Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Natural Selection vs. Domestication


Two weeks ago, a discussion exploded on the ERIL-Listserv (Electronic Resources in Libraries) that began with a simple query about how to divvy up funding by subject on a general demand-driven acquisitions (DDA or PDA) program.  While the archives for ERIL are behind a firewall available only to subscribers, I don’t really want to summarize the whole discussion.  While the consensus of respondents was that it is neither feasible nor wise to attempt to divide a DDA program into subject-based funds, the “spin-off” issue that arose was the value of DDA versus title-by-title selection.  The questions are familiar – are librarians shirking their responsibility for building quality collections?  are we becoming less professional?  will our collections turn into piles of popular titles that quickly loose their relevance?  can we trust patrons’ decisions?  who is better at making choices – the patrons or the librarians?

It was this last question which has intrigued me…so I posted this:

I am very interested in studying the effects of this approach – a one-fund, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may model of collection development. I am beginning to believe that natural selection will closely approximate the true need, thus allowing us to develop a collection that more accurately meets the needs than formal selection methods. Would anybody whose library has recently or will be soon changing from a subject-based funding or formula model to a single-fund model be interested in collaborating on a study of these effects?

This is just swirling in my mind right now and would likely not actually take shape until the 2016-17 year…but, what I currently envision is a comparison of expenditures, measures of quality collections (e.g. % of titles from university presses, or in OAT or other authoritative lists), and usage (ebook and/or print circulation) by subject before and after the switch. This kind of study would be fraught with pratfalls pitfalls, but it could provide us with evidence on how these models compare with meeting our users’ needs.

Thoughts?

I was surprised by the 5 positive responses I received.  But having more libraries would provide more useful results.  Knowing that this will require a lot of work, I’m trying to get a head start on organizing and developing this multi-institutional study.  Please leave a comment or contact me if you are interested in participating.

 

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This entry was posted on October 4, 2015 by in Academic Libraries, Collections, LIS Research, Statistical Analysis.
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