## The degree, being a professional, some options... stop whining

Notable library school lecturer and bird, Gavia Libraria has had it with this whole whiny business of fussing that the library school people attended 5, 10, 15, 20, 30... years ago didn't offer x or y or z.

If you know anything about our field, or any other profession, you know that the degree is very much a beginning. It gets you the foundation, the jargon, and a method for acquiring more. It is not, nor could it ever be the end. That's just crazy.

Now, there are no doubt library school classes that are better than others.  Also ones that are more relevant than others for the thing you need to do today. I am one of the few who actually believes in "core" classes because there are some standard things you should be able to at least look up how to do if you all the sudden become a solo librarian. Like a reference interview. Searching a library catalog, a research database, and the web. Cataloging a book. Unjamming a stapler, a copier, and a toilet 🙂

The other piece of her argument is that libraries often think grass is greener and want to hire someone in with the needed skills instead of developing staff to meet new needs. This is pretty crap if you're the existing staff who is running as fast as she can to move into a new position.

So you're now out of school, what next? Are you in your professional associations? Are you engaging online? Are you attending training given by the vendors - free online! Are you reading? Are you thinking critically?

I, for one, went to an awesome library school that gave me an excellent foundation. I also work very hard to learn all the time.

Here's an example: I am forever trying to learn Python and R and bibliometrics. I can do some things but I'm very slow. My boss didn't tell me to learn. I'm not mad at my library school for not teaching me. I don't even know if either one really existed when I was undergrad (we used Mathematica and Pascal but I'm old).

So here I diverge greatly from some of my librarian colleagues who really hate code academies and MOOCs. I think they are awesome for people like me. I've done a couple Google ones. Some R ones and some Python ones. I abandoned two on machine learning.  The R ones from JHSPH were fine but the one that was really good was the intro to programming with Python from MIT on EdX. It was by far the best platform and the best instruction.  I'm messing with a Michigan one on data science now and it is not as good at all.

Anyway, pull up your big girl pants and get to work learning. While you're at it, work with your leadership on where you see things going and how to best meet the need. If you're in some level of management, work with your librarians to make sure they are moving ahead and advocate for them to upper management.

Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together. Keep your stick on the ice. Good luck with the staplers.

## Special Libraries, Information Fluency, & Post-Truth

Lots of librarians are communicating online about providing resources and information in these fraught times. Some are creating displays and programs to support diverse populations. Others are crafting statements of support and/or opposition. More practically, some are stocking their reference desks with safety pins and extra scarves (to be used by women who have had their hijab snatched off).

But these activities are more useful, perhaps, in public or academic libraries.

In the past few days, "fake" news and propaganda has been receiving a lot of attention. (Hear a rundown from On The Media  - clearly a very liberal news source but transparent about it). As noted on this blog, it is not really possible to insist that our patrons/customers/users use only our licensed sources. To be quite honest, even if we could, that alone isn't enough to ensure they are getting the best information. We think that because our people all have at least college degrees that they are experts on or at least competent in critical thinking.

I think, though, that the media environment isn't what it was when many of them were in school. We take the click bait and we see headlines repeated so often on Facebook that maybe we start to believe?

So, now, how do special libraries train and support their organizations in the post-truth world? I have been asked and have accordingly scheduled training that discusses critically evaluating resources; however, that is NOT at all attractive to busy professionals. The only training I offer that is well-attended is problem oriented and is explicitly related to doing the scientific and technical work (no surprise here to my library school professors!). Otherwise, short on-point training at the point of need is also well-accepted.

Integrate aspects of critical thinking and evaluating resources into every bit of training you do. If your user base can qualify for a free web account for the Washington Post (.gov, .mil, & .edu), make that information available even if you provide access through another source.  Do show finding news information in other topical sessions. For example, a session on aerospace engineering could cover things like society news sources and Aviation Week.

If your organization has an internal newsletter and or social media site, link early and often to reputable sources.

Are you integrated into strategic processes (never as much as you would like, I know!)? What information is your leadership getting and from where? The very highest levels of your organization won't typically attend your classes - can you brief their assistants? Can you make this information available to their mobile devices?

## Uneasy or even unhealthy relationships between liaison librarians and developers?

Two things I've seen today show breakdowns and "other"-ing between liaison librarians and UX or IT or acquisitions or other parts of the library team. This is about one.

A liaison librarian, bibliographer, collection developer - similar with slight differences - is the pointy end of the spear in academic libraries. They go out and coordinate with the researchers. They may teach classes. They select materials and create resource guides on various subjects. Other librarians work within the library to organize information, negotiate and track licenses, build and maintain systems to provide access to licensed resources, etc.

This article by Tim Broadwater is horrific: Why am I doing this to our usershttp://libux.co/why-am-i-doing-this-to-our-users/ (via Francoeur on Slack)

The author is a UX person who is part of a development team. They're basically jerked around by a committee of liaison librarians who turn their personal experience and their limited interactions with a few users of the system into requirements for the design. The UX person tried to pause the process to study what was needed to no avail and it all went downhill from there. At some point they needed to approve every single design decision.

First, I have to say that while I think there's often some tension, I haven't seen anything this bad places I've been. The developer who was at MPOW certainly had some disagreements with liaison librarians but there was always a tremendous amount of respect in both directions. For one thing, he did see librarians as some of the primary users of the catalog and other tools. Really, who does use the catalog more than librarians? Shouldn't their needs be important, too? The other thing is that he reached out to us to ask for data. Not that he did everything we suggested but if we saw something helpful or had helpful feedback or even many hands make light work in testing.

I have a lot of respect for UX researchers... but they are not infallible, either. For example, a new intranet site makes it impossible to learn how to answer a standard question: "is this particular book available online from our collections?"  "do we have a copy of this book at all?" ... it turns out that the questions they used in testing were not run by any of the librarians. They asked "tell me how you would find an ebook" ... and the users were all very successful in locating a list of ebook collections that was only developed to support research guides. It was never intended to be freestanding. This is not the right question. And, it turns out, the freaking catalog was not linked from anywhere in the original production version of the page. In the old page it was front and center.

So it may seem obvious but it's another case of each side respecting the other's expertise. Also, someone should have stepped on the brakes before the relationships were completely trashed.* Developers: liaison librarians can be your best allies if you can work with them successfully. Librarians: developers, UX team members, software engineers are not peons who must slavishly take all of your suggestions - they are experts, too, and you need to listen!

*author dude surely must be looking for a new job or is he assuming co-workers won't read his article?

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## ASIST to ALA: Can we play? Why are you only about Librarians?

Library schools have forever been about school, academic, public, and special libraries (law, medical, corporate, and others). They've also been about archives and records management. When library schools started to get more into training other sorts of "information professionals," they broadened their names to include various sorts of "information." More recently, there has been the iSchool movement which defines itself more broadly. iSchools include some schools that do not even offer an ALA accredited MLS (or MLIS or MSLIS, etc) - the traditional librarian degree either because they dropped it or because they never had it.  Even iSchools that offer the MLS, like Maryland (affiliated but not speaking for them), have branched out to new degrees that require some of the same libr* skills but are not for librarians and are not ALA accredited. They are simply different degrees. Maryland - just used as an example because I know it - offers a MIM (master of information management) and an HCIM (master of human-computer interaction). The MIM graduate at work is an information architect and head of the usability team.

Well. Many people know about ALA because it's so massive and so political. Fewer people know about ASIST. ASIST has always drawn information people who are not strictly dealing with libraries. Information retrieval, bibliometrics, visualization, and other areas. It's more library school and now iSchool researchers and many fewer practitioners although from time to time they do make a big push to be more welcoming to practitioners (practical application papers are not accepted very often).

Most  professional librarian jobs require an ALA accredited MLS. The accreditation committee has increasingly shown concern over the move away from libraries by the iSchools. For example, in some schools, all of the routine how-to-be-an-actual-librarian classes are now taught by adjuncts because there aren't any qualified faculty. A class on cataloging, for example. Pretty important! The ALA accredited degree is specifically to show that the school meets the requirements from a professional library association - for librarians, who often work in libraries doing library stuff.

ASIST, has come out with a statement that is basically like hey, lots of our members have nothing to do with libraries and ALA is being mean to require in their accreditation that the school do all sorts of library stuff. Here's a quote.

It is imperative that accreditation standards be comprehensive and flexible enough to accurately represent educational requirements in multiple information fields, both in and outside of libraries, archives, and other longstanding information organizations. Accreditation must reflect the eclectic, diverse and pluralistic nature of the information field and must be fully applicable to an array of information professions. As a result, we call for the ongoing dialog between ALA and ASIS&T on accreditation issues.

Dorothea Salo (erstwhile blogger here at Scientopia), a faculty member at an iSchool supports this although she is not fond of ASIST (as I am, by the way). I believe her thinking is of the lines that library school is more about approaches, broad skills, and professionalization and can't and shouldn't teach all the nitpicky details that vary from place to place and change quickly over time. (like you didn't teach me to program in Python even though I went to library school before it was invented! you didn't teach me how to install this catalog software!).

With all of that said, I say to ASIST buzz off and butt out. Seriously. If they want to do their own accreditation (when they can't even agree on what we do or who we are), fine. ALA has no obligation to really include them at all. It makes sense that ALA at least talk to ALISE members - those are the library science educators - to coordinate big changes. Probably ASIST members who care about this are in ALISE anyway.

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## The future of the MLS program

University of Maryland (am affiliated, but not with this effort) just wrapped up an effort to look at what the MLS should be for the next few years. Many librarians gripe about their programs - how they didn't learn what they needed or learned stuff they don't use or isn't relevant. The thing is that it's only a 2-year program and our profession requires continuous work to keep up to date and learn new skills. Anyway, I like this part of their write up:

Attributes of Successful Information Professionals. The findings indicate that successful information professionals are not those who wish to seek a quiet refuge out of the public’s view. They need to be collaborative, problem solvers, creative, socially innovative, flexible and adaptable, and have a strong desire to work with the public.
Ensure a Balance of Competencies and Abilities. The debate between MLS programs needing to produce graduates with a “toolkit” of competencies versus providing graduates with a conceptual foundation that will enable them to grow and adapt over time evidenced itself throughout the Re-Envisioning the MLS Further interjected into this debate was the notion of “aptitude” (specific skills) versus “attitude” (“can do,” “change agent,” “public service”). Any MLS curriculum needs to balance aptitude with attitude.
Re-Thinking the MLS Begins with Recruitment. Neither a love of books or libraries is enough for the next generation of information professionals. Instead they must thrive on change, embrace public service, and seek challenges that require creative solutions. MLS programs must seek and recruit students who reflect these attributes.
Be Disruptive, Savvy, and Fearless. Through creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, information professionals have the opportunity to disrupt current approaches and practices to existing social challenges. The future belongs to those who are able to apply critical thinking skills and creativity to better understanding the communities they serve today and will serve 5-10 years down the road – and those who are bold, fearless, willing to take risks, go “big,” and go against convention.

The final report is in pdf here.

## Re-post: What types of expertise do librarians have?

There's a discussion of librarian expertise on FriendFeed right now in the LSW room. It prompted me to look for this post and when I realized how long ago it was I decided to repost here. Gosh, I used to have more time for posting!

In trying to define exploratory search for a current project, I've been confronted with a few different types of expertise. Marchionini (1995) describes 3 types:

1. domain
2. systems (how to actually use the search interface)
3. information seeking (more on the structure of information and how to construct searches, etc.)

Apparently domain experts are more likely to go for higher recall because they will be able to browse the results more efficiently (a slightly different explanation from what they themselves report, see my summary of the RIN paper). Librarians are more likely to do analytic searches with more precise concept mapping.

Anyway, I ran across Collins' (2004) description of "interactional expertise". He talks about a sort of middle ground between tacit and explicit knowledge where you can communicate in the language of the domain, but can't practice the activity. (See, I've always thought of this as the stuff that comes out of the back of an intact male bovine creature, which I'm actually fairly decent at).

Basically he says that through linguistic socialization while immersed in the community we pick up tacit knowledge but not the practical skill to "pass as a fully competent member of the form of life once we move beyond language" (p. 127)

Collins goes on to talk about how we can know the differences: contributory knowledge lets you be let loose in the lab and hold your own, where interactional knowledge lets you interact with practitioners by understanding their terminology and getting some of their references. He states that this changes the interview to a conversation when the participant understands that you are able to convey what they are doing.

His cases primarily center on what sociologists of science or knowledge do, but this does have some explanatory power for what librarians do. I've been asked, "do you really have to have a science degree to do what you do?" The answer, of course, is no... but there is some common ground there and the negotiation of the reference question is very much aided by having a bit of domain knowledge. It could be that this is overcome by non-science trained folks through this linguistic socialization. In fact, science folks are all lay people outside of their particular area so all librarians are faced with this.

How can this expertise be built besides immersion (which will be time consuming and also requires the cooperation of the scientist participants)? Reading, observing... hmm.

Also, does this add anything to other descriptions of this phenomenon provided by Clark & Brennan (1993) and others discussing grounding in communication? (well I suppose grounding is an active, interactive process while expertise is a state so... )

Update: actually, this is probably more important when we're judging relevance for our customers when we are acting as search intermediaries... hm..

Clarke, H. H., & Brennan, S. E. (1993). Grounding in communication. In R. M. Baecker (Ed.), Readings in groupware and computer-supported cooperative work: Assisting human-human collaboration (pp. 222-233). San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Collins, H. (2004). Interactional expertise as a third kind of knowledge. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 3, 125-143.
Marchionini, G. (1995). Information seeking in electronic environments. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

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## SLA Maryland’s Job Search Workshop III

I spoke at this workshop last Saturday in Gaithersburg at the Universities at Shady Grove. This full-day event drew 60 attendees, so you see how the environment is right now.  I only stayed for our panel because the remainder of the day was speakers on resumes, cover letters, and the interview.

At first I was a bit surprised to be asked to speak, but I did warm to the topic. I spoke on: Identifying Non-Traditional Roles & Skills for Information Professionals. I started by talking about my job, and how it started as uber traditional, but how I’ve been embedding in teams and taking on more analysis tasks as I build my client base. Also, how my employer makes it easy to put me on teams, I just have to charge my time to that other budget.  I then talked about how the job description for my current job didn’t really scream librarian, and was a bit scary. I wasn’t sure what type of analysis I could do. So I reassured the audience that with SLA help on packaging search results and what I already learned about analyzing search results… turns out I was perfectly qualified. I listed some other jobs that librarians do:

• taxonomist
• information architect
• knowledge manager
• community manager
• social marketer
• intelligence analyst (particularly open source)
• technology trainer
• database designer (ugh)

I also made the point that I always make, that many of the traditional skills *in addition to organizing information* are still needed and very useful. They should look for jobs that require these skills that we use to connect people to information:

• ascertaining the real information need – the reference interview
• searching
• evaluating resource
• analyzing results
• reporting results

How do you sell this to a new employer? Emphasize the functional aspects and make the point about what you can do for them.

Next, Marianne Giltrud spoke about getting a federal job. Lots of good advice there, including to look outside of 1410 in IT and administrative series.

Finally, Naomi House spoke about her service, I need a library job – INALJ.com. They put out an e-mail, twitter stream, and facebook site on library jobs. Looks really great for job seekers.

This workshop is very well-run and very useful for information professional job seekers. Highly recommended!

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## Print collections in math

Ever heard the library is the mathematician’s laboratory? (cited many places including here, pdf) Mathematicians do use the library and they do use older literature more than some fields. Specialized math librarians often work quite closely with the researchers to develop the collection. Being a specialized math librarian is a dying breed as branch libraries are being closed to save money and math collections are being migrated to big general science libraries. Also in most research collections, there’s a huge push to go electronic only and to move the print collections off site (or to weed them) to provide more space for group work and studying.

So how do you balance the needs of this special group of users with the push from administration?  I actually don’t know*, but there has been a fascinating thread on the mailing list of the Physics-Astronomy-Math division of SLA.

It started with Debra asking if anyone had committed to maintaining a set number of linear feet of math collection. Here are some points pulled from the answers:

• no way- we’re trying to go online all the way!
• younger math researchers are actually ok with electronic access, and the things we have off site we’ll scan for them and deliver, so it’s actually quite convenient
• math needs more monographs than other fields and it’s very common to chain using citations so a big browsing collection is important
• one institution doesn’t send any math offsite, but this was part of an agreement when the math branch library was closed
• Nan from Penn State did a study so they could keep 90% of what their mathematicians cited. The first time she did the study she needed to keep 40 years and the second time she needed to keep 45 years of the collection on site. (there’s more to it, I’m looking forward to seeing her article whenever the next issue of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship comes out.)
• it’s only pure math that is particular about print – other math areas are not as concerned. There’s a lot of serendipity and a lot of browsing.
• some departments want to approve what items are sent off or weeded on an item by item basis.
• current library catalogs are not adequate replacement for browsing full shelves, so that’s one reason to keep the print on site.
• don’t forget that information needs are cyclical so to set the used in x years too short, you’ll have big problems. Also don’t forget the grad students and outliers.
• keep early, classic textbooks that have good explanations
• if the only equipment the mathematicians get is pencil and paper, give them some slack for wanting books!
• no one reads math on the computer, they might want it online, but then they print to read
• requesting something from another location or offsite adds a delay and slows the whole process
• if things really aren’t being used when they are close by, then they won’t be missed off site!
• some users are fine with electronic access, it really might depend on your users!

I wonder if checkouts are ever a good metric since a lot of this stuff might be used within the library, some photocopies made, and then returned to the shelf. We had a very helpful mathematician who always just looked stuff up standing in the reference section. Consequently, no circulation and no proof of usage!**

These math librarians are great mentors with lots of awesome advice. I highly recommend this list for any librarians in physics, astro, math or cs.

Update: Nan's article is out (open access)
Butkovich,N.J. (2010) How Much Space Does a Library Need? Justifying Collections Space in an Electronic Age. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 62 http://www.istl.org/10-summer/refereed1.html

* Our mathematicians are not into “pure math” – but applied and statistics. They often publish in SIAM, IEEE, and public health publications and do use online tools.

** No, I don’t blame him for us losing our entire print collection… always a sore point.

## Delivering the results of a literature search

My primary job at work is to be the point person for in-depth literature searching. I don’t do all of it, but for science and technology needs I get first dibs and then I share out work that can be better done by another librarian (bio goes to A.C. who has a bio degree) or if I am too busy. In-depth literature searching is typically anywhere from 4-40 hours worth of work, pulling information from external information resources and arranging it so that it’s useful for the end user. Once I do a reference interview and then go back and forth to make sure I understand what’s needed, I do the searching, I analyze the results, and then I deliver the results of the search. This often results in an in-person meeting, but there’s always some text aspect.

I most often deliver my results in a word document. I start by encapsulating what they requested and providing a brief summary of the most salient points. In this summary I also mention if there are promising areas that turned up in the search or if there was a notable lack of information in an area. I then have a clickable list of headings which jump you down to citations that fit each heading. Sometimes there will be a discussion under a heading describing what’s going on in this part of the literature or anything interesting. I deliver the citations with an abstract and sometimes I’ll highlight things in the abstract. Recently, I’ve been including a section all the way at the bottom with search methods and resources used. A couple of times my work has been turned over to an external sponsor who was surprised/impressed that I found so much and has demanded to know how I did it. I track this stuff anyway (the scientist in me) so now I’m adding it more proactively to the report.  My boss is big on branding so I might go back to putting a logo at the top, but I’ve been leaving that off recently.

Other times I’ve added things to a wiki or SharePoint site, I’ve delivered a database of citations, I’ve created a spreadsheet of data, and I’ve delivered a kml file to be used in Google Earth. Sometimes I’ll just deliver the results in an e-mail, it just depends.

MaryEllen Bates talks at conferences about how to best package the results of your search. I highly recommend attending one of these sessions. I’m pretty sure she’s written this up,too, so check it out.

So what’s brought this up now is a ResearchBlogging overview of an article [*] on delivering results using 2.0 technologies.  I can’t cover the article better than Jacqueline does, so I’ll refer you to her blog post. I’ll offer here just some general thoughts.

• access to the full text of identified articles – I’ve used RefWorks’ openurl output format to allow recipients to locate full text using our open url resolver, I’ve attached particularly relevant articles to the e-mail, I’ve provided direct links… but what happens most often is I’ll get a highlighted report back or a set of item numbers back and I’ll e-mail the pdfs.
• the authors had problems with e-mails getting lost – I don’t know that that has happened, but sometimes my report won’t be viewed for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll hear back about it
• they ruled out RefWorks because it required two sets of logins/passwords – hmm, why not RefWorks with RefShare? Why two sets of passwords?
• SharePoint wikis suck. I would probably use some other type of web part – even a discussion board entry for each article.
• they really didn’t use the 2.0 aspects of the 2.0 tools – particularly in the case of the wiki. The most valued aspects were access without a lot of logins and then access to the full text without a lot of clicks.

I would be interested in hearing other approaches – particularly using newer tools.

[*] Damani S, & Fulton S (2010). Collaborating and delivering literature search results to clinical teams using web 2.0 tools. Medical reference services quarterly, 29 (3), 207-17 PMID: 20677061

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## Librarian Basics: Collection Development

Both Dorothea and I had some basics posts going at one point and I also had a series going on finding information. I hope to resurrect these as I get the chance. Dorothea has resurrected her Jargon category and is re-naming it Librariansplaining (doesn't sound attractive to me, but whatever).

In her most recent post on Controlled Vocabulary she has a comment on collection development. Dorothea's taught a course on the matter, but I've got my own opinions so I thought I might share some of them here. FWIW, my library school doesn't believe in special collection development courses. Instead, we get bits and pieces of it in lots of "information access in x" courses where for me x $in$  { science, business, government documents}  but others include social sciences, the law, and humanities. I also had Planning and Evaluating Library Services and Collections (or something like that).

According to the Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science, Collection Development is:

The process of planning and building a useful and balanced collection of library materials over a period of years, based on an ongoing assessment of the information needs of the library's clientele, analysis of usage statistics, and demographic projections, normally constrained by budgetary limitations. Collection development includes the formulation of selection criteria, planning for resource sharing, and replacement of lost and damaged items, as well as routine selection and deselection decisions

So there are strategic and tactical bits here in addition to more philosophical bits. Our values are embedded in this definition. First that the users or the library's clientele are central and second that this is an ongoing process.

Strategic parts of collection development might be more like identifying your mission for your library and identifying your user groups. It also includes coming up with broad policies that layout how you plan to make decisions on allocating funds, the types of things you'll collect, and how you will decide what not to keep. Part of this is making broad statements that you won't buy any print materials if you can help it and you'll move everything you can to electronic format only. It might also mean deciding if you want to set money aside for open access memberships.

Tactical parts are the everyday selections and deselections. Let me talk briefly about deselections first.  I have a post from 2007 on weeding - or removing things from the collection. There have been a few changes since then. Groups of academic libraries have gotten together and decided to keep only one print copy of a journal run amongst them. Also, nearly all academic libraries have really big space shortages so they also now have to make decisions on what to send to off site storage and what to keep in their limited space. You might think that this is no biggie - these materials are still available within 24 hours (on weekdays). The opportunity cost is huge and you lose the ability to browse, the serendipity.

In any case de-selecting or weeding is an important part of collection development. The other half is selecting items to license or purchase or accept for free for the collection. How do we find out about stuff? We get catalogs from vendors, we get alerts or even books on approval from distributors, we see ads in magazines, we get recommendations from the users... Oh, so libraries typically have big book distributors we buy from. There are specialty ones that do, say, Japanese books, and then ones that do mainstream public library books or academic library books.  Libraries get a discount, but the amount varies.

How do we really know what's needed? We talk to users, we see what's assigned in classes, we read reviews, we look at the usage of current items, and we look at what items are requested via interlibrary loan.  If we're really good, we look at who's being hired and their specialties and larger trends in the field to try to collect in advance (by the time it's needed it's way to late to start finding titles). Stuff like that. Ideally, in the public library they'll have a good relationship with the local schools and will know in advance what assignments are coming up - this doesn't happen as often as one would like.

So who does this? In public libraries you might have committees of selectors who are reference librarians or you might have people who only select books (who are then not talking to the people every day but it's got advantages, too). In academic libraries you typically have bibliographers or liaison librarians who have collection development duties for a group of related subject areas.  There's probably some head of these or head of collection management or at least a committee for the more strategic decisions.

So that's what I think you ought to know about that for now, but I'm always willing to add or correct as necessary.

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