Archive for the 'Collection Development' category

Focusing on counts erodes research libraries' competitiveness

Dec 05 2016 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

by @glennobleFor many years, research libraries (mainly those in academic institutions but also in other research centers) have been all about counting collections: how many volumes owned? how many journals licensed? Bigger is better. Millions of volumes.

This pressure, combined with continual downward budgetary pressure and the global doubling of scientific output every nine years, has led to most libraries taking some short cuts to get more coverage (more volume and more volumes). In place of carefully curated abstracting and indexing services necessarily specific to certain domains of knowledge that help explore and identify sources of information but do not provide physical access, many libraries are licensing massive collections from Eb and PQ that hugely boost the numbers. They are also licensing these massive "discovery" systems that, in my opinion, completely fail to improve discovery. We librarians have told our vendors that our most important users are the undergraduates who need any few articles on a topic to quickly pad their bibliography.  Vendor offerings that make that process easier are welcomed.  So we cancel Inspec, Biosis, GEOBASE and similar to feed the beast of more and more content. The vendors who provide access to formerly very useful databases (cough Aerospace cough) more or less eviscerate them to also give more - higher counts, faster, broader... and cheaper (no - lol - never cheaper for *libraries*)

Yet, as everyone has said before me, we are living in times of information abundance not scarcity. We know we cannot survive with the library-as-pocketbook model. Some of our value comes in working with users as partners in their research. We work to understand what their information problem entails and to help them (teach, do for, or provide tools for them to) find the information they need. We should also be building and licensing systems for the most sophisticated of users on our faculties and in our research centers. We should strive for precision and also serendipity of unexpected very relevant articles. We should save the time of the reader. What value millions of responses to a web query if your answer is on page 10? New researchers should be taught to be more sophisticated in their searching (I honestly think chemistry may be the only field that does this well), instead of accepting good enough or random iteration around the theme.

The best services and tools respect the researcher's precious time. They help the researcher have better information more quickly and with more context and confidence.  This is the way we compete with the ubiquity of information freely available on the internet. It's something we do and something we can do quite well... but we need to stop these collections processes now before it's too late.

 

*These are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my immediate organization or my parent institution. Any specific products are mentioned to clarify my meaning. No endorsement should be inferred.

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The crazy trip of one aerospace trade pub

Jan 08 2016 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

Aviation Week (& Space Technology) is celebrating 100 years in print in 2016. To celebrate (and advertise Boeing), they are making their archive freely available in 2016 (registration required for some f/t) (via Gary Price).

This is shocking really. This publication has been super important AND super expensive over my time as an engineering librarian in an aerospace organization. I've used the print archives to come up with open source documentation of various launch pad accidents, details of missile production, and other news.

We had a print archive going back to about 1962 in our library. In 2009 when we had to move out and ditch our collection I argued to keep this - of all of our bound journals - because at the time there was no affordable alternative. Well, I was out the day one of the jobbers came and apparently took it all anyway. An accident, I was told. So we did without for a while, using the embargoed access that gave us a few years through a major aggregator.

Still, just about every year we asked for a quote from McG-H and the pricing was like 5 digits for a single user with a login and password. It wasn't something we could really do.

Then a couple of years ago it was bought by Penton Media. You may know them from all of the "free to qualified recipients" trade pubs they have. They offered the database - the Intelligence Network - to us large-institution wide for less than a single login had been. We jumped on it.

Now, this year, free. I guess it won't be free after 2016? Has the quality changed? Dunno.

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So long old friend: Cancelling Dialog

Aug 14 2015 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

Ever since being required to learn it in Library School, I've been a fan of Dialog. The interface had all the power and precision an expert searcher needed. The idea that there were nearly a thousand databases that I didn't have to subscribe to individually or even really know about in advance was awesome. It was easy to get nervous about racking up a bill because you paid by time and things you looked at but you could figure out costs in advance. There were tools, too, to identify the appropriate database for a search or to cross search databases.

Blue sheets for each database made its structure explicit and you could go from one to the next and quickly make sense of them to decide how to modify your search. Now, with years of trying to be more like Google and concentrating resources on an undergrad audience, it's all mystery meat. If you read the instructions for a database you can maybe eventually figure it out, but not like the olden days.

So if I love it so much, why are we cancelling it?  Well, the Dialog I describe is not the current one. Now it's got the mystery meat interface that looks the same as all PQ products. All of the weird and wild and unique research databases are gone. They have maybe a tenth of what they used to have in Sci/Tech and they're basically all the ones I have already through a native interface or elsewhere on PQ or Ebscohost, etc. I don't really blame PQ because it's more a function of corporations slashing library budgets.

So not the content I need. Power is gone (or hidden). Big cutbacks in service (but I hadn't really noticed that because of the content changes). And we had to do something like a deposit account which no one likes - at all.  I believe we had to tell them in advance how much we wanted to spend in a year to get a discount.  Honestly, I haven't used it for a while. Every time I think to, I find the database I wanted is no longer there or I have a version on another platform.

So sad.

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