Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Education of the Acquisitions Librarian: A Survey of ARL Acquisitions Librarians

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

The Education of the Acquisitions Librarian: A Survey of ARL Acquisitions Librarians

Article excerpt

The Education of the Acquisitions Librarian: A Survey of ARL Acquisitions Librarians

Technical service librarians are constantly debating the relationship between their daily work experiences and the education they have received in library school. In recent years, articles such as those by Hill [1] and Selberg [2] have questioned the adequacy of training for cataloging. At the other end of the technical services spectrum, acquisitions has been the object of the same sort of debate in articles by Hewitt [3] and others. [4] Even at local levels, presentations such as one at a recent California acquisitions discussion group, which discussed the paucity of acquisitions courses available to librarians, illustrate the intensity of feeling over this issue. [5]

Training in acquisitions is a particularly disturbing situation for the many librarians engaged in acquisitions work. Although an integral part of librarianship and the information cycle, acquisitions does not receive equal treatment in library school programs, and rarely receives the attention in library school that other aspects of librarianship, such as reference, cataloging, and bibliography, receive. Informal discussion among acquisitions librarians from all types of libraries reveals a level of discontent with their educational experiences and a growing demand that library schools give more attention to their professional needs.

Just how much attention library schools should give acquisitions and which aspects of acquisitions should be included in the curriculum are issues that have remained unclear. The interest in the topic and the many concerns expressed justified further research into the topic. As a result, a study of the educational experiences and needs of acquisitions librarians was undertaken.

To gather pertinent data, a survey of acquisitions librarians in Association of Research Libraries (ARL) academic libraries was conducted in 1988. This subgroup of acquisitions librarians includes those involved in many different aspects of the acquisitions process in the largest academic libraries in the United States. Because of the diversity of this group, some valuable extrapolations can be made about the training and educational needs of acquisitions librarians as a whole. Excluded from this study are acquisitions librarians involved in specialized acquisitions (for example law and music libraries). For the purposes of this study, acquisitions was defined as the ordering, claiming, and receiving of library materials, a definition that helped preclude the addition of those librarians who are involved in acquisitions in a tangential way, such as subject bibliographers.


Because acquisitions work appears to receive relatively little attention in the library science curriculum, it is expected that acquisitions librarians have learned much of what they know from sources other than the library school classroom. Further, acquisitions librarians as a group appear to believe that library schools should take a more aggressive role in education for acquisitions, and, as a result, feel that there should be a positive relationship between formal training and the work they are required to perform each day. On the basis of these observations, two hypotheses were cast: (1) The majority of the professional training and development in acquisitions work for acquisitions librarians is learned outside the library science classroom; and (2) Acquisitions librarians believe that the majority of their acquisitions education should come from the library science classroom.



As noted, a survey of ARL acquisitions librarians was determined to be the best way to collect data on educational experiences and needs. There is no comprehensive listing of the acquisitions librarians in ARL libraries, because the American Library Directory [6] lists only the heads of acquisitions departments, and then only for those libraries that voluntarily supply this information. …

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