Under the New Budget Model, the College Libraries is focusing on buying materials which directly support student research projects. We are finding that only 51% of the books we purchase circulate in the first 5 years of ownership. We think we can do a better job matching what we purchase with student needs. Rather than purchasing "good" books that might get used someday in the future, we are concentrating on buying books to support actual research assignments today. Knowing that students don't use library resources unless directed to by faculty, by focusing on current research assignments we hope to make better purchase decisions and spend the budget more wisely.
The world of information has seen dramatic changes in the past decade. Information access is greatly expanded, and user expectations and behaviors have changed. Libraries are no longer the only game in town, and students don't think of using library resources when it is so much easier to Google the information they need. Libraries also have new mechanisms to support the information needs of students and faculty. Interlibrary loan and document delivery can be more cost effective than purchasing books that get one or very few uses over time. So while we still believe it is important to have some "good" books on the shelves, we think that by relying on resource sharing for the unique and peripheral materials, we can build better collections that get used, and make better use of staff time to process materials and manage our collection spaces.
We also know that students are not as disciplined as faculty when it comes to making use of Interlibrary Loan. We know that students need "something" on the shelf when their paper are due tomorrow and ILL is not an option. We are committed to having collections AND services that provide the timeliness students need as well as depth of resources.
If you have any questions or comments about building the library collections, please contact Marianne Hebert, email@example.com
Emily Singley is a Systems Librarian at Harvard University. Her November 2014 blog post "How College Students Really do Research" aptly summarizes the most important and latest studies on student research behavior.