Archive for ‘Library Trends’

April 10, 2013

Patron-Driven Acquisitions: An Overrated Collection Model

My boss forwarded our library staff an article today from Library Journal, titled “Academic Libraries Should Give Up Book-by-Book Collecting, Article Argues” by Meredith Schwartz. It is a summary of David W. Lewis’s book From Stacks to the Web: The Transformation of Academic Library Collecting. The email introduced the article by saying, “…we are right on target…” meaning that our recent forray into PDA is the right thing to do because other libraries are doing it.

I (like others before me) question the wisdom of Patron-Driven Acquisitions in the academic library. Part of the job of the academic librarian is to vet resources. It is up to us in our professional capacity to know what is available and determine what, among the masses of available material, is the best and will be most useful for our patrons.

I understand that there are benefits, not the least of which is financial. And I know that some libraries have had great success and have published some very interesting results. That report from Purdue notes that most of their PDA requests came from graduate students who needed cross-discplinary resources for their research. But we are a 2-year college. We don’t have graduate students. We have students who don’t know the difference between About.com and a scholarly journal, even after you’ve explained it to them the simplest way you know how.

Now, what we are doing at this point is more akin to the old-fashioned paper suggestion forms than full-blown PDA. Instead of users browsing through a collection of eBooks, deciding they want to read one, and having it instantly purchased and available, they are merely writing down (or typing in) random suggestions for what we should purchase, turning in a form, and waiting. So for now, this is fine, as we are not relying on PDA for all of our collection development. But Lewis’s book apparently suggests that PDA will and should become the primary model for academic library collection development.

And we follow trends here. We like being the first 2-year college to follow a trend in 4-year universities. I worry that if we continue to follow the trend of doing whatever the big boys are doing, our library will eventually give up on vetting materials in favor of buying whatever our students think they need. These students who don’t know the difference between about.com and a scholarly journal. Who only read if they are forced to do so. Who write their papers before they look for sources and tell the reference librarians they just need “something to plug into their paper” because their teacher told them they had to use outside sources. I worry that we will become more an on-demand bookstore where the books are free than a respectable library with amazing resources that our students never realized existed until they¬†serendipitously¬†discovered them.