Monday, April 10, 2017

Beyond the Library of Congress: Collecting Practices of South Asia Area Specialist Librarians

1. Seppi, Greg
2. Thacker, M. (2015). Beyond the Library of Congress: Collecting Practices of South Asia Area Specialist Librarians. Library Resources & Technical Services 59(2).
3. The main thrust of the article is identifying to what extent Southeast Asia area librarians “rely on” the Library of Congress’ Cooperative Acquisitions Programs (LC CAP in this article), with the goal of identifying best practices. The survey attempts to identify the benefits of working through the LC CAP, whether it is worthwhile to use other selection methods, and identifying what kinds of materials are impossible to collect regardless of methodology (p. 2).

The literature review surveys other collecting areas, noting a number of approaches to collection development in different areas of geopolitical collecting. Thacker writes:
There is a rich literature on building area studies collections, and much of it is centered on cooperative collection development, foreign language collections, and challenges associated with working with overseas vendors.:l These topics are ancillary to a larger question: what methods do other area specialists use to build collections? Given the idiosyncrasies between different geographic areas, what methods work across areas and what is unique to a particular region? (p. 2).

Nine institutional bibliographers responded to the survey, which seems like a problematically small sample size (p. 4). That being said, the data gathered was still interesting. Respondents “praised the efficiency of using LC’s cooperative plans,” though they noted that following such acquisitions plans to the letter resulted in homogeneity in collections, lack of flexibility, and inability to acquire out-of-print items, local and micro-histories, pop culture-related publications, and other nontraditional or rare media.

A wide variety of additional sources were used to supplement LC CAP, including an Indian acquisitions firm, D.K. Agencies, as well as input from students, faculty, and outside researchers and a number of websites. Local contacts were used by at least one organization. In terms of difficult materials to acquire, Columbia had a hard time getting religious ephemera, Yale was interested in Buddhism in Bangladesh, and other librarians reported additional difficulties in acquiring ephemera from Southeast Asia.

Thacker concludes that SE Asia collection developers are too reliant on a small number of sources for the bulk of their texts, probably resulting in large amounts of duplication between universities. He suggests a follow-up study to examine the “scope of collections” at different universities, and how these collections are organized and defined (p. 6).

4. The study surveyed bibliographers belonging to CONSALD, the South Asia bibliographic professional organization. The sample size was rather small—only thirty-two bibliographers at twenty-eight institutions were represented, and they were hit with forty-seven questions! That seemed a tad excessive to me, especially since Thacker reported that some questions were confusing (p. 3). Overall I consider this article very informative but niche in its subject matter.


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