Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Outsourcing collection development

Another report from ALA. Please note, my notes/thoughts/asides/etc. do not reflect policy directions, management fait accompli, or anything else. They're just my thoughts.

UNLV and PHX public, with their CDV partner vendors. I'm concentrating on the PHX experience here.


Started with completely decentralized selection [like SPL], selectors in branches with 4 hrs/wk to do selection. Selecting from reviews, they were only able to spend 25% of book budget, CDV manager was spending the rest based on customer requests. Opening collections were more current, more diverse, and better meeting customer needs. Even selectors saw that that was better customer service.

Now, vendors do selection (PHX moving toward more standing orders where feasible - approval plan time consuming). CDV manager maintains small, centralized discretionary budget for requested materials. Ex-selectors still manage collection, but differently - provide course corrections, refine profiles, speak to vendor biweekly. Time is freed up in branch for outreach, desk time, weeding and collection analysis (important and often overlooked CDV jobs).

Experience is showing vendors do a good job, even naysayers are starting to see that. In some case, vendor can be more on-track than librarians (fixing gaps in GLBT collections, recognizing aging knitting collection) and sometimes can be ahead of the curve. No problem with access to small presses. Ex-selectors are becoming converts because vendor selectors are good, and because it is faster - materials are often on the shelf before customers are looking for them.

Important to communicate the power of the approval plan. Focus should be - what can the vendor do that makes sense for my collection? It's still the library's collection, still needs to be managed, vendor is a partner [or a tool].

PHX using ILS system reports/stats to adjust profiles and budgets. Customer behavior is driving CDV. The customer is now the primary selector.

Complication, slowness of current process is a common reason for moving toward outsourcing. Vendors can also handle end-of-year funds in a way that maximizes your flexibility, bonus!

How to start:
  • Staff has to trust CDV manager and vendor, because the expertise on publishers, new books will shift out of selectors' hands.
  • Understand current process, where you want to be, before you sit down with vendors. It's still the library's collection - know what you DO want, not just what you don't want, from the vendor.
  • Approval plans provide opportunity to prioritize, re-prioritize, re-re-re-prioritize.
  • Expertise of (ex)-selectors important for refining profiles.
How do you train newbies on CDV if they're not selecting?
Lots of CDV to do besides selection: weeding (all new librarians should do lots of this) and collection analysis are and will remain key activities. [I'd add community analysis]

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