I Agree With Barbara Fister of ACRLog Re: Room of their Own

In a blog posting day (ACRLog » Blog Archive » Room of their Own), responding to a story in this week’s Chronicle about the library renovation at Cal-Poly, Barbara Fister says:

“But to my mind, we can’t all save everything. Storing print runs of JSTOR titles just in case seems to me to be a poor use of expensive space if your students have nowhere to study in the library. Decisions about how little-used but unique materials should be retained need to be wider than any one institution. In Minnesota, we have a shared storage facility open to all libraries in the state, the Minnesota Library Access Center. It’s an amazing place if you ever have a chance to tour it. It’s easy and quick to get things delivered from the “cave” – and though you can’t just bump into them by browsing, most undergraduates will have a better browsing experience with a more select and well-tempered collection than a huge one full of unique and little-used items.”

That was my reaction as well. And I would like to point out that the article was all about faculty reaction to the weeding of the collection and did not mention student response. In my experience, students do not particularly value the experience of serendipitously discovering a dusty periodical volume on the shelf. However, they very much appreciate being able to search for, locate, and download the same article from JSTOR. I think we need to carefully consider whether we are letting emotions get in the way of common sense. After all, not every book or article ever written is worth saving. And, even more likely, most books and articles will only be of interest to a few researchers. It makes good economic sense to house the materials in most demand and use document delivery and other resource sharing methods for the more esoteric materials. As we are planning our library remodel, we are certainly thinking along the same lines as Cal-Poly.

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