January 2014 Editorial

Let's Talk

Photograph of Mark Cummings

Amid the many goings-on at the Charleston conference late last year, we managed to spend some time in intensive discussions with librarians about the future of collection development. Our own interest in the subject goes without saying: as a publication devoted to the collection-development process, we are constantly looking for ways to be of better service to that community, and at no time in our fifty-year history has the need for this kind of self-examination been more pressing.

The discussions, which took place in small groups over a two-day period, were far ranging and predictably lively, and they yielded broad and diverse responses concerning both the changing nature of the collection-development function and the role of Choice in the academic library. Even the highlights of these discussions are too varied to enumerate here, but a few singular concerns did emerge, with remarkable consistency, from the meetings.

Collection development methodologies are now incredibly diverse, as is self-evident. Whether because of the prevalence of approval plans, the increasing adoption of patron-driven acquisition, the open access movement, standing orders—what have you—title-by-title selection of library resources is clearly on the wane. And yet despite this, our respondents passionately insisted that collection development remains a highly personal relationship between the librarian and the collection. More than once, respondents noted that while technology has provided tools for the batch acquisition of titles, their use comes after an evaluative process that is unique to the librarian doing the selection.

On the other hand, our panelists were equally passionate about the loss of control they perceived in the proliferation of large proprietary platforms for ordering or accessing titles, and by the lack of standardization across them. The stress of managing library holdings in this environment was clearly evident in the fervor (!) with which some respondents addressed the issue. Related to this was the perception shared by many panelists that large publishers and aggregators are playing an outsized role in shaping library collections, and that collection-development librarians are facing a diminished curatorial role as a result.

And what of Choice? Not surprisingly, there was general agreement that to the extent title-by-title selection has become less common, so too has the need for reviews. But at the same time our respondents volunteered some interesting ideas for potential growth. Two of the more intriguing possibilities were (1) the need for a review source for open-access publications and their publishers, and (2) a greater role for Choice in discovery services, serving to aggregate all information about a publication in a single, trusted source. Ambitious goals, to be sure, but worthy of our consideration.

These discussions will continue over the next few months, but in the meantime I’d like to extend an invitation to you, our readers, to add your voices to the conversation. What roles would you like to see Choice play in your work? What particular problems might we address through new products or services? If you feel inspired to join in this collaborative effort, please write me with your ideas and concerns at TellChoice@ala-choice.org. We’re eager to find ways to work with you as both librarianship and publishing continue to undergo extraordinary changes. — MC

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