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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Collection Building, Volume 27, Issue 2.
Is the role of collection development librarians declining in importance or just changing? Some collection development librarians at the American Library Association meeting in Philadelphia seemed to think their role was declining in importance because of the role of vendors in selection and the many pre-selected packages of materials available. I would agree that the job of the collection development librarian is changing, but I certainly do not thinking it is declining in importance. Change is hard, but many forces are coalescing to make it possible to change. We can now work in ways that we have never worked before due to technology so that some of the tedious tasks that we have always done are no longer necessary. We can work closely with vendor electronically to identify titles, read the reviews and order materials. But rather than think that these changes will mean the end of selection, I think that using technology opens our minds to new opportunities.
Less title-by-title selection does not mean that we are loosing control of our collections. It could, of course, mean that if we just let the vendor free to do what they think best with little oversight. But it could also mean that the library will continually monitor the work of the vendor perhaps frequently adjusting its profile and monitoring the material arriving to see if it meets the library’s needs. This is a different workload but it still requires good judgment and constant attention. Getting freed up by having a large amount of work done by the vendor means that the librarians or bibliographers can turn their attention to assessing their collections to see if the needs of the users are being met and whether there are gaps in the collection to be filled. This evaluation might result in spending time to identify and acquire new materials that are needed.
Librarians should be using available technology to make their work easier while retaining the intellectual control over the development of their collection. The many services of the vendors can be used to great advantage. But the overall planning and the development of a collection still lie with the librarians. I hope that librarians will maintain this control and will verbalize this to their supervisors. It is important that everyone understand the changing but still important role of the collection development librarian in the twenty-first century.
Kay Ann Cassell