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#5 -- [1984]

Biblio-Notes (ISSN 1076-8947) is published twice a year by the English and American Literature Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Paper subscriptions are free to members of the section.


The ACRL English and American Literature Discussion Group met at the ALA Annual Conference in Dallas on June 24, 1984, from 9:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Craig Likness, incoming Chair, opened the meeting with a tribute to past Chair Valmai Fenster, who died in May. He acknowledged her contributions to the Discussion Group and to the library profession. The suggestion that Selection Tools and Procedures for English and American Literature Bibliographers be dedicated to Valmai Fenster met with general approval.

A panel discussion followed, on the topic: Serials Selection and De-Selection for English and American Literature. Speakers were: Stephen Wiberley, Bibliographer for the Social Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago; Richard Centing, Head, Theatre and Communication Graduate Library, Ohio State University; and Wendy Bousfield, English and American Literature/Linguistics Bibliographer, Syracuse University.

Mr. Wiberley's presentation focused on "The Use of Citation Data for Serials Selection in English and American Literature: A Theoretical View." Citation data seem to offer a precise measure of serial use, but similar data can yield different results. Citation data have been found to correlate well with use under the following conditions:

  1. Journals are in the same language
  2. Journals are of the same type (e.g. all report research)
  3. Journals publish at least 100 papers a year
  4. Journals must be in a field that uses journals heavily
  5. Journals are from a well-focused or ethnocentric field

Journals in English and American literature typically publish 20-30 papers per year, receive relatively light use, and do not cover a well-focused field. It is risky to use citation data for serials selection, but there is no simple, proven alternative. Qualitative techniques may be biased and use studies require a lot of time and cooperation for the compilation of data.

Ms. Bousfield spoke on "Boundary-Spanners and Serials Deselection," based on her experience with a serials cancellation project at Wichita State University. In 1981, subject specialists were asked to earmark for cancellation 13% of the amount spent for serials in each discipline. An evaluation sheet was filled out for each candidate for cancellation and the subject specialists were then ready to negotiate with the teaching faculty, to engage in what sociologists call "boundary-spanning." James D. Thompson defined boundary-spanning as follows: "Complex purposive organizations receive inputs from, and discharge outputs to, environments, and virtually all such organizations develop specialized roles for these purposes. Output roles, designed to arrange for distribution of the organization's ultimate product, service, or impact to other agents of the society thus are boundary-spanning roles linking organization and environment through interaction between member and non-member."

As boundary-spanners, subject specialists have to establish a rapport with the teaching faculty and be willing to represent the needs of the faculty as well as the values and policies of the library. Communication across organizational boundaries is essential. In a serials deselection project, both librarians and teaching faculty bring together the facts and judgments necessary to determine which titles should be cancelled and both groups are forced to question entrenched assumptions about the responsibilities of academic librarians. It is more difficult for both librarians and teaching faculty to know a library's journal collection than its monographic counterpart. Subject specialists can evaluate older, established journals through use studies, citation analysis, circulation figures, etc., while they must rely on teaching faculty for judgments about periodicals not yet in the mainstream. While the boundary-spanning experience gives librarians and faculty new perspectives, cancellations can alienate faculty and undermine their trust in the library's ability to serve their needs.

Mr. Centing, who is currently editor of "Periodicals for College Libraries" published in each issue of Choice, spoke about serial reviewing. The Choice editorial board is reviewing the periodicals column and discussing its expansion. The board has discontinued the policy of unsigned reviews. Periodicals have been added to "reviews on cards" and short notices of periodicals will be included this fall.

A major problem in serial reviewing is selecting periodicals for review. There are problems in recruting [sic]reviewers, finding review copies (especially for retrospective reviews), and keeping up with small newsletters, etc., that expand to became core journals. Many serial reviews are not indexed. Book Review Index(Gale) indexes Choice reviews that include a recommendation, but excludes those that are merely a description. The indexes to "Katz" and "Farber" are out of date. The "Serial Review Index" in Serials Review is the best place to look. It is arranged by serial title. There is a need for a subject index of serial reviews.

A brief business meeting followed general discussion of the topic of serials selection and deselection.

New officers: New officers were introduced:

Craig Likness, Chair
William McPheron, Vice Chair/Chair Elect
Stephen Lehmann, Secretary
John Dillon, Mina La Croix, and Judy Reynolds, Members-at-Large

Newsletter: The Discussion GROUP has received permission from ACRL to charge a subscription fee for the newsletter. This will not be a problem for the next two issues. There was discussion on possible ways of handling printing and mailing. Craig Likness will pursue this matter. The next newsletter will include a roster of members and a report of this meeting.

Guide to selection tools: First drafts of the chapters are due in August.

Midwinter: Midwinter meetings of the Discussion Group have been planning meetings for the summer program. It was agreed to continue this pattern and to include an optional, informal group lunch of [sic] dinner.

Future discussion topics: Suggestions were made for investigations of how approval plans and pressure to purchase popular titles affect the quality of collection development. It was also suggested that the Discussion Group plan to take advantage of people available in conference cities (MLA in New York, for example).

Elaine A. Franco


Valmai Kirkham Fenster died on Sunday, May 13, 1984 at home after a long and courageous bout with cancer. Born in Nelson, New Zealand on June 17, 1939, she was the only daughter of the Venerable Paul and Mrs. Kirkham. She is survived by her parents, a brother, and her husband, Professor Fred Fenster of the University Of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Her first library degree was earned at the University of Illinois-Urbana. Moving to Madison, she became a lecturer in cataloging and classification at the Library School of the University of Wisconsin and, after earning her Ph.D degree, she was appointed assistant professor. She also taught courses in collection development, the literature of the humanities, and the history of books and printing. Valmai Fenster's contributions, though cut short at a time of great promise, were already considerable. She had established a reputation as a remarkable teacher, been an active member of ALA, and recently published Guide to American Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 1983.) She established a scholarship fund through the University of Wisconsin Foundation with the intent that its income be used to help students from Australia, New Zealand, and other areas of Oceania to come to the United States to study librarianship, as she had been enabled to do.


If your address is incorrect, or if you want your name removed from the following membership roster, please notify the Chair, Craig Likness.

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