Why does conceptualising the library collection matter?
One way of conceptualising social enterprise is what the social enterprise alliance calls the “missing middle” – the intersection of government, business and non-profit activity.In the UK this might be seen as the shaded area in this diagram – between private sector activity, public sector (government) activity and activity from the voluntary sector. Unlike the USA the UK doesn’t have a non-profit tradition. Tend to talk about charities, voluntary sector, third sector or even “civil society”. Terminology for that third circle less stable. 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, fair trade companies, trading arms of charities / non-profits, increasingly in the UK public service organisations moving out of the public sector to deliver their services on a more business-like basis.Social enterprise alliance’s slogan “Where mission meets the marketplace”Perhaps one of the most famous examples is the Grameen Bank, founded in Bangladesh by Mohammed Yunus in the late 1970s early 1980s offering a form of microfinancing – small loans which make a big difference – to enable business development in poorer communities. Promoting entrepreneurship by women, in particular. Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen bank Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
The things that make it interesting to study social enterprise in relation to collections: It’s an interdisciplinary subject. 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 – Social enterprise is a highly networked field with significant 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.
Fivesubsidiary research questions to this:What are the characteristics of the library collection for social enterprise?How is the library collection for social enterprise used?What are the characteristics of the self-described information behaviour of people interested in social enterprise?What are stakeholders’ perceptions of library and information collections and terminology?What does this study suggest about the wider issues relating to library and information collections in the digital world?I’ll just be talking about findings relating to the last two of these questions today.
This is a simplified model of the research design:Three strands: Case study of the British Library’s collections for social enterprise (sub-questions 1 and 2). Includes OPAC searches. OPAC searching of other library catalogues (sub-questions 1 and 2) An “exploratory sequential study” (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2011: 86-90) – interviews of 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 (subquestions 2, 3, 4, 5)I’m just going to talk about the third strand today – interviews with 18 people, followed by survey responses from 149 people.
18 interviewees.5 involved with social enterprise, includes one social enterprise support manager
In all interviews I asked the question “What do you understand the term collection to mean?”6 interviewees – 2 SE, 1 policy maker, 1 publisher and 3 people working in library and information services sawthe term as library jargon.But even people who professed no knowledge of the collection had sophisticated, nuanced andinclusive ideas of what a collection is.From interviews, we 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 her 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. The first interviewee manages an online resource which aims to capture and preserve electronic documents. In this case, 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 electronic information. It also evokes well the perilous state of much relevant electronic documentation. It’s vulnerable to organisational change, link rot etc.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 – for example, St Cuthbert Gospel which somehow managed to stay afloat in the world for centuries...
So the next time, I used this image, and I think these two images suggest two different approaches to collection and preservation.Availability may come into itIn 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?
Both publishers said this. Both academic librarians said something similar – UK higher education as major export business – trend towards opening campuses in other countries; providing e-resources to support students there.Format issues, but also – that possessive pronoun – digital is personal
Slicing and dicing, morselization, snippets of information“you’re not constrained by page extent, and that’s the biggest thing.”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 – and I went back and reanalysed the rest of my interview data and found some interesting patterns. Publishers emphatically reject the idea of digital is 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, comment from last year’s Charleston Conference – who would’ve thought the internet would give Google a business model?)
Some of these ideas combine in this quotation from a publisher.
783 survey invitations in totalLibrary and info practitionersincl from:public, academic, national,health and special librariesSE incl:Academics, practitioners, policymakersPiloted some survey questions at Charleston Conference last year so really nice to be back here to present some initial results.
Around 30questions in each survey, just going to talk about 3 today: 1 similarity between LIP / SE responses and 2 interesting points of contrast.Preferred definition (overwhelmingly): collection as a group of materials on a subject or a themeSome support for definition as access or process (search) – similar patterns in level of responses between LIP / SE responsesAnotherquestion 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. Imp or essential – both middle ranked.SE respondents: 80% rated Google as v imp or essential – joint first rated source with websites; Libraries were ranked v. Imp 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.
Sheila Corrall synthesises and extends earlier collection development hierarchy
At the Libraries in the Digital Age conference in Croatia over the summer, we tentatively proposed that these three interpretations of “collection” could be used as a basis for a revised collection development hierarchy. In this framework, the idea of Collection as Store or Thing facilitates strategic decision-making. Some idea of the totality of the “thing”, and of where its boundaries lie, at both a local and system-wide level is required as a basis for strategic planning.At a tactical level, the idea of Collection as Access encourages the library to link out to resources which are not owned by the local organisation. The library should also consider its place in non-library networks – where can it locate itself virtually to maximise access to its own resources?Finally, at an operational level, Collection as Process involves supporting local user communities to create and share content, whilst linked data approaches may offer new opportunities for dynamically creating collections for new and emerging subject areas.
Automated acquisition process. Example from interviews – academic library – high demand items, additional copies automatically purchased until demand is met
Example of institutional repository from two interviews.One academic librarian talked about work on a content plan trying at a strategic level to set the boundaries for the digital content of organisation which could benefit from being part of a sort of super-IR (institutional repository) – a digital library – including research data, social media content (tweets, blogs etc).The librarian also talked about providing access to these resources “getting them out there” – potentially facilitating linking from other libraries. Echoed by another academic librarian who talked about the benefits of a new resource discovery system – enabling integration of IR content.Automated metadata
Two librarians discussed deselecting smaller collections within larger collection. Reference collection in a special library; academic librarian talked about deselecting collections for subjects no longer taught by a University.Alternative formats – UKRR (United Kingdom Research Reserve) – enables university libraries to pool their print copies of journals in order to free up additional space within the library. Preferential e-article delivery within 24 hours from the BLDSC. One interviewee mentioned wanting an equivalent of this for books (hasn’t happened in the UK yet)
Exploring concepts of 'collection' in the digital world
Exploring concepts of‘collection’ in the digital worldAngharad RobertsUniversity of Sheffield Information School
Question LIP responses SE responses Group of materials on a subject or 95% 80%Defining collection: themeoptions ranked 1, 2or 3 Provision of access 48% 52% Search results 37% 43%Importance of Libraries: Very important or essential 57% 33%informationsources for socialenterprise Google: Very important or essential 53% 80% Preserving print: very important or 53% 68% essentialSignificance oflibrary preservation Preserving digital: very important or 47% 64%role essential Preserving customer publications: very 39% 52% important or essential
Proposal for a revised collectiondevelopment hierarchy