Monday, September 6, 2010

Reserves, Newsletter, Instruction

Rudbeckia, on the table

Things are getting busy again at the library. I find my attention divided right now among the following projects:
  • The debut of the reserves textbook collection
I began this project back in May, when I created a list of textbooks that would be required for the Fall, 2010 classes. Then I tried to gather up as many of those books as possible, in order to put them on reserve at the library. (A textbook on reserve means a three-hour loan period, & in-house use only.) I had, and still have, no budget, and frankly I'm surprised how far we've gotten with it.

First, there was concern that the textbook publishers and/or the college book store would be unhappy about this project, but that turned out not to be the case. A colleague contacted the Association of American Publishers (AAP), explained what we wanted to do, and was told it would be fine. I got in touch with the book store manager, and his staff went so far as to send me a list of the college's textbook sales representatives. Then I called those reps, explained what I was doing, and asked if they would be able to send an extra copy of the textbook to the library. By and large, the representatives from Cengage, Pearson, McGraw, and Wiley were extremely helpful, taking it in stride that I was a librarian, and adding the library to their locations to send desk copies. The smaller publishers and the medical publishers were not as amenable, but by the time I realized this I already had a full shelf of complimentary textbooks in my office.

After exhausting that avenue of getting the books, I started contacting the academic departments at the college. I got in touch with secretaries, technicians, deans, program coordinators, and faculty (full-time and adjunct) to find out who was involved in textbook selection & whether they might be able to give or loan the library an extra copy. This second stage was messier and involved a lot of running around the campus and figuring out the preferred communication method for various individuals, but with some exceptions (i.e. the medical texts again) it was effective.

With this combined assistance, the result is that library now has approximately 20 percent of the required textbooks for classes on the Blackwood campus on reserve. The physical processing was an extra burden on the circulation staff, but everyone seemed willing to help & enthusiastic about the utility of this project. And so far, after the first week of class, it seems like the collection is going to be heavily used and popular.

However, I must say that it took a lot of time and energy. If I had known how much, I might have been intimidated about doing it. (The organization of the project revolves around a massive, complicated spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Thanks Google Docs!)

Also, there are a number of unintended consequences. For example, the service should ideally exist at all campuses where classes are being taught, but in most cases I was only able to get one copy of the textbook. If a certain class is taught at all three campuses, but the textbook is only available at a library on one campus, there follows unhappiness from those who feel they are denied the service.

Another complication is that the academic departments have their own various ways of deciding and managing their textbook selections. Also, the departments have different relationships and attitudes toward the library. I am still a relatively new employee at the college, and I treated the project of communicating with the academic departments as a way of getting to know people I haven't met. It was a great outreach exercise, but I haven't figured out how to streamline the process for the future.

Judging by the reaction of students and faculty, however, I think this will be a valuable service to continue in future semesters. I'm sure it will be running smoothly just in time for everyone to switch to using e-textbooks.
Due to a retirement, I inherited this task, and I've had a sinking feeling about it for a while. This is not because I don't enjoy doing this type of work; on the contrary, I could (and did) spend literally hours tinkering with fonts and playing with the layout. For better or worse, my feelings about design make it difficult to produce something of this kind and feel completely satisfied with it. I knew I wanted to make some changes from past editions, in part out of respect to the previous editor and in part because I wanted to make it less labor-intensive, but in the end I didn't give myself enough time to do as good a job as I wanted. Oh well.
  • Library instruction, with attendant LibGuides
The first library instruction sessions are on the schedule for this coming week, and these are a major part of my job. Despite still getting the jitters, I think I do a pretty good job in front of classes -- but there is a lot of work to be done in advance. I think I'm ready; I guess we'll find out...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Olivia, I found this post really helpful. I run a really small library at a really small college (300 students small) and textbooks are my most heavily used item. Between lecturers, tutors and students wanting to get hold of them and juggling publishers, desk copies and the faculties (only 2 of them) reserves are my biggest headache.

    Food for thought & reflection. Cheers.