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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    MLA: Reducing the library profession's professionalism?

    BSBL - Heard of it?
    You will!

    Collection Management is what librarians do. Manage their collections. It's part of what distinguishes us from the shelving: we don't just have books, we develop collections, select titles, even - some would have it - organise knowledge. It is an art and science taught in schools and departments of information/library studies on CILIP-accredited courses (e.g. at UWA). If you want a definition, there are several to choose from, but this one serves well:
    Collection Management [i]ncludes setting and coordinating selection policies; assessing user needs and studying use; selection, evaluation, and weeding; planning for resource sharing. (School of Information Resources & Library Science, the University of Arizona).
    Peggy Johnson listed the basic skills as including a "knowledge of the subject, formats and users... a basic understanding of the targeted user community" and (in a later chapter) quoted Dennis Carrigan, "the essence of collection development is choice" (Peggy Johnson:
    Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management, 2004). Emphasis is on the Collection Development Policy (CDP) or Selection Policy, and assessing the needs of the users or institutions.

    And so back to the MLA and BSBL (Better Stock, Better Libraries, launched in 2006) and the e4libraries project to "promote e-commerce and supply chain efficiencies in the library sector" (MLA Press Release 3 July 2007).

    It is said that BSBL will "help public libraries buy cheaper books, better matched to customer needs" (MLA Press Release 3 July 2007, again). This sounds suspiciously like the MLA writing a global CDP in a 'one-size fits all' approach. How can a centralised body know customer needs in Falmouth, or Swansea, or Aberdeen? Perhaps someone should re-visit the 1985 Proceedings of the Conference on "Coordinating Cooperative Collection Development: a National Perspective," in which David Farrell wrote:
    "I think that coordinated collection management is, by definition, distributed collection management."
    Tim Coates (in MLA takes the plunge- but is it legal?) makes two points:

    It misses the central point to me-- the law says that it is local councils who are responsible for the public library service- not the MLA or any "partner" they may employ.
    Library suppliers must be wondering how legal it would be for Andrew Stevens [of the MLA] and his gang to destroy their livelihood, in the act of providing a service for which he is neither accountable nor responsible.
    Indeed. And librarians must be wondering what they trained for.

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