Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Article Note: On reference collections and law libraries,with some thoughts

Citation for the article:

Hellyer, Paul. "Reference 2.0" AALL Spectrum March 2009: 24-27. (Available online as a PDF)

This is a short little article on reference collections and how electronic resources are overtaking print materials. For most academic librarians, this is not news. I got the impression this was still news to law librarians, or at least to the readers of AALL Spectrum. Having said that, there are some basic tips to consider when weeding your reference collection mentioned in the article. I just hope the collection, especially the print, does not get weeded out of existence. Contrary to popular belief, there are still many things you can find faster in a print reference book.

The suggestion given in the article on creating space was certainly a sore point for me. Where I work now, we already have a severe space constraint as it is. Oh, and by the way, I just found yesterday we are losing yet another classroom space so some administrative honcho (not library related) can get an office. Let's try not to go there. The point I was getting to is that some people on the campus would love nothing better than to completely eliminate the print holdings (and I don't mean just reference in this case) and use the space for computers and/or lounge spaces. This is in spite of some (old timer) professors who still make use of the collections as well as students.

More importantly, and this is part of my philosophy as a librarian, you lose something of what a library ought to be when you fail to update its collections. This includes reference. While there are some fine reference e-books and some very good online reference tools out there, they do not cover everything nor do they completely replace the print. I am just saying this as one of the guys in the reference trenches who works with our university patrons regularly. There is also the issue of older reference source standards that do not have an online counterpart. In a worst case scenario, for the sake of making more space or making a collection attractive, those items get weeded or discarded. This is a great loss in my humble estimation. While overall a reference collection has to be managed, it does not have to be managed out of existence or simply turned into an exclusive online domain, which by the way can raise all sorts of additional access issues. The failure lies in not updating while heavily weeding and discarding with the effect of providing less access to information sources. Such a reduction seems to me a disservice. But then again, my this part of my librarianship philosophy could very well be a minority view.

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