Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Splintering Collections

Recently I learned that one of our academic departments purchases special access to an expensive database that the library also buys. This duplicates holdings, obviously, and the library is now on the verge of losing the database. The other department seems willing to pay for it on an ongoing basis.

I'm having trouble formulating an argument for why this scenario shouldn't repeat itself in the future. It might very well be cheaper for each academic department to subscribe to a resource when its students need access, instead of the library signing up for a college-wide subscription. It is a neat budget-saving trick. It may bring producers of specialized content one step closer to their primary audiences. However, it completely cuts out the library and the idea of a shared, general collection accessible to all.

And frankly, it is a negative consequence of accountability: Rather than appeal to the institution and the library's stretched purse, it might seem less of a hassle for departments that need specialized resources to absorb them into their own budgets. (If it meant that library money was freed for other things, I might feel better, but it doesn't.)

I'm sure not all departments will have the money or the willingness to tackle this type of shared resources model, however. Perhaps the healthiest reaction is to incorporate it into the modern, multifarious collections environment.

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