Research: Mainstream and University Publishers

This summer I enrolled in a course called Collection Development and Management. The expectations were high, but so was my interest in the course material. Every class I learned something new or fascinating or fun.

Our first assignment was extremely time-consuming. I was assigned eight publishers to research and review, in terms of general description, history, publication scope/areas, evaluation, and specific criteria for the evaluation.* I struggled for a few days to find the best information regarding the first three publishers, but as I continued the assignment with more publishers, it became easier to locate useful information.

I discovered a few things:

1. The databases for electronic resources (in this case, specifically book reviews) are difficult and frustrating to use. I cannot count how many times I “clicked to get the resource” only to find a brief bibliographic description, with links that took me back to the same page, even when the OPAC claimed the databases had the “full text.”

2. I enjoy reading book descriptions, and even more the practice of critically reading reviews of books. In fact, I remembered how fun critical analysis can be, when the topic is interesting.

3. Some publishers are incredibly involved and complicated. Are a dozen imprints really necessary? This complexity, of individual publishers, and of the publishing industry in itself, makes me wonder how intellectual collection development and management can be achieved at all, without many subject experts and employees to work on developing a library’s collection.

4. Intellectual collection development/management is fun, tedious, time-consuming, interesting, and meaningful – but it seems to me there must be a compromise between taking the time to manage collections in this involved way and other demands made on librarians’ time and resources. Furthermore, the professor never mentioned how intellectual collection management (the Ideal, according to him) could be arranged with library managers and supervisors. How should a collections developer challenge established, mechanical modes of managing collections, if individual practices and institutional practices are in conflict? I would have welcomed some discussion of this in the course.

*See my Research page for a copy of the completed assignment.

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