Charleston conference: whenever possible, library collections should be shaped by patrons, instead of by librarians

Instead of a single talk, this is a debate between Rick Anderson from the University of Utah and David Magier from Princeton University

Pro (Rick)
– a collection is not collecting for collecting space
– it’s purpose is to serve information needs of faculty and students
– it’s absurd to try and anticipate the needs of the future, so collecting for now is more appropriate and useful
– for those afraid that PDA is more like giving kids Twinkies for breakfast, this is a red herring since we don’t put Twinkies in the PDA pool of options

Con (David)
– PDA is like a screwdriver — it is A useful tool, but not the ONLY useful tool
– librarians have the fuller picture: license or purchase? Single-year or multi-year? Purchase or borrow when needed?
– research needs and profitability are not the same
– commercial profitability may marginalize less used but still valuable items like data sets, maps/GIS
– patrons can only access what they can discover
– patron-driven librarians are best way to collect, not patrons

Audience questions
– usage is not clear data point
– PDA is document-focused, excluding other formats
– over assumption that libraries are for long tail of scholarship, but there are more public and community college collections

Opening vote: 58% agree, 42% disagree
Closing vote: 94 people agree, 95 people disagree
In short, more people moved to disagree

Personal note:
If the debate is about having patrons be involved in shaping collections, why are we oversimplifying the debate to just PDA options? Patron shaping goes well beyond this one type of collecting. What about journal review/purchasing after X number of ILL requests?


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