Building Business Collections in Public & Academic Libraries


ALA Annual Conference, Chicago
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Palmer House Hilton

BRASS Discussion Group Notes

Recorders: Mary Martin, Claremont College & Jan Lewis, East Carolina University

Ethan Pullman, Chair of the BRASS Business Reference Services Discussion Group, welcomed attendees to the discussion group and introduced members of the committee.

Peter McKay introduced the topic "Building Business Collections in Public and Academic Libraries" and asked attendees to review the discussion questions prepared by the committee.

McKay opened the discussion by asking the following questions: Who selects business materials in your organization? Are you given a budget allocation? How is it determined and can you negotiate the amount? The following comments were shared:

American University analyzes ILL requests. If certain criteria are met, the library subscribes to the new journal. Cost per use is one of the criteria.

Purdue also uses ILL data also but hasn’t had any new journal money for about 20 years. Tradeoffs are usually used to get new journals, with the decision to cancel a journal based on usage statistics. The usage data for print journals is scanned into the circulation system and can be extracted on a title-by-title basis, or for the entire library. Many electronic and paper subscriptions are connected so cancellation might be a problem. Most new subscriptions are based on ILL requests or requests from faculty and students.

At the University of Arkansas, the administrative policy requires an exchange of money in the fund (traded out by cancellation). They have not had a serials cut since 2000. Concern was expressed over the lack of use of some Economics journals in ScienceDirect.

At Princeton, they try to convince the "powers that be" that there should be one fund for the subject area, not separate allocations for books and journals. At Princeton, databases are emphasized over books and journals, which can be borrowed from other libraries or obtained through document delivery.

At the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill the approval plan (Yankee) is modified every year. There are no fixed lines between serials and books. Funds can be switched to e-journals, for example. The librarian has a budget line for business reference and access to endowment funds. She can buy electronic resources from her funds, rather than going to the library's central electronic resources fund. She has found that when a department is trying to recruit new faculty, they can come up with money to buy the materials that the faculty member needs. For example, the Business School pays for WRDS, Thomson, and Bloomberg.

OhioLink access provides a great basis for sharing resources.

At Youngstown State, the faculty union's contract gives them the right to spend the collection development budget. However, some reference money and general budget funds are available to librarians. Librarians there have found that the faculty does not want to submit requests to acquisitions. Faculty may want the control, but not the work. One librarian commented that this was the 1950s and 1960s model. While some libraries in Europe still use this model, most libraries in the United States have moved away from it.

There are still bibliographers that select materials who don’t do public service. A public librarian noted that they participate in a number of vendor deals or approval plans. Often, these are all handled by the head of technical services. Electronic resources and reference materials are often different, with public services librarians ordering reference materials and helping make joint decisions on electronic databases.

In the Chicago Public Library branches, all selecting is done centrally.

One public library selects from Library Journal, Publishers' Weekly and Booklist reviews.

One public system has centralized collections – two big collections, five small collections. There is centralized ordering with input from librarians and money can be transferred between budgets.

At Purdue, if a graduate student requests expensive datasets, the librarian offers to pay for half of the cost, if the student’s major professor can find the funds to pay for the other half. These datasets are usually licensed for just one year, for one user, with password-controlled access. Penn State does the same thing. Others expressed concern about the time licensing and training would take in this situation. At least one librarian said that one-year licenses are not common – once you get a database, you usually keep it. Some libraries have Endowed Funds for purchasing.

What about the non-sustainable price spiral?

Some librarians have talked to faculty personally about particular journals, notifying them that the journals have low usage and offering them the personal subscription option. Again, usage statistics are valuable as many researchers work in offices and librarians may not be aware of the journals that they are using. Several librarians felt that the faculty is interested in supporting open access journals, working papers, and informal access through lists, etc.

Inter-disciplinary journals often pose special problems when cancellation is being considered. One librarian expressed frustration with the model that libraries must subscribe to journals that faculty is required to publish in. When journal publishers engage in “outrageous pricing” models, the library is put in a difficult situation.

The California Regents are considering adopting a model where faculty must retain copyright and put their articles in an institutional repository. Big states are negotiating big package deals with vendor/publishers for consortium pricing. The perception is that Elsevier seems to be the biggest offender of bundling and over-pricing.

Quality of selections

One person looks at other universities' web pages. She looks for descriptions of databases on other web pages and pleaded with librarians to not just use vendor blurbs, but to include qualitative comments.

One spends lots of time looking at assignments and ascertaining resource needs. Changes in the school's International Business program led the library to subscribe to Euromonitor.

At the University of Phoenix, faculty input is weighed most heavily. The librarian values their knowledge of the content and finds that showing faculty involvement is valuable for accreditation purposes. He has the Director send the faculty an electronic link and asks them to evaluate web resources. He uses Zoomerang to create a form that faculty use to evaluate the resource.

University of Washington is part of a three-campus system. Librarians on each campus evaluate databases. The faculty is involved in evaluations. Sometimes students evaluate databases for extra credit.

What role do books play?

Princeton isn’t buying as many foreign language books as they used to. Who is? Does the campus care? UNC-Chapel Hill still buys books in Chinese and French. When people find these books in the catalog, they often ask, "Do you have it in English?"

There is a concern that cooperative loan programs in Latin America and the Far East are not well-developed and that it may be difficult to borrow books from libraries in these regions.

At this time, Ethan Pullman opened the floor to general questions and concerns.

There was a question about using Association libraries. Someone pointed out that many Associations are abandoning their Web sites and even closing offices. As a result, trade publications are becoming more important.

In Washington, D.C., students have a misconception about the Library of Congress – they think they can get whatever they want from Library of Congress.

There was a question about whether any public and academic libraries partner in collection development. One librarian said that they did not cooperate, but that community colleges in the area seemed to think that public libraries should have the resources community college students need. Two research libraries - UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke – do have cooperative collection development, particularly for Economics.

There was a question about how public libraries are dealing with diversity issues. One librarian said that while 95% of the business collection is in English, they do have some Spanish-language titles, as well as materials in Korean, Vietnamese, and Polish. A public librarian noted that she was getting requests from distance education students in university programs.

Private academic libraries often must tell alumni to go to public libraries or public universities to use databases. Even in-library use of electronic resources is restricted to current students and faculty at some private academic libraries.

Have libraries that subscribe to LexisNexis Statistical canceled the print indexes? No – several people expressed frustration with LexisNexis Statistical due to the difficulty in finding known items and in being confident that you’ve done a comprehensive search. Several people said that if they had to cancel either the print or the online version, they would cancel LexisNexis Statistical and keep the print.


Peter McKay is the incoming chair of the Discussion Group. He thanked outgoing chair Ethan Pullman for a job well-done.

Gary White is the new editor of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship and Stacy Marien in the book review editor. Ryan Womack is the editor of the web review column. Stacy and Gary asked potential authors / reviewers to contact them.

bulletBuilding Business Collections in Public & Academic Libraries
Business Reference Services Discussion Group, ALA Annual Conference, June 26, 2005

  • Notes from the discussion

Disclaimer : This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 8 September 2005.