Re-Tooling Academic Libraries for the Digital Age:
Missions, Collections, Staffing

California Academic & Research Libraries
Third Annual Conference


Collection Development: Balancing Access and Ownership

Moderated by Charlotte Rubens, Head of Interlibrary Services, UC Berkeley, this lively session presented the experiences of three different academic libraries in making access/ownership decisions.

First, Alan Ritch, Collection Development Librarian, UC Santa Cruz, gave the perspective of a medium-sized research library within a large system. Because the University of California is pursuing a system-wide shared collection based on Melvyl, the convenience of local access is being sacrificed to the economies of shared, reduced acquisitions. This places a heavy burden on the older, large campuses, on which the smaller schools are now "shamelessly dependent." Because of the budget crises of the last decade, all libraries in the system are desperately trying to protect their core collections, which are being reduced to an inadequate nucleus. The result is "plain vanilla" homogeneous collections, in which the access/ownership dichotomy (which depends upon a variety of different, complementary collections) breaks down. Without adequate funding, he warned, neither access nor ownership will be within our means, and universal access will be a "dream deferred."

The second speaker, Terry Allison, Collections Librarian at CSU San Marcos, spoke from the perspective of a new institution, which was expected to serve as a model for libraries of the future while still meeting the needs of its students today. Expected by some to become a virtual, electronic library, it has been criticized for becoming instead a fairly traditional library. Concluding that they must meet their primary clientele's needs using whatever technology was most appropriate, they have followed four guiding principles in developing their collection:

  1. They need to provide a core collection on-site of materials in various media.
  2. Print is now and in the foreseeable future will be the central technology of the core collection.
  3. Serials would constitute a smaller part of the budget than usual, as they are more readily available through access modes than are other media.
  4. Traditional non-print media (video, for example) may indeed evolve into other formats but are needed now to meet current needs.

Noting that his university's writing requirement in each class leads to a heightened need for textual sources for substantiation, he observed that only 2-5% of the world's scholarly information currently is available electronically. Both access and ownership have costs, and striking a balance between them is not inexpensive, nor is it cheaper than the ownership model.

The last two speakers were Linda Seekamp, Collection Development Coordinator, and Sharon Walters, Access Services Librarian, both from St. Mary's College. From the perspective of a smaller private college, they described their efforts to identify the core periodicals in each field of study offered at their school. Once they had determined which ones they did not own, they decided to use subsidized document delivery to supply them as though they did own them.

Their first pilot project, just concluded, offered free copies of articles from 71 non-owned core titles in the sciences. A second project, beginning November 1, 1995, expands this service to cover over 300 core journals in all fields, with articles supplied through commercial vendors at a subsidized cost of $3. Articles from all other non-core journals will continue to be obtained through traditional interlibrary loan, or through commercial services at full cost to the requester.

A lively question-and-answer session followed these presentations, showing that these are issues that hit close to home for us all.

Submitted by Leanna Goodwater, Santa Clara University

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