Posted by: Steven Harris | April 13, 2008

Cooperative Collection Development

I’ve been rereading some of the articles in Against the Grain, v.18 no. 4 (September 2006), edited by Margaret Landesman. I realize that a lot of my thinking about Collections 2.0 are embodied in and influenced by those articles. I find Michael Stoller’s article especially insightful.

One point Stoller makes that I am especially interested in is that library consortia are not necessarily engaged in cooperative collection development. That is to say, they don’t build their collections in a cooperative and collaborative way in order to diversify the total collection and expand the access to information of users in the member libraries. Consortia most often function as buying clubs and engage in bulk buying of the same product. This is especially so for electronic resources. Publishers are happy to accommodate and encourage this kind of bulk buying. There has been talk in the literature in recent years of the “big deal” fading away. But as far as I can see, it is model that is alive and well. It is fed primarily by consortia.

I am all in favor of librarians working together to lower the cost of products they buy and license, but if that is the extent of our cooperative collection development, then we haven’t really done much to diversify and and expand our collective holdings. Real cooperative collection development is a pretty rare phenomenon. Some of it happens in an informal way, some is more documented and formalized. The shared approval plan being implemented by Colorado academic libraries in one example. Librarians need to think of ways to expand and improve upon this kind of collaboration. Moreover, we need think of ways to bring this kind of cooperative collection development to electronic resources. Publishers and vendors will resist this, but we need to push them. More about this in subsequent posts.

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