Friday, May 18, 2018

"Tying collection development's loose ends with interlibrary loan"

Kolthoff, Katherine

Ruppel, M. (2006). Tying collection development's loose ends with interlibrary loan. Collection Building, 25(3), 72-77.

Summary: This research paper reports the process and findings of a study done by the author regarding Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Morris Library, exploring the viability of ILL as a means to expand collections. Morris Library is capable of borrowing from the I-Share catalog, the ILL request system for the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). The author's study intended to identify the characteristics and overall quality of ILL-borrowed titles in the library, and answer whether ILL data is a viable tool in collection development. To do this, she collected and sorted the entries Morris Library borrowed from the I-Share catalog for the year of 2004, filtering for education and psychology titles, then sorted their reviews where they were available by "positive", "mixed", "negative", and "descriptive". 60% of the reviews collected were positive, 23% mixed, 10% "descriptive", and 7% negative overall. This pattern was mirrored when the author breaking down the titles by discipline. Regarding title characteristics, approximately two-thirds of the materials borrowed were published within five years of the study, and on average cost about fifty dollars. Additional findings suggest that that the ILL materials ordered were generally in good condition, and arrived in an acceptable span of time. The author, after some further analysis, concludes that ILL makes a cost-effective tool in both in serving patrons more effectively and in the consideration process for new additions to the collection; that said, she holds that ILL as an assessment tool really does need to be employed in conjunction with more traditional methods of construction.
Reflection: There are a number of interesting points and observations to take from this article. Firstly, this study had been done in 2004, yet since then Inter-Library Loans have become a staple of modern public and academic libraries, even as the increasingly mainstream access to electronic resources and e-books. (Clearly, despite competition, the utility of the ILL system has not waned.) Secondly, it is interesting that although 18,322 items were borrowed through I-Share, only 574 titles (3.13%) addressed the school's main academic disciplines. Although she suggests that the demand on those titles indicates that they need to add more of these genres to the collection, I wonder if she has grasped that the numbers mean that 96.97% of all ILL orders at the Morris Library have been for other subjects—that is to say, that they should be adding more titles in areas other than Education and Psychology. Yes, all the Education and Psychology titles may have been circulated through ILL at least one time, but considering the imbalance, it seems to suggest they need to reevaluate the quality of their own core collections.
Another point that bears reconsideration, especially now in the Amazon Age, is her assertion that "if a title can be purchased and received just as quickly (or quicker) as if it had been borrowed through ILL, and it fits the library's collection development policy, the library should purchase it." Let's face it, folks: with one-day shipping, purchasing will always win out in the speed factor. At this point, mere speed of purchase cannot be taken as an indicator that a library should purchase something rather than use ILL, or libraries following that philosophy would quickly run up their budget. Significant speed of purchase, or an extended waiting list for a title, should still factor in, but I feel she is incautious in suggesting a Buy-on-Demand program based on ILL requests.
However, she makes an intriguing observation in her argument for a BOD program that seems especially salient for the modern library: "Adding a title to the library collection benefits the library's community of users, not just one patron at a time, as in the case of interlibrary loan. Purchasing an item for a library provides an asset, or an investment, for the community to use in the future." (76) True, but perhaps she is not taking it to its full extent? As a lifelong resident of San Diego, I've been witness to the region's ILL, the Circuit, which enables print media to be borrowed between two UC system, one private, and one CalState university, and both the City and the County's public library systems. Of these, the university libraries all are involved in additional ILL programs through their own system connections. Thus, I feel it is worth considering whether purchases also need to be considered within the context of their ILL communities—since, through ILL, a library's community is not the only one that may benefit from the purchase. Such considerations already occur in UC system libraries—UCSD has a remarkable East Asian studies collection, but relatively little in the way of traditional subject matter: realizing that Berkley and UCLA had that segment covered, they focused their collection on contemporary history and issues. Such niche development may seem obvious, but when we are facing widespread budget cuts and competition to print media (although electronic resources may be a good means to bypass the wait that transporting physical items between libraries requires), every penny-saving measure counts. I know that this may sound hypocritical, given that just above I suggested updating their core collections, but again, that issue of disparity, but again, she is correct in the ability of a purchase to benefit the community as a whole—and thus, given their status as a sub-segment of a larger community, even that won't be a waste of resources.

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