Print vs. Digital Collections in Special Libraries

Print vs. Digital Collections in Special Libraries

Dawn Bassett (Canadian Grain Commission, Canada) and Maha Kumaran (Saskatchewan Health Information Resources Partnership, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch481
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The Evolution of Collection Management in Research Libraries

Library collection development started to mature and change in the 1950’s in response to a dramatic increase in scientific research post World War II. Prior to World War II managing research library collections had been about gathering and organizing information with a focus on print collections and, where necessary, microfilm and microfiche (Branin, Groen & Thorin, 2000). The term “collection development;” has been defined as “planning for collection growth, implementing collection development plans through the selection of appropriate documents, and implementing selection by actually acquiring specific materials” (Hazen, 1982). In response to an increased focus in scientific research post WW II, librarians recognized a need to do more than just acquire materials. This led librarians such as Charles B. Osburn to conclude in 1979 that a more “service-oriented approach focused on currency, responsiveness and user need” was required. In 1981 Paul Mosher, head of development at Stanford gave a seminal speech at the inaugural Collection Development Institute that “challenged” the library community to move beyond traditional activities of collection development towards a “new vision” of managing collections within a framework of “policy, planning and analysis” (Branin, Groen & Thorin, 2000). Collectively, these forward-thinking librarians and others like them started the movement towards collection management as a new field within librarianship.

Near the end of 20th century there was another dramatic change in the collection landscape for research libraries. This second change was based both on increased access to higher education and the rapid pace of technological advancement brought about first by increased access to computer-based technology in the 1970’ and 1980’s and second by the explosion of information related to the development and uptake of the Internet in the 1990’s. These two advances which led first to online catalogues and more recently to fully digital collections, set in motion an avalanche of change to collection management that continues to this day (Branin, Groen, & Thorin, 2000). Ready access to information from the home or work computer led library users to expect seamless, immediate access to information resources and thus increased the demand not only for the electronic resources, but also for the ability to search for any item through one interface. However, due to continued economic restraints over the past several decades, collection managers have had to balance user demand with diminishing collection budgets and fewer library employees. These constraints and others mean that most 21st century research libraries continue to manage hybrid collections of print and digital information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collections Development: Term used to describe the process by which library employees decide what materials they will collect.

Electronic Journals: Journals that are available only in an electronic format.

Saskatchewan Health Information Resources Partnership (SHIRP): The name of one of the libraries in the case study.

Electronic Books: Books that are available only in an electronic format.

Collections Management: Term used to describe the process by which library employees manage the various materials in their collection(s).

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