Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cumbersome Foreign Language Acqusition Processes and the Librarians who Overcome Them

Ward, J. H. (2009). Acquisitions globalized: The foreign language acquisitions experience in a research library. Library Resources & Technical Services,  53(2), 86-93.

This article looks at foreign language materials acquisitions, how they are influenced in the U.S. by “political changes, . . . the effect of the global marketplace’s growing need for personnel well trained in foreign languages and cultures[,] and the subsequently expanding boundaries of research” (p. 86), and how the focus in the library needs to be on the people who turn acquisitions into resources. 

The article includes a very interesting overview of the differences between the selection and acquisition process in the U.S. with North American vendors and the process when books are ordered from other countries.  The process is complicated by the publication norms in the vendor’s country, the extra fees incurred, and sometimes by irregular shipping standards.  Then there’s language proficiency.  In larger libraries, the selecting librarian, who might have the language skills, isn’t the librarian who will unpack the shipment, or catalog the books, or process them for circulation.   

Ward describes how Tech Services departments might solve these issues using both vendor-library cooperation and Tech Services staff members communicating with each other throughout the process.  Vendor records, while not necessarily in common U.S. formats, offer the librarians reference points for order records and the catalogers something to work with when building more accurate records; collaborative projects that included vendor records--OCLC, the Biliotheque national de France, and others--are described to illustrate the point. For the intradepartmental cooperation, Ward offers a case study of Rutgers University Libraries and the various issues that arose for those working to select, order, and process Western European, Asian, and Eastern European language materials.  The various vendors' dynamics, and the language skills that were needed at different points in the process, meant that “the workflow to acquire foreign language titles is typically characterized by less automation, longer processing times, and more frequent human intervention” (p. 93).  Focusing on the human factor and encouraging collaboration across the process is the simple but effective solution that can help get much needed foreign language materials into the hands of the patrons. 

H. A.

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