate: The Friday Opening Session | Against The Grain


Hyde Park Debate: The Friday Opening Session | Against The Grain.

I enjoy these Hyde Park debates – the idea is to persuade the audience through reason and not with emotion or illogical argumentation.  And while the final vote of the audience was a tiny majority for the argument proposed (Wherever possible, library collections should be shaped by patrons instead of by librarians), the winner was David Magier, who took the opposing side.  He was able to narrow the vote from 52-48% to nearly 50-50.

Arguments from Rick supporting the resolution centered on the idea that libraries should support patrons, not collections, and that building collections for the future user is far too difficult and speculative.  Rick also mentions enabling serendipitous discovery, a feature lost with carefully constructed collections.

Rick’s downfall, I think, was his denigrating references to his fellow librarians – how librarians tend to think they do a better job of developing collections than patrons, and the emphasis on collections rather than patrons.  This could have insulted the mostly librarian-audience, causing them to shut out his arguments.

David’s arguments were less about quality and more about serving all patron needs.  His stance was not that there should be no patron-driven collections, but rather librarians should always be (and have traditionally been) practicing patron-driven collection development.   Many librarians like this “middle of the road” approach, which may have convinced more people to change their vote at the end.

I was intrigued by this comment noted in this summary: The long tail will not make it into the collection in a PDA system.  Since I didn’t attend this session, I don’t know if this was a quote or not, but “the long tail” probably was mentioned.  I have my doubts about this statement.  In a very large academic collection, there are few titles that are heavily used and many, many titles that are used less than 3 times over its shelf-life.  So the long tail would never reach below 3 (or whatever is set as the threshold for purchasing), but it’s still there.

Two statements that I can pretty well agree with in the rebuttals were:

  • Buying books you do not need is no way to build a collection that supports scholarly work on campus.
  • In the real world, librarians are patron-driven We engage in shaping collections with and on behalf of our patrons.

Overall, I think that most librarians would agree that no collection should be developed solely by the librarian or by the patrons.  All collection development should be patron-driven, regardless of the mechanism.

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2014 by in Academic Libraries, Collections, LIS Profession.
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