Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Building an Undergraduate Book Approval Plan for a Large Academic Library

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Building an Undergraduate Book Approval Plan for a Large Academic Library

Article excerpt


The University of Alberta Libraries (UAL), working with two book vendors, created large-scale undergraduate book approval plans to deliver new publications. Detailed selections profiles were created for many subject areas, designed to deliver books that would have been obvious choices by subject selectors. More than 5800 monographs were received through the book approval plans during the pilot period. These volumes proved to be highly relevant to users, showing twice as much circulation as other monographs acquired during the same time period. Goals achieved through this project include: release of selectors' time from routine work, systematic acquisition of a broadly based highdemand undergraduate collection and faster delivery of undergraduate materials. This successful program will be expanded and incorporated into UAL's normal acquisitions processes for undergraduate materials.

Keywords: monograph acquisitions; collection management


The University of Alberta is a large academic institution serving approximately 34,000 students, 28,000 of whom are enrolled in undergraduate programs. Courses are offered in a broad array of subject areas. The University of Alberta Libraries (UAL) spends well over two million dollars on monographs each year. Historically, monograph selection has been conducted on a title-by-title basis by subject selectors. Approval plans, whereby books are automatically selected by a vendor for the library according to predefined criteria, have not been a large part of the Libraries' acquisitions strategy. Until recently, only a few small, specialized book approval plans were in place at UAL.

In 2004-2005, UAL made several changes to its acquisitions processes; the major one being a move towards selector-based online ordering within monograph vendors' online systems. There was also a move away from the use of the integrated library system (ILS) to track expenditures, using instead the University accounting system PeopleSoft. Major vendors were reviewed and consolidated, and purchasing focused on two English language vendors, YBP Library Services (YBP) and Coutts Information Services (Coutts).

At the same time, the University was placing a renewed emphasis on undergraduate teaching and research. With a view to strengthening the undergraduate collection across all disciplines, and with an increase in the materials budget, UAL decided to dedicate a portion of this new money to a centrally managed undergraduate book approval plan. It was recognized that there were a number of standard undergraduate books that selectors would purchase, and automating this process would reduce selector workload and increase the speed with which those books were received by the Libraries. Thus began the investigation into a large scale approval plan for undergraduate books across science and technology as well as humanities and social sciences subject areas.

Establishing the Plan

A review of the literature and discussions with vendor representatives revealed no examples of large academic institutions acquiring large portions of their undergraduate collections through approval plans. The literature generally points to subject based plans (Bartolo, Ott and Wicks; Corrsin; Kamada) or those based on specific language materials (Cohen; Oddo). Other literature looks at plans for consortia (Armstrong and Nardini; Curl and Zeoli; Diedrichs), or evaluation of academic library plans in general (Brown and Forsyth; Plodinec and Schmidt). The body of existing literature informed our thinking about the type of plan we wanted, but there was no directly relevant work that targeted undergraduate students' needs via an approval plan. Hence, the Collection Development Committee at UAL proceeded to establish such a plan from scratch, working closely with vendor representatives.

Undertaking a major change in any process always involves balancing risks and benefits. …

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