ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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The Charleston Acquisitions Conference and the publication “Against the Grain” / Leslie Abrams

As a former colleague of founder Katina Strauch, I have closely watched the evolution of the Charleston Acquisitions Conference for the past 36 years as it has become the premiere venue to learn and connect with library professionals about all things related to acquisitions, collection development, and collection management. Held annually since 1980, the conference was conceptualized to allow a free and open exchange of information and ideas by fostering a healthy dialog between publishers, vendors, and librarians. As the rapid cascade of technological changes impacted libraries and our commercial partners, the conference embraced the challenge to provide an active forum for the discussion of emerging and transformational issues.  The conference invites provocative keynote speakers and features timely topical sessions with opportunities available for participants to present new ideas, findings, and analysis on an ever increasing array of issues. As our collection worlds have become increasing complex, new approaches and strategies to acquire, provide access to, and manage both traditional analog information resources and expanding digital and data content have emerged. Licensing, copyright, open access, budgeting, shared repositories, DDA/PDA, e-books and e-resources, streaming media, and digital preservation are but a few areas covered at the Charleston Acquisitions Conference over the years.

Hot off the press, this year the following plenary sessions will be available open access as a live video feed during the 2016 conference:

Thursday, November 3    8:30 – 9:15 am EST

Welcome and Opening Remarks

You Can’t Preserve What You Don’t Have – Or Can You? Libraries as Infrastructure for Perpetual Access to Intellectual Output. (Anja Smit, University Librarian, Utrecht University)

9:15 – 10:00 am

Libraries as Convener, Enabler, Distributor, Advocate, and Archive in the Future Knowledge Economy (Jim Neal, University Librarian Emeritus, Columbia University)

10:00 – 10:10 am

Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Scholarship Award Presentation

Friday, November 4    8:30 – 9:10 am EST

Announcements and Opening Remarks

Reimagining Our World At Planetary Scale: The Big Data Future Of Our Libraries (Kalev Leetaru, Senior Fellow, Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, Georgetown University)

9:10 – 9:55 am

Hyde Park Debate – Resolved: APC-Funded Open Access is Antithetical to the Values of Librarianship (Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication, University of Utah; Michael Levine-Clark, Dean and Director, University of Denver Libraries; Alison Scott, Associate University Librarian for Collections & Scholarly Communication, University of California, Riverside)

10:20 – 11:20 am

Charleston Fast Pitch Competition – See four finalists compete for two $2,500 prizes to further support the development and implementation of compelling library innovations.

Watch the broadcast on the Conference Website at


Against the Grain is a publication edited by Katina Strauch that provides the latest news about libraries, publishers, and vendors. The goal is to link these parties by reporting on the issues, literature, and people that impact the world of collections, information, publishing, and libraries. Each issue has a main Feature, a series of articles on a specific topic. The September 2016 topic is “Emerging from the Dark (room): Tales of Adversity and Triumph in Collection Development”. A Special Report on “Industry Consolidation in the Information Services and Library Environment: Perspectives from Thought Leaders” is also included. Each issue includes product reviews, interviews, and regular columns on publishing, bookselling and vending. Against the Grain is published six times a year, and the complementary ATG NewsChannel website, is updated daily with news and announcements. You can follow the ATG NewsChannel on Twitter (@ATG_NewsChannel), like ATG on Facebook, or sign up for RRS feeds.

The Charleston Acquisition Conference and associated publications may be of significant value to art, architecture, design, and media librarians with collection responsibilities. Check it out.


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Vendor spotlight: Elliot’s Books / Joan Jocson-Singh, Columbia University (

A provider of rare and out-of-print books with a specialty of providing out-of-print Yale University Press titles, Elliot’s Books has been in the bookselling business since 1957. Physically located in Northford, CT, the store, which is housed in a charmingly gigantic barn, has been a treasure trove of scholarly titles, hard to find art and catalog books, and out-of-print titles which marks them as a perfect vendor for special purchases. Some of our wonderful finds include:

As of last summer, the bookstore has been open to customers strictly by appointment which makes for quite a serendipitous title-browsing experience for the interested customer. However, if you can’t make it out there for a physical trip, their online Webstore ( offers easy navigation for browsing an extensive category listinga feature to make any librarian happy.

They’re quick to reply to inquiries and quite handy at searching if an item doesn’t look to be in their online catalog, and that’s because their inventory boasts an impressive aggregate volume of 200,000 items. Being that they’ve been in the business for such a long time, it comes as no surprise to see how adept they are in this age of technology. Of course, if what you’re looking for isn’t online, simply fill out their form under the Offline Search Service page and you’re set. To add, multiple payment options are accepted and they work diligently with all types of libraries.

Although Columbia University Libraries’ business is conducted with them mostly via email, you always get the personal shopper experience with the Elliots and we can attest to a happy fulfill rate, especially when care is always taken with the wrapping and shipping of items to our library.

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Developing an Approval Plan / Mary Seem (

As a member of the Book Department at the Frick Art Reference Library, I came into this job with a general understanding of our scope that became more developed as I began to purchase desired titles. A relative newcomer to the Book Department, I was very excited to develop a new approval plan with Yankee Book Peddler (YBP). We had used YBP as a vendor previously and decided to rekindle our approval plan with them in hopes of finding more American and UK titles to order that we might have missed otherwise. Our new approval plan with YBP has done just that and had the added benefit of increasing my understanding of our collection development policy. It is also the type of new experience I believe others that are new to the field will benefit from hearing about. I find reading through this blog to be a nice peek into the inner workings of other libraries. However, I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts on a process that is likely old hat for most established acquisitionists yet I found to be very exciting and eye-opening.

YBP’s approval plan was quite lengthy – a spreadsheet with multiple sheets that addressed scope from a variety of angles. One sheet broke down each Library of Congress classification allowing for very granular distinctions in title preferences. For instance, we do not collect generally on Numismatics (LC classification CJ) but do collect titles about medals and medallions (CJ 5501 – 6661) (See Figure 1). The approval plan also included a sheet of additional “non-subject parameters” that clarified our desire for binding type, format, content level, and so on. Completing this approval plan was time consuming but ultimately presented a very thorough interpretation of our collecting policy. Some of the decisions proved to be obvious, such as the decision to not include titles with a juvenile content level. Others pointed to potential fluidity in the edges of our collecting policy. For example, we don’t collect short stories but may collect novels depending on the content (See Figure 2). Parsing through these individual decisions allows for a very close look at what our scope truly includes and pointed to some parameters that I had previously never considered.

Establishing an approval plan does not end with the arrival of the first approval slips; rather, an approval plan needs to be further tweaked to ensure that potentially desired titles are included while those that are out of scope are not. Our approval plan with YBP is one that will develop over time as areas of study are added or removed from our scope. The development of this approval plan has provided a look at the inner workings of our relationships with vendors and has given me greater confidence in my decisions as an acquisitionist.

YBP Approval Classification spreadsheet
Figure 1

YBP Non-subject parameters
Figure 2

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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 (