When the Rubber Meets the Road: Rethinking Your Library Collections

Roger Schonfeld

Sue Woodson

Roger Schonfeld presented the results of a survey done by his employer, Ithaka Strategy and Research, on cancelling print subscriptions and replacing then with electronic.  Sue Woodson, from the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University followed up with a description of her experiences in replacing print collections with new research support services.

Schonfeld reported that most academic faculty members depend heavily on access to databases and, to a lesser extent, e-books in their research.  There is a growing perception that print collections are no longer used, and library administrators are pressing for their removal as a cost-saving measure.  Librarians are seen as playing a more vital role in the lives of their users rather than as custodians of printed materials.  However, despite the optimism for e-only collections, the reality is that many books and journals are not in electronic form yet.  In a report to its clients, Ithaka recommended that a 20-year timeline for a complete transformation seems appropriate, and backup copies of many materials may always be necessary.

Woodson described how the Welch Medical Library is in the process of vacating its building and moving into much smaller and more remote quarters.  Some of the questions that had to be addressed were:

  • How long do we need to keep “some” copies of our journal literature?
  • How many copies need to be kept?
  • How do we coordinate distributed preservation?
  • What becomes of print when it is no longer valuable to Medicine?

These are all important questions, not only for medical libraries, but for any library contemplating moving to an all-electronic environment.

In the future, it will emphasize remote services to its users.  The new service mantra is shown here:

Research Wherever You Are

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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