Posts by Rick Anderson

11/16/2011

Is It About Us, or Is It About Them? Libraries and Collections in a Patron-Driven World

Posted by Rick Anderson

As budgets get tighter and prices keep rising, libraries are increasingly forced to think about ways to minimize waste in their collections. A sudden sharp interest in patron-driven acquisition solutions is one indicator of this concern, the idea being that when we let patrons select the books we buy, the less likely we are to buy books they don't want.

But this trend gives rise to deeply uncomfortable questions. What does "waste" actually mean in a library collection—especially in a research library? Can we ever know for certain that an uncirculated book won't be important at some point in the future? Won't patron-driven processes lead to a breakdown in the collection's coherence? And if we're just here to "give the people what they want," what meaningful function do librarians serve? Do we just become shipping-and-receiving clerks?

These are serious questions, and to answer them thoroughly would...

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