Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Collection Development in the Humanities and Social Sciences in a Transitional Age: Deaccession of Print Items

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Collection Development in the Humanities and Social Sciences in a Transitional Age: Deaccession of Print Items

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Academic libraries are in a transitional period to what will, most likely, become almost entirely electronic collections. This period began with the introduction of electronic journal databases to replace print journal holdings and the replacement of print indexes with algorithms as the primary search mechanism for finding scholarly articles. This was followed by the introduction of licensed databases of electronic books (e.g. Ebrary, Ebsco) and the purchasing of individual electronic books for perpetual access. This period has also witnessed a de-emphasis of print resources in reference collections, achieved by licensing databases of reference materials (e.g. Credo) and/or the replacement, when feasible, of out-of-date print items with electronic versions (e.g. The New Catholic Encyclopedia). Some use of free online content has also occurred in this earlier transitional period but the problem of how to make efficient and full-scale use of open-access material has not yet been solved. These dramatic changes have led to a popular (and sometimes administrative) belief that print collections in academic libraries should now be rapidly de-accessed as they can be largely replaced by free online content supplemented by licensed or purchased electronic content (Menchaca, 2014). The number of books not digitized is difficult to determine. However, to give some indication Darnton (2013) has argued that there are approximately 543 million books in research libraries in the United States but that as of 2008 Google only had plans to digitize 15 million. These recent dramatic changes have also led to the belief that interlibrary loan and consortia (or larger scale library networks) may allow for rapid de-accession of much of local academic print collections. This paper will argue that such beliefs are not based on a thorough consideration of the scholarly and teaching needs of even smaller academic institutions and that the process of further transition should be a careful one, best thought of as proceeding in a step-wise fashion. This should be a transition based on a consideration of local needs and on descriptions of how scholars in various disciplines use library materials. Other factors should be an understanding of the nature of student and faculty research and an acknowledgement of the limitations presently existing in electronic resources. Monitoring of resources and the external environment and a willingness to de-access judiciously is called for. The paper will take this position despite calls to use regional and other forms of consortia as a way of reducing local print holdings and despite changes in interlibrary loan. These last two issues will be addressed as especially important ones before taking up the main argument of the paper.

At the present time electronic book publishing, acquisition, access and reading exist in an unstable and somewhat confusing environment. This environment contains licensed books in databases and books purchased in perpetuity, multiple vendors with differing pricing models and different access provisions, the possibility of licensing whole collections of works in a specific discipline (e.g. University Press Scholarship Online: Philosophy from Oxford University Press), the presence of free content, reference books in electronic format (which are easily searchable for pieces of information) and non-reference books meant to be read from front to back which may not be as user-friendly. It also includes changing readability, downloading capabilities, and searchability for electronic books, as well as incompatible electronic book readers. It includes free content, some of it stable and organized with standard library cataloging metadata making access easy. A prime example of this is HathiTrust (Christenson, 2011). Other open-access material is unstable, or not easily searchable, or in some cases fraudulent or posted as free content but in violation of copyright laws.

Advocacy of quantifiable criteria for de-accession has a long history in the library science literature (Slote, 1997; Banks, 2002; Lugg, 2012; Snyder, 2014). …

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