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Re: dropping serial check-in? Rick Anderson 09 Aug 2004 20:44 UTC

> I can't understand how any
> library can justify not making sure they receive every item
> they pay for.

Ah, if only life were so simple.  Unfortunately, very few libraries
actually have the option of making sure they receive every item they pay
for, since most are able to pay for lots and lots of journals and have
only a few staff members available to manage them.  In my library, we
offer access to roughly 16,000 journals in either print or online format
(or both).  With a Serials staff of 2.5, there's simply no physical way
for us to make sure that every issue of every one of those journals
arrives (or becomes available online) in a timely way.  Thus, we're
forced to make a hard choice: if we can't manage every journal
carefully, which ones will we manage carefully and which ones sloppily?

In the past, we made that decision by submitting to what I call the
Tyranny of Physical Format: if the journal arrived in physical format
(and thereby forced us to pay attention to it), it got our attention; if
it was made available online (and was therefore easy to ignore), it got
ignored while we busied ourselves monitoring publication patterns or
issuing second and third claims for the print titles.  That such a
system could possibly be defended on grounds of "professionalism" is
baffling to me -- it seems to me both irrational and deeply
irresponsible.  When a professional librarian is forced to make a
decision between what's going to be managed carefully and what's going
to be managed sloppily, my hope is that the librarian will choose to
manage most carefully those materials that will provide the most benefit
to the library's patrons.  The specific choices a librarian makes will
vary depending on many variables, of course, but I would hope the
thought process would be roughly similar across the board: how can we
secure the most benefit for our patrons given the limitations under
which we have to work?

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273