New Professions, New Opportunities: Collection Development in Support of Interdisciplinary Programs

New Professions, New Opportunities: Collection Development in Support of Interdisciplinary Programs

Cynthia Lenox
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8358-7.ch115
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This chapter is focused on how academic librarians have responded to the information needs of interdisciplinary programs. A review of literature of both American higher education and academic libraries is provided as a context for understanding current needs and collection development techniques. These techniques include the development of core book and journal lists, citation analysis, citation scatter analysis, the use of ontologies, and creative approaches to collection budgeting. The results of a survey of collection development librarians are presented, which identify current practices when dealing with interdisciplinary programs developed in recent years and the budget issues that either facilitate or present obstacles to the development of interdisciplinary library collections.
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The history of American higher education shows a long-time tension between disciplinary and interdisciplinary influences. Studies of the history of higher education show that the issue of disciplinary versus interdisciplinary education has been debated for some 100 years. Now, with more limited resources and flat or reduced collections budgets, it is a current hot topic for higher education and academic libraries. Many interdisciplinary programs, especially those developed over the last five years, are career-oriented,and are structured similarly to professional programs such as law or engineering.

Academic libraries are tasked with actively collecting, organizing, disseminating, and evaluating knowledge to support the information needs of faculty, administration, and students. It may first appear that libraries do not have to choose between disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Both of these approaches are legitimate and there are advocates for both; however, the support of new interdisciplinary programs that cut across disciplines is a big challenge. The level of support needed will depend upon the proliferation of information, organization, and budget issues that continue to loom and force librarians and faculties to make difficult choices. For example, to acquire one necessary but expensive resource, libraries often must discontinue another quality resource. Librarians take their cues from both classroom faculty and students. They must be involved in academic discussions and be flexible so they can deliver the best resources, when and where needed, and within budget. Thus, budget issues and choices in academic libraries are never far away.

The purpose of this chapter is to orient librarians to collection development strategies that address the particular needs of interdisciplinary programs. It includes a summary of the history, trends, and budget issues that impact the growth of interdisciplinary programs by presenting them with a broad view of the issues they may face. This approach will provide a context for academic librarians such that they will be able to more confidently discuss the issues with colleagues in the library and the classroom. While collection development techniques are available to librarians working with interdisciplinary programs, the issue of funding continues to be a primary obstacle. Therefore, a brief survey of academic librarians was done that focused primarily on collection budgets that may either encourage or hinder the development of library resources for interdisciplinary programs. A review of the literature of higher education and libraries shows how some institutions are responding to these challenges.

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