Why does conceptualising the library collection matter?For me, one librarian survey response summed this up well.“I think collection management as a whole gets lost in libraries. Parts of it are carried out regularly but perhaps the overall thought of collections is lost at times but needs to be kept in mind in order to help manage budgets, increase customer usage and plan for the future.”So I think, that as the resources we deal with become increasingly diverse and complex, aspects of collection development and management become more specialised, potentially more fragmented, as does our terminology. Taking a step back and asking some fundamental questions about what a collection actually is in the digital world, and trying to develop an overarching framework for thinking about the totality of what a library or information service does in acquiring, making accessible and managing these resources may help to focus how we think about some of those more practical issues such as budgeting, service delivery and future plans.
One way of conceptualising social enterprise is what the social enterprise alliance calls the “missing middle” – the intersection of government, business and voluntary sector activity.The shaded area in this diagram – between private sector activity, public sector activity and activity from the voluntary sector. Uses market based approaches, combined with decentralised voluntary sector altruism and activism to address areas of public policy need.Relatively new term for a much older idea. Some writers use Bailey Building and Loan from the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) as an example of the concept.Includes co-operatives, or mutuals like John Lewis, fair trade companies, trading arms of charities. Increasingly in the UK public sector organisations moving out of the public sector to deliver their services on a more market-led basis.
The things that make it interesting to study social enterprise in relation to collections: It’s an interdisciplinary subject. Henry Evelyn Bliss in his Bibliographic Classificationreferred to the “insinuating ambiguities” of interdisciplinary subjects – where exactly do they sit? Research increasingly revolves around interdisciplinary subjects:- Interdisciplinary approaches reflect the reality of how subjects interconnect;- Problem centred approaches;- Interdisciplinary research is encouraged by research funders; facilitated by cross-disciplinary access to information. New communities – Community of practice – people share their expertise relating to their work through networks and virtual communities. SE community often also generates a lot of information itself – including on social networking sites, blogs. Difficult material for libraries to deal with, but reflects important trends relating to the dramatic increase in informal online publication. There’s a very diverse range of potential stakeholders including practitioners, policy makers, researchers & academics, funding organisations, public sector employees exploring setting up a social enterprise. Relevant materials in a wide range of different types of library – academic, public, national, health, libraries in professional associations or government departments – a snapshot of issues affecting library collections across these different organisationsOne thing you might like to think about is whether there are other subjects which share these characteristics
Aim of the research is to use a case study of the library collection for social enterprise to develop a conceptual approach to the library collection in the digital world, exploring stakeholder perceptions of collections, terminology and collection development and management processes.
There are three strands to my research: Case study of the British Library’s collections for social enterprise (descriptive aspects of characteristics of the library collection for social enterprise and how it is used). Includes OPAC searches. OPAC searching of other library catalogues (descriptive aspects of characteristics of the library collection for social enterprise)Aseries of interviews with a small number of stakeholders followed by a survey of a larger group of stakeholders, to see if the ideas which emerged from the interviews are representative of the views of the wider population (more investigative aspects – looking at how people use – or don’t use – libraries for information relating to social enterprise, librarian / information practitioner perspectives on social enterprise information, wider issues affecting library collections in the digital age)I’m just going to talk about the third strand today – interviews with 18 people, followed by survey responses from 149 people.
Included people who don’t use libraries or information services, as well as those who do.
In all interviews I asked the question “What do you understand the term collection to mean?”6 interviewees – including half the library and info practitioner interviewees sawthe term as library jargon.But even people who thought of it first as a jargon term went on to give further sophisticated, nuanced andinclusive interpretations of what collection means.From interviews, I found these definitions could be organised in the following way:Collection as process which is further divided:-Collection as selection;-Dynamically created collections through searching;-Collection as service.Collection as store or thing which is further divided:-Collection as subject groups;-Collection comprised of sub-groupings;-Collection and quantity.And then there’s collection as access – not just things you own.
Lee discusses the idea of collections as groupings of material on a subject, as well as the idea of subgroups within a collection, which suggests some form of hierarchical organisation.
Whereas Lee found a difference between librarian and academic user perceptions of collection, with users apparently more concerned with access and availability, whilst librarians seemed more focused on management and control, in this project “access” seems to be a key defining feature of the collection for librarians, as well as non-librarians.
A range of metaphors used for the collection: a portal, a window, a doorway, a filing cabinet. Hard and soft information. An active, live collection or a finished collection or a collection of “dead” information. But one image came up in a couple of interviews. Two interviewees used the analogy of the lifeboat when talking about role of a library or information collection. This suggests an idea of collection which is part thing – a container ensuring preservation – and part process – selecting items for preservation. For the first interviewee, the image of the lifeboat seems to refer to the lifeboat’s role as a container of at risk materials, scooping them up from a sea of information. For the second interviewee, it is actually the process of choosing what to preserve – the process of selection - which linked the idea of collection to lifeboat.
The first time I gave a presentation about this research, (when I only had the first of the two lifeboat quotes), I used this image. Someone said “that’s not a lifeboat, it’s a rescue boat...”AvailabilitySurvival so farLibrary materials gathered in this way?
So the next time, I used this image, and I think these two images suggest two different approaches to collection and preservation.In the past, selection on the basis of perceived value or perceived vulnerabilityNow we might hope for what could be called a comprehensive ideal: sufficient resources and adequate systems in place – sufficient lifeboats – to ensure everything which needs to be preserved can be...Perhaps more of an archival approach?
Outside-in / inside-out – LorcanDempsey.Traditionally librarians have selected materials from an external info landscape and made it available for a local audience. Change to collecting, managing and making accessible a wide range of unique internal resources (assets) and pushing them out into the larger info universe. A potentially very dynamic role for the library – influencing how things are taught.
One academic librarian discussed what could be described as a process of advance deselection, where records for some ebooks which could otherwise be made available for purchase using a Patron Driven Acquisitions method were suppressed before the system was introduced, because they were perceived as not being relevant to the needs of the academic library users. In a sense, items were being deselected prior to the acquisition stage.One really rich area for exploration was related to perceptions of free information. Both publishers strongly emphasised that digital isn’t free. SE – 3 talked about specific examples of how they used “free” information, or wanted “free” access to digital.Librarians very much in the middle. Very aware of all the costs involved with digital (of course) but also described eg ending specific subscriptions because the relevant info can be found on the web; advising people to use other libraries to access resources. Understand how important “free or quite cheap” info is to business, students and other customers.Librarians mediating in terms of cost as well mediating by providing information. Already an important role – could be more so in an age of disruptive new cost and pricing models for digital? (Author pays open access, opportunities for new collaborative approaches to purchasing?)
Some of these ideas combine in this quotation from a publisher. This is a much more dynamic view of what collection can be than might traditionally be the case.
783 survey invitations in totalLibrary and info practitionersincluded responses from:public, academic, national,health and special libraries. SE responses included:Academics, practitioners, policymakersRelatively small number of responses – limits the conclusions I can draw from this, but some of the findings do suggest some interesting insights.Around 30 questions in each survey, just going to talk about a small number today: begin by discussing 1 similarity between LIP / SE responses and 2 interesting points of contrast. Then talk about some responses from LIP respondents specifically.
Asked each respondent to indicate their order of preference for eight definitions of “collection”Preferred definition (overwhelmingly, for both groups): collection as a group of materials on a subject or a theme.Similar patterns in level of responses between LIP / SE responses. For example, Provision of access second most frequent rank 1, 2 or 3 option. Third most frequent rank 1, 2, or 3 option: Results created by searching, which does suggest a more dynamic, process-led approach to defining collection.
Two points of contrast between answers offered by LIP and people interested in SE:Asked about the relative importance of different info sources for SE – here there was a real contrast between LIP and SE responses about Google and Libraries:LIPs: 57% ranked Libraries as very important or essential, just ahead of 53% who regarded Google as v. important or essential.SE respondents: 80% rated Google as very important or essential – joint first rated source with websites; Libraries were ranked v important or essential by the smallest number of respondents – one third: 33%There was also a contrast between LIP and SE responses about the importance of the library’s preservation role:53% of LIP respondents rated preserving print items as v important or essential; compared to 68% of SE respondents see preserving print items as very important or essential47% LIPs preserving digital items as v important or essential; compared to 64% of SE see preserving digital items as v important or essential39% LIPs see preserving informal customer publications as v important or essential; compared to 52% SE see preserving informal customer publications as v important or essentialSE respondents seem to rate the importance of the library’s preservation role more highly than the LIP respondents, although there are large variations between responses from different library sectors: Higher proportion of academic librarians rate preserving formal print or digital publications as very important or essential than public librarians; Higher proportion of public librarians rate preserving informal customer publications as very important or essential than academic librarians; Much higher proportion of national library librarians rate all forms of preservation as very important or essential than respondents from other library sectors.
Preferred terms for library resources:Overall, stock was the most popular choice here, just ahead of “collection”. But there are differences between different sectors – public librarians place stock first and collection third (behind information resources); for academic librarians “collection” is the most popular term, but “Stock” and “holdings” are close behind.89% agreed or strongly agreed that they have a good understanding of the community their library or information service serves but only 4% agreed or strongly agreed that community analysis enables them to identify emerging areas such as social enterprise.4 public librariansand 2 academic librarians report having no policy document81% agreed or strongly agreed that collection policy documentation is “A working document setting out how we approach practical problems managing the collection”;74% agreed or strongly agreed that collection policy documentation is “A statement about the current level of service provided by our collection”;26% agreed or strongly agreed that collection policy documentation is “A document to promote the collection to our users”Differences in selection methods used by different sectors. Public librariesuse customer suggestions and supplier selection more, academic libraries use reading lists or Patron Driven Acquisitions.
Interesting that search and collection seemed to overlap in both interview and survey responses. Raises questions about role of collection in an age of resource discovery and suggests that they are related, complementary ideas.Results of this research does seem to suggest that “collection” continues to be a useful term. Shared, complex understandings of multiple levels of meaning to the term.Need to interpret the term in a more dynamic way – about collection as process and access as well as collection as thingCould this contribute to a new collection development hierarchy? One thing I’ve been looking at recently is whether these three dimensions of collection – thing, access and process can be linked to collection management hierarchies. For example, using Collection as thing to think about collection strategy; collection as access to think about tactics; and collection as process to think about the operational level of collection development and management.Is this a framework which could, in the words of the survey respondent, help libraries “manage budgets, increase customer usage and plan for the future.””?
ALISS Christmas Seminar 2012
Exploring concepts of „collection‟ in the digital worldAngharad Roberts12/12/12ALISS Christmas Seminar