ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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The Question of Intent: Building E-Book Collections in the Academic Community / Melissa Goertzen (

Two years ago I arrived at Columbia University Libraries (CUL) and was tasked with completing the E-Book Program Development Study. The central goal was to document the e-book landscape on campus and within the academic community in order to create collection development recommendations and strategies that will shape future e-book services at CUL. When I read the project description, the opportunity seemed both exciting and daunting – the opportunities for experimentation were enormous, but I knew that the complexities involved with e-book collection development, not to mention the speed at which formats and technologies are evolving, would present significant challenges. In the beginning, I felt like I had to provide solutions that would solve the collection development challenges we face on a daily basis. Now, I believe that discovering the right questions to ask in this evolving landscape is the work that will guarantee the long-term success of collection development policies and strategies.

Our questions set us on a journey of discovery and open our minds to opportunities for innovation. When we challenge our assumptions, look at issues from multiple perspectives, and test what we believe against evidence collected along the way, we begin the process of pulling back the layers of a problem to uncover the golden thread – the core issue that ties together all of the seemingly disconnected elements of an investigation. This process provides a context for research findings and can be the starting point for strategic planning and collaborative relationships that define how collections and services will be delivered in the future.

Several months into the study, I realized that I was operating on the assumption that users prefer electronic content for research, teaching, and learning activities. Throughout society, we rely so heavily on the Internet, mobile technologies, and social media to gather and disseminate information, that I assumed users would have a preference for e-books for all scholarly activities. However, as I started to collect usage statistics, examine discovery and access trends, and speak with faculty, students, and library staff through interviews and focus groups, I realized that my initial impressions of content use were far too simplistic and did not tell the full story. As I dug deeper into data sets, I started to ask more and more questions about when, how, and why users gravitate towards certain formats (e.g. print, electronic, archival materials) to support scholarly activities and build knowledge around specific subject areas.

At first, I worried that the discovery of questions rather than solutions would result in a lengthy list of proposals for future studies. But, the opposite turned out to be true. The inquiry process provided a focus and pulled everything I had observed into one overarching question: what is the intended use of e-book content? For instance, are individual titles requested by the user community for inclusion in course reading lists, research pursuits, general reference, or archival purposes? As an example, I’ll refer back to a previous blog post that discussed CUL’s strategy to acquire the Interaction of Color app. After considering the text’s value to the academic community and the unique learning environment provided by the electronic format, CUL wanted to acquire an archival copy to guarantee long-term access. Once the intent was determined, a decision was made not to pursue a license through the iTunes Store (which would only guarantee short-term access) but instead, discuss e-book preservation with the publisher of the app. CUL discovered that academic publishers are also grappling with the issue of preservation and we are now exploring business models that allow for long-term access to enhanced e-book content.

I believe that every e-book collection development decision we must make, ranging from business models, license agreements, acquisition workflows, the marketing of collections, and preservation hinges on the issue of intent of use. Once we have answered this question, we can enter into meaningful conversations with stakeholders, advocate for the needs of users, and develop collections that aim to meet immediate and long-term information needs.

As the E-Book Program Development Study comes to a close, I look forward to setting out on a new journey of exploration and continue advocating for the needs of our users.

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ARLIS/NA Conference Collection Development SIG Minutes (March 21, 2015) / Christina Peter

Co-coordinators: Paula Gabbard, Chris Sala
Moderator: Paula Gabbard
Recorder: Christina Peter

Approximately 40 participants attending

The meeting proceeded according to the agenda previously circulated by Paula Gabbard.

  1. Discussion on born-digital collection development: Paula Gabbard introduced the topic suggested by Kathleen Salomon, who had been unable to travel to the conference. Numerous art libraries engage now in creating digital content, but quite a few of these initiatives remain isolated; sharing the metadata for newly created digital collections is of paramount importance for the entire art librarians’ community. Librarians also face the challenges of cataloging back lists being published as online/virtual collections. Dan Lipcan of the MMA’s Watson Library set an example by having shared the MARC record set for all the Met’s digitized titles with the ARLIS community via ARLIS/L. Some libraries (e.g. Columbia) have already downloaded these files in their catalogs; the download of the files is not complicated. The records have also been contributed to WorldCat and are available via OCLC, but batching them is not easy. – Janis Ekdahl mentioned Princeton’s Blue Mountain project: while the metadata for the digitized titles has not been made publicly available, the records are available to subscribers of Serial Solutions and Princeton is working on making these records available as a file.
  2. Gabbard introduced the subject of collective collection development again suggested by Kathleen Salomon. Institutional politics often get in the way of developing shared collections. Amy Ciccone of USC pointed out that space crunch made it an imperative for libraries to rely on shared digital repositories – USC’s policy was to dispose of the print version of titles available digitally via JSTOR. Mary Wassermann of the Philadelphia Museum of Art mentioned their project of weeding periodicals available online via the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Amy Naughton of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design said that they were deaccessioning pamphlets and small exhibition catalogs, some of them unique, as their library was not focused on research and it didn’t have sufficient staffing to process this material. A number of librarians offered to take in and process the deaccessioned material, as there was a general feeling that unique information of research value might get lost in the deaccessioning process.
  3. Gabbard voiced her frustration at OCLC’s forcing libraries to migrate from the FirstSearch interface to Worldcat Discovery Services (OCLC is going to phase out FirstSearch by the end of 2015). The new interface looks somewhat like the free Worldcat version; access to OCLC’s beta version is difficult. Participants were urged to e-mail Linda Barr at OCLC to provide access to the beta version of Worldcat Discovery Services and to voice the community’s needs. Jon Evans recommended communicating with Dennis Massey. Someone pointed out the existence of a listserv to facilitate communication among Worldcat Discovery Services users. The new interface will affect SCIPIO as well.
  4. Gabbard talked about the ARLIS/NA Marketplace Proposal Committee, charged with proposing a plan for vendors to have multi-tiered membership, which would include the ability to blast email announcements to ARLIS/NA members. Gabbard’s participation in the committee sprang from this group’s concern last year that vendors and dealers were not allowed to post announcements to the ARLIS/L listserv. A proposal to this effect was submitted to the ARLIS/NA Executive Board during the conference. [UPDATE: The proposal was tabled by the Board for the near term, as it was impossible to initiate with a joint conference planned for 2016. Additionally, the Board felt that it would radically change the structure of the Society and the way we handle commercial activity, conference sponsorship, and the needs of our business members and partners. Some of what was proposed will be taken forward and used in other ways, some was food for thought. (UPDATE was a paraphrased message from Gregg Most to the committee)]
  5. Gabbard talked about the ARLIS/NA Collection Development blog, which now has 135 registered users, and 18 posts. Paula encouraged attendees to submit posts.
  6. Discussion about the present and future or electronic e-books, born digital material and the challenges of acquiring and preserving them. Bronwen Bitetti of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College posed a question about how to handle electronic artists books not distributed by vendors (some libraries buy and catalog them and make them available via IPads). Amy Ciccone mentioned that some vendors sell ebooks only to individuals and not to libraries.
    Further challenges: some ebooks are published as apps or flash drives – while some libraries make these available to their users, the preservation of the contents is a serious issue.
    Amy Ciccone asked about libraries downloading PDFs. Dan Lipcan said that the Watson Library instituted the policy of soliciting e-catalogs from contemporary art galleries: they catalog them, put the PDFs in Amazon storage, and create metadata in OCLC. He admitted that Amazon storage was not an ideal solution. Galleries currently produce a mix of print and digital catalogs. Archiving born digital exhibition catalogs is a necessity; Debbie Kempe mentioned that the Frick Art Reference Library was planning to capture them.
    Paula Gabbard recommended that the SIG should sponsor a proposal for next year’s conference on art e-books, and there was general support for this.


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The Engaged User; Architects and Books / Barbara Opar

Architects love books. I think most of you will agree with this statement. We have all been in faculty offices or the homes of working professionals and seen the piles of printed material open to select pages. If you have not encountered this, just check out the images in Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books (New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Urban Center Books, 2009) As Jo Steffens, the editor of this work, says: …it affirms the importance of books in our lives. As you browse the books shown in these pages, a familiar title will spark recognition; an idea or a conversation may be recalled.” (preface, vii-viii). Architects seem to share this view. That is certainly the case at my institution’s architecture school.

Because the very nature of a blog allows for personal reflection, I would like to make some observations about books and architects. Of course, artists and art historians are known to be book lovers, but architecture is the area I inhabit, and want to offer reflections on it. Beyond personal examples of conversations centering on books at receptions, new book displays actively perused, frequent recall requests, the architect—be it student or faculty member –appears to value books in a different way than those in other disciplines.

As an academic librarian, I have collection building responsibility for three different disciplines. I have served as the architecture librarian at Syracuse University for close to forty years (scary!). Despite that fact, this is the group which makes significant new book requests. I have no reason to feel that there are any trust issues. I think it is because they are engaged users. They turn to books for verification of information; for inspiration and just to keep up with the myriad publications on the market. I have actually not seen a decline in overall engagement with the architecture book. Of course, there have been high points and lows over the years. While students may find it easier to “google” a project, when it comes to a serious consideration of a topic they still turn to the printed word. They are certainly encouraged to do so by faculty. Some faculty have specific books set aside for students. Others bring classes to see the materials on a topic or teach a class using sets like El Croquis.

In the past several years, despite the proliferation of other sources of information, interest in the book especially among faculty has actually increased. Campus delivery services certainly help. To date, over this past fiscal year I have had 160 different faculty requests for new book purchases; many of these for more than one title. This represents requests from 32 out of 44 faculty members. Most of the faculty, but not all, are full-time and continuing appointments. While long-term tenured faculty continue to make requests, quite a number of requests come from newer faculty. Requests from our visiting critics vary from year to year. Those who have taught before –even elsewhere- tend to make more requests, often for reserve. Of course there is also a correlation to new courses being taught or research for publication. A long term faculty member has made more requests over the past year than he made to date over the course of his appointment here. This, of course, is because he is now engaged in a writing project. Most requests are directly or indirectly related to teaching. Some requests represent books coming on approval or already selected, but not all. By and far, the books are on some aspect of architecture- an architect, a time period, a geographical area or a topic like sustainability or urban design. But titles related to art historical topics, philosophy, social issues and elements of technology (wind effects on tall buildings; tensile structures; infrastructure) come across my desk as well. Historians are steady borrowers and requestors, followed by theorists. But design faculty certainly make frequent use of the collection, often requesting titles of a topical nature- spatial agency, composite drawing, digital design, EFTE foil, landscape urbanism—to name a few.

Such engagement is gratifying and has enabled me to request additional funds for collections. But more than that it leads me to believe that the next generation of students will continue to refer to the printed word and see value in presentation on paper.

Is my situation unique? Let me know by completing this brief survey which will be open through May 15, 2015……I will be happy to share the results in the future blog entry.

SEE Survey :

–Barbara Opar (

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Report on a conference called “The Collective” / contributed by Sara Holladay.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a new library conference, The Collective, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The majority of conference attendees were from the academic library community but I am a Knoxville local (I telecommute for the Frick Art Reference Library as their Electronic Resources Librarian) and was drawn to an opportunity to attend such an innovative conference in my hometown.

One of the panels I attended, Finding a Way: Negotiation Tips and Tactics, was lead by a foursome of library professionals who have spent many years in the trenches: librarians at both large and small institutions, as well as a customer engagement specialist with a well-known vendor (what does it say about our vendor interactions that I didn’t even know “customer engagement specialists” were a thing?). The conversation wove through the many vagaries of vendor relations and negotiations, but a bit of a lightbulb went off when I heard one of the librarians at the University of Tennessee state that they’re now asking vendors to defend renewal rate increases. It occurred to me that perhaps this is a real heads-up moment for the art library community and smaller institutions like ours; if our colleagues at large research universities are paving the way, we should follow suit and see how this might benefit our resource negotiations. The University of Tennessee is essentially hitting the pause button on annual rate increases and requesting:

  • 3% cap on renewals for 3 years/12 mo subs; if it’s greater than 3% OR if they have experienced any issues with the product, they will ask vendors to report back on their profit margin and defend the price increase with updates on the content that has been added
  • Database performance uptime: the goal is 100% but 99.9% is the MINIMUM uptime acceptable

The database downtime issue was also of great interest to me – I cringed when I thought about my own experiences with one major database where our access simply disappeared twice over a four month span. Access was restored within about 24 hours on both occasions, but without explanation. Was this the kind of service and content that justifies a 4% rate increase, or is this the perfect scenario in which we need to hold vendors accountable?

All too often we at the Frick accept annual rate hikes in the 4-5% range due to historical vendor relationships and pricing, or because we assume that the best possible deal has been negotiated and that these increases are as good as it gets. But what if that isn’t the best we can do? Are there situations where a database hasn’t added new content, or improved functionality, therefore not truly warranting a 4+% hike at renewal time? Perhaps it’s time to truly assess our usage of that resource, and if it’s deemed necessary, to push back with vendors to learn more about their profit margin and how we can reach a compromise. Could a rate increase of 1-2% be possible? There is only one way to find out.

Sara Holladay (

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Suggestion for withdrawing print volumes in JSTOR / contributed by Susan Davi

CRL JSTOR Print Archive

CRL [Center for Research Libraries] has committed to archiving a collection of JSTOR print volumes that match most of those in the JSTOR Archive Collections.  Libraries which find themselves in the position of withdrawing the print volumes of JSTOR journals may want to look into this opportunity.

Detailed information can be found at the CRL website:

Susan Davi (

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CAUSEWAY (Collaborative Architecture, Urbanism and Sustainability Web Archive) / Chris Sala

The Collaborative Architecture, Urbanism and Sustainability Web Archive (CAUSEWAY) is a pilot project to archive websites devoted to the related topics of architecture, urban fabric, community development activism, public space and sustainability. Made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CAUSEWAY is being curated by art and architecture librarians at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Yale universities, MIT, and the universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania (collectively known as the Ivies Plus Art and Architecture Group) and operates under the auspices of Columbia University Libraries and Information Services.

The overarching goal of this project is to preserve (and document the evolution over time of) the selected websites in a secure digital archive to guarantee the continuing availability of these important but potentially ephemeral resources for researchers and scholars.

Participating librarians are choosing websites that fit into the themes of CAUSEWAY: Urban Fabric (e.g. historic preservation, urban renewal, urban preservation), Public Space (e.g. parklands, community gardens), or Community Activism (e.g. historic preservation initiatives, associations).  Each librarian is making nominations focused on the geographic region in which her or his institution is located. Examples include websites for the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association; Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance; Newark Riverfront Revival; and Preserve Rhode Island.

Archived websites will remain freely accessible to the public. Websites included in CAUSEWAY will be viewable by date of capture in the Internet Archive.

For more information please attend the How the Web was Won: Collaborative Approaches to Web Archiving session in Ft. Worth. Held Saturday March 21 11am-12:30pm, Anna Perricci, Web Archiving Project Librarian, Columbia University Libraries, Columbia University will discuss establishing and growing a multi-institutional web archiving collaboration for CAUSEWAY.

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Thoughts on Gifts / by Susan Craig

Having recently experienced the usual deluge of end-of- the-year donations, this topic has been on my mind. Donors planning to increase their charitable contributions for income tax purposes often donate unwanted books to a library in December. Of course, there are also the generous donors who sincerely want to help the library build a collection.

I’ve learned that gifts can be both a blessing and a curse. I try to avoid accepting items that duplicate material that my library already owns and rarely accept journal issues unless it’s a substantial run of a very desirable and unusual title. Learning to tactfully refuse an unwanted donation without alienating the donor is a necessary skill so my strategies are to suggest other possible institutions which might be grateful for the donation—social service agencies, smaller area libraries, library book sales—as well as to explain our procedures and costs.

A variation on the gift of books is to be offered a donation to purchase material for the library’s collection. Sometimes this money has been intended as a memorial and the donor may ask that the purchased material correspond to a particular interest of the person being honored. It can be very challenging to find a desirable title that matches the prescribed subject and the amount of the donation.

It is important that your library have a written policy regarding gifts. The policy should identify the type of material that the library will accept and the appropriate contact person. It also needs to explain how issues such as appraisals and acknowledgments, such as book plates and donation inventories, will be handled. It might suggest that cash donations to support the processing or personnel costs would be welcome. Perhaps most important, the policy should clearly state that retention decisions for gifts are at the library’s discretion. If at all possible, post this policy on your website so potential donors can find it.

When you are offered a gift of something that is truly desirable for the collection, rejoice and celebrate. It may not happen often. But regardless of how mundane the gift, if you accept it, you need to write a letter of appreciation to the donor and, depending on your organization, copy the letter to your Development Officer and administrators. Make the thank you letters as personal as possible and emphasize not only the library’s appreciation but also how the gift benefits the users of the collection.

And, when it comes time for you to dispose of your own book collection, be sympathetic to the librarian who may not be as enthusiastic as you expected.

Susan V. Craig, University of Kansas, January 2015


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