It's Academic, Librarian.

Trends, Achievements, and Competencies

Collaborating for a robust collection!

Collection development is one of the core responsibilities of academic librarians. Academic librarians follow specific processes and policies developed to best respond to service levels, institutional needs and strategic plans, and available resources.  In my experience, collection development is ideally grounded on a consultative model where subject liaison librarians develop an in-depth knowledge of the existing print and electronic collection, review publisher’s upcoming releases, and keenly understand curriculum and course subjects and content.  We collaborate with faculty on a continual basis to determine existing and upcoming information needs and preferred formats. We create lists of suggestions to help faculty determine appropriate resources to support, enhance, and expand existing collection levels for their specific assignments and courses.  We have discussions with students to understand their experience of using resources within our holdings and level of satisfaction with the collection. This is what collection development is all about: relationship building with stakeholders and users based on trust, respect, and mutual interest to meet instructional and learning goals.

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Did I mention we collaborate with our colleagues? Boy, do we ever.  Every conversation I have with my fellow faculty on the topic of resources and collection development is postured on a collaborative model and best practices, encouraging synergies for systematic planning, and supporting long-term committement. Faculty spend less and less time in the library because catalogues, indexes, reference works, interlibrary loan services, and scholarly journals are available online. I spend some of my day where the faculty are located – their offices, classrooms, and even the cafeteria.   I ask how I can provide access to information for their work and to support our learners and how I can best collaborate with them in this endeavour.

We also use various resources to help us learn the latest collection development trends and practices, and develop a strategy that would work best at our individual institutions.   The American Library Association offers a list of resources and a Collection Development wiki repleat with guidelines and resources.

Conferences often bring the topic of collection development to the fore.   At the 2015 Association of College and Research Libraries conference in Portland Oregon, Axel Schmetzke , Cheryl Pruitt, and Michele Bruno presented on the topic of collection development to meet the needs of people with disabilities.  This is one of several aspects of collection development that is considered by librarians, no matter the size of the collection.

However, collection development policies and practices are not without controversy. In 1988, David G. Null wrote on the de-professionalization of librarianship that was beginning to appear in the context of dual assignments for faculty librarians. These issues have continued and expanded in both scope and prevalence. Libraries are creating roles for librarians that are more complex and of ever increasing responsibility, resulting in the requirement that librarians develop a holistic suite of competencies. Librarians in small colleges and universities often fill several roles, from collection liaison for many subject areas, staffing the reference desk to triage quick reference questions, designing and delivering library instruction, monitoring trends, preparing tutorials and print collateral, integrating tutorials and support in the online environment, keeping up to date on educational technologies, conducting and publishing research, contributing to the institutional community, attending and presenting at conferences, and continuing a course of strategic professional development.

This multitude of roles reflects the dynamism of the academic world, which demands that academic librarians continually engage in professional development to enhance and strengthen a broad array of competencies and deepen existing ones.  This creates a unique situation that drives librarians to the forefront of service and program innovation, allowing an opportunity to be agents of change and to foster dynamic cross-departmental and cross-institutional partnerships.  It is this environment that drew me to librarianship when I was looking to change careers at 50 years of age. Yes, I am a late onset academic librarian, bringing a sweeping set of competencies and acumen from both the automotive and telecommunications industry which inform my advanced customer service orientation, creative and innovative service and program development, and ethical professionalism.

Academic librarians adhere to a code of ethics and behaviour guidelines.  I review and reflect on these ethics and guidelines frequently.  Reading through them reminds me of how well my disposition and attitudes align with my career choice.  Yes, I love my career choice.  I am passionate about librarianship and about servicing the college constituency with a high degree of competence and professionalism.

While in the role of branch librarian at a small comprehensive university, I researched how to refine and develop a collection. I was very fortunate to be mentored by the Collections Development Manager at the main campus who guided me through various processes and criteria aligned with the existing policies and practices. Since that time I have continued to research best practices. I found Rebecca Vnuk’s book “The Weeding Handbook: A Shelf-by-Shelf Guide” to be informative. Suzanne Ward really brings the tasks of collection development into reality and realistic practice, presenting and responding to trends and practices for the future of physical collection in her work, “Rightsizing the Academic Library Collection”.

Collaboration is essential to developing a robust and responsive collection.  The collaboration must be multi-faceted, including librarians, faculty, colleagues, mentors, users, and other stakeholders.

Now, off I go, into the stacks!

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