CMS Forum: Shaping Collections to Meet Diverse Needs

The ALCTS Collection Management Section (CMS) Forum, titled “Rising to the Challenge: Shaping Collections to Meet Diverse Needs,” was held at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting on Sunday, February 11. Forum speakers presented “real-life examples of current challenges faced by librarians when building and managing collections to meet the goals of the 21st century library.”

Anna Seiffert (Colorado School of Mines) presented “Quick and Dirty Weeding: How to Start, and More Importantly, Actually Finish.” Seiffert described how her library deselected a large portion of the print collection without any precedent for a systematic weed. Due to the nature of the project, there was no time to review title by title, and the library was further under pressure since they have no offsite storage option. Smart decisions had to be made and made quickly. A project team created deselection workflows and criteria, which differed by call number.

After preparing a consolidated list, they shared it with interested faculty (2,000 items every two weeks) for comment. In an effort to generate good will, the Library set up book dominos during National Library Week. The books used as dominos were ones deselected from the collection, and attendees were welcome to take them after the event. Seiffert emphasized that communication with stakeholders is key—for example, “Don’t panic; this is a normal thing libraries do!” She also recommended testing the deaccession workflow on a sub collection and making tweaks before handing the project over to student workers. The library has made their deaccession toolkit publicly available.

Rachel Turner (Binghamton University) presented “Building Through Reluctance: Managing a Collection that (Should) Contain Sensitive Subject Matter,” focusing on her institution’s Judaic collection. Because this collection deals with religion and ethnicity, covers events that are still unfolding, and can directly impact the user, great thought and sensitivity must go into managing that collection. The first step is to identify your own biases and accept that items in the collection can directly contradict a user’s viewpoint and trigger them in a powerful way. Turner attempts to stem this by balancing out the collection so that no one group feels discriminated. Other best practices for managing a sensitive collection include:

  • If you buy material that is clearly one sided, try to find another title to purchase that makes an opposing argument.
  • Buy in multiple languages.
  • Add material that promotes various opinions, especially from minority groups.

Erin Elzi and Jack Maness (University of Denver) presented “Start Where It Hurts: A Strategy for Diversifying Collections at the University of Denver.” In 1865 the Territorial Governor of Colorado and founder of the University of Denver, John Evans, had to resign the governorship due to his attempted cover-up of the Sand Creek Massacre. The University is starting to take ownership of its past and has created a Task Force of Native American Inclusivity. The library, in turn, formed a Collections Diversification Task Force. Beginning with a focus on works by and about Native Americans, particularly the Cheyenne and Arapahoe, they aim to create a model for analyzing and improving the diversity of voices in their collection. Toward that end, they have identified six first steps:

  1. Analyze and improve approval plan.
  2. Identify book lists and bibliographies.
  3. Develop a thesaurus and provide additional record enhancement during the cataloging process.
  4. Compare our collection to those of other institutions.
  5. Reach out to individuals and organizations in these communities.

Steps three and four have been the most difficult to accomplish. For step three, they have determined a system with their acquisitions unit to flag books purchased as part of this project. The cataloging unit then adds more robust summaries and sometimes bends Library of Congress rules to include supplemental information in catalog records. The library plans to enhance records for the retrospective collection at a later date. For step four, the library is comparing their collection to six other institutions with robust Native American collections. As a result, they have performed more record enhancement on titles already owned and purchased additional titles. The Collections Diversity Task Force was formed in October 2017 and has not had time to reach out to local Cheyenne and Arapahoe communities. They plan to concentrate on step five after making more progress on steps one through four.

Beth Bernhardt (University of North Carolina at Greensboro) presented “Keeping Up with the Demand for Streaming Media.” In the past five years the demand for streaming media has erupted. The library continues to face challenges, such as fulfilling requests made with very little lead time and securing rights for foreign films or films no longer in copyright. The library used to struggle to provide closed captioning for streaming video but now takes advantage of the service offered by the campus’s Office of Accessibility Resources and Services. Some difficulties arise from faculty not knowing what the library has available; discovery services can be less than satisfactory for streaming content. Others arise from faculty not understanding how long order can take or how expensive securing rights to the film can be. The library is now making changes to how streaming content is paid for as it becomes a larger portion of the collections budget.

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