Having considered the sorts of inquiries that may be posed in a library, we shall now consider retrievalthe process whereby data or documents are found in the attempt to deal with the inquiries that have been posed. There are two related processes: arranging for selected materials to be collected for use, which we address in this chapter; and the retrieval of material from collections, which we shall explore in the next chapter.
In the mind's eye, libraries and their collections are almost synonymous. One tends to visualize libraries as collections, with rows upon rows of shelves of books. Much of what you see in a library is its collection. The number of volumes remains the most prevalent indicator of how good a library is. Assembling and maintaining collections accounts for much of libraries' budgets, labor costs, and space needs.
Writings on library collections have, understandably, concentrated on procedural aspects of selecting material. 1 The purpose of the library collections is generally discussed briefly, if at all, with a vague phrase about how, for example, a university's library collections "support the academic programs." The library is often referred to as a center for the community, as the heart of a university, or as the laboratory of the humanities, but studies of library use have concentrated heavily on surface phenomena, such as frequency of visit or loan statistics. There has been far less examination of how the use of library materials relates to learning, to research, and to the broader context of library service. What are people doing with library materials when they use them? How is the role of a collection related to other aspects of library service? How does the cultural context in which the library is set affect the collection?
In this chapter we shall consider the astonishing richness of materials as sources of information; the important distinction between library materials and the activity of collection development; the role of collections as part of the retrieval process; ways in which library materials are used; the tendency for any given library's collection to contain materials that are "preprocessed" for ease of use; the diminishing returns associated with increasing investment in collection size; the significance for collection-development activities of the technical medium (paper, microform, data base) of materials; and the tendency for libraries' collections to conform to the cultural values of its social context.
Richness and diversity
The range of objects that libraries and library-like institutions such as archives and museums collect is remarkable. Most obviously, large research libraries have truly massive collections of books and journals. The 118 members of the Association of Research Libraries, for example, reported more than 321 million volumes and 233 million microform units as of 1986. 2
Images are also assembled: photographs and slides, movies and videos, paintings and prints, also often in millions. 3 Sounds are collected: speeches, songs, music, and language lessons are accumulated in libraries, language labs, museums, and schools. Easily overlooked are the often very extensive collections of objects, both natural objects and artifacts. A large city is likely to have an art gallery and a local history museum. A large university is likely to have a herbarium, a rock collection, an historical or anthropological museum, skeletons, fossils, and much more besides.
We are concerned here with library collections, which although ordinarily thought of in terms of books and serials, actually contain a very broad range of materials: manuscripts, archives, photographs, recordings, movies, and much else. Not only wilI a particular collection include different sorts of objects, but some objects combine textual, visual, audio, and artifactual aspects. Further, the same object can be of interest for quite diverse reasons. Photographic collections illustrate this complexity rather well. One can wonder at the technical skill involved, especially in the nineteenth century. Imagine Roger Fenton working with wet plates in a dark room on wheels in the middle of the Crimean War in 1855, or Matthew Brady in the US Civil Waror Carleton Watkins, wandering around California with pack mules and a tent to serve as a darkroom. A 1911 account of how to make an albumen negative on a glass plate starts with "The whites of five fresh eggs are mixed…” 4 The modern, automatic, single- lens reflex camera is a marvel of chemical, optical, mechanical, and electronic engineering; and of design and manufacture.
There is also the artistic skill involved: the sense of composition, of arrangement, the point of view, the inspired choice of moment. These are reflected in the early portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron, in Ansel Adams' ability to find a picture in a view, and Karsh's famous portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, when he snatched Churchill's cigar away and caught a momentary and characteristic flash of anger.
Photographs also excel in capturing history in views of times, places, and events. How little we would know of ballet without the camera, or of the growth of towns, or of the appearance of people unlikely to have their portraits made by painters. Similarly, there is the major role played by photography in many areas of study, such as astronomy, particle physics, aerodynamics, and natural history.
In quite a different dimension there is the human interest in what is depicted. There is the emotional impact of portrayals of the human condition, as in the Depression era photographs of Dorothea Lange. There are also the sociological and psychological questions raised by, for example, the nineteenth- century interest in photographing dead children. 5
Books, manuscripts, movies, and other objects can similarly be of interest from each of these different perspectives. The range is remarkable.
The purpose of library materials
The standard phrase concerning collections of library materials is that they "support" the purposes of the community served and that those served "use" the materials in the collections. The terms "support" and "use" are not very evocative. However correct the words may be, they do not tell us much about how the materials support the programs, nor about how the materials are used, and even less about why. More formally it is said that collections contain "relevant information," a phrase composed of two words which have been used in varied and confusing ways. Nevertheless, if these terms have a meaning that can be understood, then it should be possible to rephrase and discuss them usefully in other terms.
The intrinsic interest of photos, books, fossils, paintings, etc., is enormous. However, this interest needs to be balanced against the purpose of the library. In general the purpose of the library is, or should be, to constitute a resource for answering inquiries that arise, as discussed in the previous chapter. We have been using the term "inquiries" in a very broad sense, ranging from research concerning matters apparently not known to anyone, through learning what is not known to the individual, to perusing texts for vague curiosity and amusement. The intended outcome is that library users will become better informed, as will be discussed in chapter 10.
Library materials as evidence
one learns from the examination of various sorts of things. In order to learn, texts are read, numbers are tallied, objects and images are inspected or listened to. In a significant sense library materials are used as evidence in learningas the basis for understanding. One's knowledge and opinions are affected by what one sees, reads, hears, or experiences. Textbooks and encyclopedias provide material for an introduction to a subject; literary texts and commentaries provide sources for the study of language .and literature; arrays of statistical data provide input for calculations ,and inference; statutes and law reports indicate the law; photographs show what people, places, and events looked like; citations and sources are verified; and so on.
In each case it is reasonable to view library materials as evidence, though without implying that what was read, viewed, listened to, or otherwise used was necessarily accurate, useful, or even pertinent to the user's purposes. Nor need it be assumed that the user did (or should) believe or agree with what was read. In this view collections are regarded as selections of material of actual or potential usefulness in meeting the sorts of inquiries regarded as appropriate for the people for whom library service is provided. The next sections will review some implications of this view. Unfortunately, in the apparent absence of well-defined and widely accepted terminology, any such discussion is liable to suffer from the need to coin new terms or to use existing terms in ways that are not quite standard. In particular, the terms "evidence," "interpretation," and "summarizing" will be used in ways that are not customary in the literature of librarianship, and that are not entirely satisfactory.
Viewing library materials as selections of potential or putative evidence enables us to examine library use more deeply. What do people do when faced with evidence? They sift, they excerpt, they evaluate, they summarize, and they may well add to the cumulation of evidence.
Sifting: an inquiry for a local telephone number is ordinarily straightforwardthe telephone directory usually suffices. Someone inquiring into the role of women in eighteenth-century England could benefit from a very wide range of materials: helpful evidence might be found in literature, diaries, sermons, pictures, in contemporary materials of almost any kind, and in commentaries of many sorts written in the centuries since. Much of the evidence is likely to be indirect, in the implications of texts and images created for quite other purposes.
Excerpting and summarizing permit copying and condensing of evidence for the convenience of the inquirer, whether by hand, photocopier, or computer.
Evaluation of and inference from the texts, images, and objects in the collections leads to understanding, insights, and new ideas. These, in turn, may lead to new material (more or less related to the earlier material) in new articles or books, which may include commentary on the old, thereby increasing the accumulation for the future.
The library is, in essence, a resource for inquiry. A fundamental feature of library collection development is the continual effort to make resources of library materials more conveniently available in a manner that corresponds to the local use of evidence.
Interpretation and summarizing of evidence
Much of the material assembled in library collections is not raw data but material that has already been processed and refined. This is to be expected. For most inquiries the original data are not what would be most helpful. It would not be sensible to refer every individual with a question about Mark Twain to the Mark Twain archives. That would be unhelpful for the inquirer and bad for the archives. Almost always a book about Mark Twain, which may be based on material in the archives, would be sufficient and more practical for all concerned. The book about Mark Twain could well have drawn on and condensed information from other sources, and explain or interpret the relevant ideas and evidence. These two processes, which we shall refer to as "interpretation" and "summarizing," are central to understanding both the nature and the use of library materials.
We use the term "interpretation" in a broad sense, not just as a matter of translation from one language to another but in the sense of explaining: "to explain the meaning of, to elucidate, unfold, show the purport of; to translate into intelligible or familiar terms." 6
Some books in a library contain original data, but many, if not most, of nonfiction material involves explanation or interpretation of more detailed material.
In the case of foreign literatures, both interpretation and summarizing can be seen. The original writing is not always the first choice. Suppose, for example, that there was an interest in Swahili literature. In North America, an English translation is likely to be the preferred choice, or a book about Swahili writings, perhaps containing abridged texts or translated excerpts, or even an encyclopedia article. Yet each of these options, while progressively more convenient, also contain progressively less of the original evidence. Something is always lost in translation or in summarizing.
The notion of summarizing or reducing evidence can be illustrated most conveniently using examples from the sciences. In statistical studies the goal is usually to reduce large amounts of data into progressively smaller summaries: large quantities of numbers can be aggregated into summary tables; tendencies and patterns in the data can be briefly expressed as, for example, an average, a curve representing the relationship between two variables, and so on. Useful though this simplification and diminution in physical size can be, some of the evidence is necessarily lost in the process of reduction. The essence of statistical technique is the desire to maximize the reduction while minimizing the loss of evidence. Similarly, in chemistry an important goal is taking some material or a process, analyzing it, and working out how to describe it by a succinct formal statement, such as a chemical formula.
In biology one can illustrate this process of reduction, this trade-off between convenience and loss of evidence. Suppose that one were interested in woodpeckers. Some aspects of woodpeckers, such as woodpecker behavior, can be learned only from live woodpeckers, preferably woodpeckers in the wild. For other, fewer purposes, a dead woodpecker would suffice. Studying live woodpeckers, however, is less convenient than studying dead ones, which can be housed and handled more easily. Similarly, more can be learned from a film of a woodpecker than from a still photograph, but the latter is easier to make and to examine. A set of measurements of woodpeckers is even easier to deal with, but much less can be learned from measurements than from photos or films or actual woodpeckers.
Reproductions, even photographs, of works of art and museum items cannot reflect all the evidence of the originals. However, they may well suffice for many purposes and have two striking advantages: they can be made much more widely available and can be used without wear and tear of the originals.
We have used the term "summarizing" with some hesitation. There is no question that the summarizing, condensing, and interpreting of evidence pervades recorded knowledge. In the case of statistical studies, "summarizing" is an apt description of the process of making evidence more convenient and, indeed, more understandable. In literary and historical studies, however, where words rather than numbers are the principal basis for description, the commentaries intended to render the original more understandable can easily be larger than the original. (Consider for example the relative sizes of some originals such as the Bible or the works of Shakespeare with the corpus of writings about the Bible or Shakespeare.) Further, commentaries are more likely to complement the original (and each other) than to serve as a substitute. In the humanities, interpretation and summarizing is likely to be an expansion! 7
Education, scholarship, and debateand, therefore, library collectionsare permeated with these processes of interpreting and summarizing. Articles and books summarize, cite, refute, and build upon earlier work. This is especially noticeable in the scholarly literature where the growth of material has created the need for abstracting and indexing services, for guides and reviews. Encyclopedias, handbooks, and textbooks, all examples of summarizing and interpretation, perform a very useful role.
Implications for library service
So far we have emphasized two key features of library materials that are important for library service: (i) the potential range of informative material is truly enormous in extent and variety and (ii) much of what is held in collections summarizes or explains other evidence. This is both understandable and desirable: not all evidence is equally intelligible or convenient; not all inquiries are equally complex; not all inquirers are equally motivated or bring equal personal knowledge or cognitive skills. It is therefore important that a library collection include material at various levels of explanation: there would be little point in an English primary-school library having Aesop's Fables in the original Greek instead of in English -- or Heidi in German.
Nor is this only a matter of language, since materials at the forefront of most fields of scholarship are difficult or unintelligible to most nonspecialists because the concepts and specialized terminology are not understood. Hence summaries and introductory works such as textbooks are useful.
It follows that collection developmentthe combination of selection, duplication, and retention policiesneeds to be based not only on what a book is about, but also on its suitability as evidence from which people can learn. Given constraints of funding and space, the challenge is how to select from the colossal universe of all possible materials in order to achieve collections that will, it is supposed, constitute the most useful resource for whatever the groups to be served, the pattern of inquiries, and the goals of the library service may be. Hence the material selected and retained for any given collection needs to meet two requirements:
- The language and difficulty of the texts should match the competencies of the users. In the example of foreign literatures, for example, this would tend to imply original foreign texts for some, but translations for others.
- The evidence needs to be sufficiently detailed for the sorts of inquiries for which the service is provided.
These two requirements are potentially in conflict: the first argues for simple explanations; the second against simplification. 8 (The intelligibility and adequacy of collections will be considered further in discussing "access" in chapter 15.)
Material versus collection
In ordinary discussion it is easy to use the terms "library materials" and "collections" more or less interchangeably. But the distinction is fundamental to any serious understanding of the present and future role of collections. We use the term "library materials" to denote text-bearing, image-bearing, or other objects of the sort that libraries collect that could be informative for the people that the library seeks to serve. (The phrase is potentially misleading since they do not have to be library materials to be informative: a privately owned copy of a book is not intrinsically less informative than a copy owned by a library.)
The assembling of collections is a matter of practical convenience, a matter of logistics and convenience. A book does not have to be in any particular collection to be useful. Ideally one would have one's own copies of what one needed and hence neither need nor want to use a library. In practice, however, the cost and bulk of books preclude this possibility, with the exception of a limited quantity of the materials which one might expect to use a great deal. The point is important, however. Like compiling a bibliography or a catalog, the building of a collection isand is no more thana practical device intended to facilitate access to materials.
Collection as the first stage of retrieval
Assembling collections of library materials serves two different purposes:
- Preserving a copy of potentially useful material that might otherwise be lost to present and future users is an archival role.
- Arranging for copies of selected materials to be collected and housed locally for the greater convenience of local users is a logistic role.
It is a very significant characteristic of the use of books that it is very helpful to have copies stored locally, a point we shall examine further in considering the implications for collection development activity of changes in the technical medium of library materials. The overwhelming preponderance of libraries' collections, even of research libraries, serve the second, logistic purpose in the sense that most of the materials acquired also exist elsewhere in other copies in other libraries. Imagine how much different, smaller, and more economical libraries would be if only the archival role mattered, and just one or two copies were acquired nationwide or worldwide.
The assembling of a library collection, therefore, can reasonably be regarded as the first stage of the process of retrieving material for use. One might also argue that collections themselves serve as a form of bibliographic retrieval system analogous to the catalog in that by inspecting the array of books on the shelves one can discover works on particular topics. Ordinarily "retrieval" is thought of only in terms of catalogs, indexes, classification schemes, or other devices that provide pointers to the documents or data that might satisfy the inquiries that arise. (The next chapter will discuss retrieval in this more customary sense.) However, it is important to recognize that, regardless of the terminology used, the archival role of library collections is, in an important sense, a necessary precondition for, or first stage of, retrievaland the logistic role greatly facilitates convenient retrieval. Material that has not been collected at all is simply not available for retrieval by anyone. Material that has not been added to local collections is not available for convenient retrieval by individuals at that location. It is true that material that has not been collected locally can still be obtained by purchase, by reproduction, or by interlibrary loan, but all of these involve delay and expense, and are best seen as procedures that are corrective of failures in collection developmentor else as fallback options for handling truly exceptional and unexpected inquiries for which acquisition would have been impractical or extravagant given constrained resources.
As will be discussed in chapter 10, the use of library materials is characterized by three patterns:
- The use of materials is unevenly dispersed across titles, some being used more often than others.
- Use of materials tends to diminish with age.
- Usage varies with convenience of access.
These three aspects of collection usescatter, decay, and inertia -- reflect and define, in general terms, the profile of demand in any given library context. The challenge for the librarian is to develop a collection of materials appropriate to that situation, given the inevitable constraints on space, labor, and funds. Most of the effort will be concerned with assembling locally the most suitable collections. Some of the effort should be devoted to arrangements for ensuring that everything likely to be needed by anyone will be preserved somewhere, if not locally.
Collection development decisions
The development of local collections in support of the logistic function of collections is essentially a compromise between the physical convenience that can be achieved and the resources allocated to this purpose. The choices of outcomes include the completeness and appropriateness of the range of materials relative to the demand, the standard of availability of the materials in relation to the pattern of demand, and the physical accessibility of the collection. Specific decisions include: whether to create another collection; where to locate it; relationships with other collections, coordination with other collections within the same system, and cooperation with collections outside the system; and the selection, duplication, loan policies, form of storage, and relegation of individual documents. None of these decisions create new materials: they only deploy copies of existing materials.
Preservation and conservation
As we noted at the outset, if material has not been collected at all, it is not available for anyone. Not only must it be collected, it must also be preserved for future use. 9 With the obvious fragility of the photographic media and the gradual self-destruction of most extant books from acid traces in the paper, it is clear that there are massive problems beyond the effects of ordinary wear and tear through usage. As a practical matter collections can be divided (in principle) into three categories.
- Consumables, such as duplicate copies of textbooks or popular novels, which can be discarded or replaced when they have deteriorated or are no longer needed.
- Reproducibles, which can be copied. For example, the text of a dissertation can be preserved through being microfilmed, the image of a photograph can be rephotographed, and a sound recording copied. There may be some loss in the process of reproduction, which may or may not be significant.
- Irreplaceables, which need to be retained, preserved, and, if need be, restored, typically because they are unsuitable for copying or because the artifacts themselves are too valuable to lose.
We have discussed above the "interpretation" and "summarizing" of library resources. However, the original evidence may need to be preserved. Future inquiries cannot be fully known in advance, and so for some inquiries the wrong sort of reduction may have been doneinstead of measures of the length of woodpeckers, measures of the weight or width are requested. For other sorts of inquiries, any reduction or interpretation may be too much . For a study of Arabic calligraphy even a transcription, let alone a translation, would be too much. It will sometimes be necessary to go back to the original, or as close as is feasible. Commonly it is not feasible: archivists cannot keep all records; scientists do not keep all observational data indefinitely; not all evidence of daily life can be preserved.
There is the additional division of priorities between attention to the conservation and restoration of individual items that are reproducible or irreplaceable and the preventative measures such as air filtration, humidity, and temperature controls which reduce the rate of deterioration of the collection as a whole.
Collections and the changing technology of library materials10
Any change of technology is a change in the nature (usually a loosening) of the constraints upon what one might wish to do. There is much interest in the rise of electronic and optical digital "machine-readable" forms of storage, currently for bibliographical and numerical data and, imminently, for text, sounds, and images. 11 In this case the changes are substantial and, as a result, there are substantial practical consequences which are outside the scope of this book. Change in technology has an additional interest because thinking tends to be formed by what we consider feasible. A change in technology is a change in constraints, a change of what is feasible. There is, therefore, at least some likelihood that thinking, planning, and actions will continue to be formed by obsolete notions of feasibility, by technological constraints that are no longer present.
Libraries and library users are concerned with ideas and knowledge, but through recorded texts and imagesin very large quantities. As a result, any change in the technology of the media for recording or storing texts and images could have enormous significance for libraries. The characteristics of data bases are different from those of paper, and do not fit into current library practice very well. Examples of lack of fit include the following:
- Special equipment is required to use data bases.
- A library can provide data base service without either the user or the data base necessarily being "in" the library or the use being restricted to the library's opening hours. Library staff may not be at hand to offer assistance.
- Data bases customarily involve costs based on the amount of use, making expenditures difficult to project or to control.
Exploration of the underlying characteristics of the different media seems a good basis for reconsidering the assumptions concerning collections that have been built up on the basis of library materials on paper. 12
Characteristics of library materials on paper
Libraries evolved to provide access to resources on paper with characteristics that are so familiar to librarians and library users that they tend to be overlooked.
- No special equipment is needed to read them.
- They are strictly localized: the reader must read a printed book, pamphlet, map, or journal where that item is. The reader must go to the book, or the book must be physically transported to the reader. Possibly another copy can be acquired or made, but each copy would still have to be where its reader is. Any given copy is suitable for being read only by a single person at a time and in the one place where that copy is located. Obvious though this may seem, it is a massive constraint on library service since the use of the material is, in practice, highly sensitive to location: a book at hand is used more than a book elsewhere, let alone at a distant library. 13 As a result, expenditure on the selective duplication of library materials in different libraries on the same campus or in the same public library system is generally needed, and there is at least mild contention for unduplicated material of interest to two or more groups at different locations. The size of locally held collections is taken to be the measure of the worth of the library. 14
- Material on paper, like a telescope, is unsuited for simultaneous viewing by two or more people. Either another copy must be found (or made) or users must take turns.
- Library materials on paper are treated as a capital, public good: they are acquired and made available without charge. They are bought at a one-time cost as an investment, the cost is not passed on to the reader, and, until the copy becomes worn out, there is no additional cost involved in it being read by one more person (other than circulation and reshelving workload). If demand exceeds supply, three options exist: rationing use by limiting loan privileges; increasing supply by adding another copy; or lowering the standard of service by letting additional would-be readers wait. 15
- Paper materials are not easy to correct, revise, or update, except for isolated minor alterations to individual copies. Devices such as errata slips are not very effective. It is more effective to replace the entire document. But, after the copies of an edition have been distributed, who would know where they all are to replace them, or to make the corrections?
Library activities, and especially library budgetary practices, are based on these characteristics.
Characteristics of microforms
The first major programs of microfilming library materials began with newspapers in the 1930s. Use of microforms increased greatly in the 1960s as microfiche were used for the dissemination of technical reports by government agencies. 16 Microfilms and other microforms represented a significant departure from paper materials, yet they differ on only one of the characteristics noted abovespecial equipment is needed to read them. This adds a requirement for libraries to maintain a new sort of equipment: microform readers and printers. Microforms are therefore even more localized than paper materials: not only must the would-be reader and the microform be in the same place, there must also be a usable machine on which to read it at that place. Furthermore, copies are less convenient to make and cannot, like paper, be annotated. They are even less suitable for correction or revision. Nevertheless, the low cost of acquiring and, especially, storing microforms makes them a reasonable choice for some kinds of information (such as old newspapers) in spite of their unappealing form and attributes.
Characteristics of data bases
Machine-readable data bases, as typically used in library contexts, have tended to differ from paper not, like microforms, on just one of the characteristics of paper-based materials, but on all five:
- As with microforms, special equipment is required to read themequipment that is substantially more complex, more expensive, more useful, and more obsolescent than microform readers. Not only is the equipment used to provide access to information in data bases more elaborate than is that of microforms, but the equipment has two other novel features:
- A microfilm reader displays an image of the text and does little else, except maybe, produce a copy. Computers used in conjunction with data bases allow not only retrieval but also a very great deal of manipulation: (i) bibliographical data can be reorganized, reformatted, and combined with other machine-readable text; (ii) texts can be edited and stored again in revised form; and (iii) numerical data, such as census tables, can be retrieved and subjected to statistical manipulation. A census table on paper or microform would have to be transcribed by hand and/or keyed into machine-readable form.
- The equipment used to gain access to data bases is, in general, usable for other purposes also. A scholar's personal computer can be used for word processing, electronic mail, statistical analysis, and manipulation of personal data as well as accessing data bases. Moreover, there should be a convenient linking of each of these functions such that data could flow conveniently between them. 17
- Usage of a data base is not inherently localized. For example, thousands of people all over the world use the data bases made available through the Lockheed DIALOG service, but few of these people have ever been to Palo Alto where the data bases reside. 18 There is a strong trend for at least faculty and graduate students to have workstations, either terminals or microcomputers, that enable them, in principle, to read data bases from their offices, laboratories, and homes as an alternative to using workstations in libraries. Data bases can be copied and scholars will probably tend to have their own copies of parts or all of some sorts of data bases even though, given telecommunications, data bases can be used and shared from a distance. In this sense, data bases lend themselves to cooperative, shared provision much better than do library materials on paper or microform. Just as it does not matter to a library user where a book borrowed on interlibrary loan has come from, so long as it does come in a timely and reliable manner, so it does not matter to an online searcher where the data on the screen have come from so long as they too come in a timely and reliable manner. (There could well be cost differences that may matter to the librarian, but that is a separate issue.)
- Further, given suitable equipment, users of data bases can, in effect, make simultaneous use of the same data base, whereas it is not practical to make simultaneous use of the same book. Contention for the same book is a major source of frustration for the library user. 19
- The use of data bases has, in general, not been budgeted as a capital, public good. Typically, data bases have been provided on a "pay-as-you-use" fee basis, including telecommunications, computer charges, and other elements. These expensesreal, monetary chargesare passed on to the users, except to the extent that libraries feel able to absorb the charges. These charges had no real precedent in library budgets. This situation is reflected in the common practice of referring to bibliographical data bases as "commercial data bases," even though it is the final stage of retail marketing, not the data, that has been in commercial pay-as-you-use mode. 20
- In general, data bases are designed for routine updating with corrections and additions.
These characteristics of library materials on paper, in microform, and as machine-readable data files are summarized in table 7.1.
TABLE 7.1. Comparison of some attributes of lirary materials in different media Paper Microform Data base 1. Equipment required No Yes Yes 2. Remotely accessible No No Yes 3. Simultaneous use No No Yes 4. Capital, public good Yes Yes No, but could be 5. Revisable? No No Yes
Some assumptions reconsidered
Since access to information on data bases is a desirable part of the mission of a library, and yet does not "fit" existing practices, it may be useful to retreat toward first principles.
- The purpose of making printed books, microforms, and data bases available is the sameto provide access to potentially useful information. It would therefore seem sensible to budget for data bases in the same way as is already done with paper and microform materials, if feasible.
- There is no obvious reason why data bases could not be purchased unless the publisher chose not to sell them as a matter of marketing policy. It seems reasonable to expect that most data bases will become available for purchase or lease. Some, indeed, may become available inexpensively enough for individuals to purchase copies.
- Similarly, data bases may also be available on a rental or subscription basis. This would be a matter of the library leasing the data base or negotiating access to it for a fixed fee, and allowing users to make what use of it they can. 21
- "Fee-as-you-use" access to data bases would still be needed in two cases: (i) when the publisher refuses to allow any other arrangement; and (ii) when usage or, more exactly, the cost, is so low that purchase or subscription are not worthwhile. (This is comparable to reliance on interlibrary loan of paper and microform materials in lieu of purchase. It does not follow that the fee would necessarily have to be passed on to the user. Indeed, some cases of very low usage might well be handled by coordinated acquisitions of data bases between libraries and reciprocal search access in the historic tradition of cooperative collection development.) It is at this point that the distance-independent characteristic of data bases becomes important. Depending upon assumptions about telecommunications and levels of demand, one copy anywhere in a library system or consortium might suffice for all users in a way that would not have the disadvantages that remote storage has for material on paper or on microfilm.
- The economic trade-off between purchase, lease, and usage-based fees will be largely a matter of technical analysis of the varying costs of computing, telecommunications, administration, and storage. Optimization of this sort would become all the more practical if all systems seemed similar to the user as they would with the general adoption of a "linked systems protocol" for connecting online bibliographical systems. 22
On this approach it is not difficult to image a hierarchy of levels of access to data bases. Very popular, inexpensive ones might be held at a campus, or even branch library, level; less popular, more expensive ones might be held at a university level; yet other rarely used data bases might be held regionally or nationally by universities or commercial services and used as needed, rather like interlibrary loans.
For paper materials not held in a library's collection, recourse is made to interlibrary loan. While this is not the same as doing a fee-for-use search of a remote data base, the effect is quite similar. A non-trivial cost is incurred by the borrowing library for each interlibrary loan transaction. In part this is inevitable, since no library can afford to buy everything. It is, however, a sensible strategy to avoid purchase, processing, and storage costs of some materials not expected to be much used, and deliberately to plan on recourse to interlibrary loan if demands were to arise. 23 With either paper materials or data bases, as the level of usage increases, other approaches (purchase or lease) deserve consideration.
Individual collections in context
Scope and diminishing returns
A library collection is not expected to be an entirely random compilation, but to have some scope or coverage. Some important features of decisions concerning what to include and what not are: (1) Any definition of scope implies that the universe of items that could be included can be divided into more or less definable subsets (e.g., History, Engineering, Works written by Austrians, Books printed in England, etc.); and (2) There are gradations of inclusion within the scope. At one extreme there is minimal inclusion: "Even if we were given it, we would not keep it." At the other extreme is exhaustive collecting: "We want at least one copy of everything written by or about Paracelsus." The terminology used for these gradations is not and, perhaps, cannot be completely standardized. A good example is the terminology developed for the American Library Association: 24
- Comprehensive level. A collection in which the library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, other forms) for a necessarily defined field. This level of collecting intensity is that which maintains a "special collection;" the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness.
- Research level. A collection which includes the major source materials required for dissertations and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It also includes all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as an extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field.
- Study level. A collection which supports undergraduate or graduate course work, or sustained independent study; that is, which is adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or generalized purposes, of less than research intensity. It includes a wide range of basic monographs, complete collections of the works of important writers, a selection of representative journals, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject.
- Basic level. A highly selective collection which serves to introduce and define the subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It includes major dictionaries and encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, important bibliographies, and a few major periodicals in the field.
- Minimal level. A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works.
Also, of course, there is the "out-of-scope" level at which nothing is kept.
There is often a major ambiguity in discussing these issues due to the difference between "about" and "relating to." Pharmacy is a good example. The number of publications actually about pharmacy is small compared with the number of publications that could be regarded as relating to pharmacy but are about physiology, biochemistry, ethics, medical services, marketing, etc. These sorts of relationships are not always self-evident. For example, O'Neill found that, although different sorts of engineering are generally associated together politically and organizationally (as in a School of Engineering with a consolidated engineering library), the intellectual relationship for each branch of engineering is heavily oriented to a cognate science rather than other sorts of engineering25 (e.g., electrical engineering with electronics; mechanical engineering with mechanics; chemical engineering with chemistry, etc.).
We do not propose to examine in any detail the theory and practice of "collection development." That is extensively discussed elsewhere. 26 We merely note the activity and look at how it relates to the wider framework.
The financial consequence of changing from one level of collection to another, especially from level C to level B, or from B to A, can be considerable. So, therefore, is the opportunity cost in that increased expenditure for collection development prevents the use of those resources for other desirable purposes inside or outside the library. There needs to be, therefore, a significant perceived benefit in the accumulation of the collection if there is to be any degree of rationality.
A benefit, however, implies a value. Hence, discussion of the scope ought to be related to the choice of values. The collection of books for their own sakebibliophiliacould be such a value, but it is more likely to be the increase in knowledge of one sort or another within a particular group of people that the library is expected to serve. At least, we will assume that this is the case and defer consideration of some other sorts of values until chapter 10.
Now, if the growth of knowledge is to be the determining value and if resources are limited, the only rational procedure is to relate the scope of the retrieval system to those items likely to facilitate the growth of knowledge in the most cost-beneficial way, insofar as one can. For example, if a copy of a book were never to be used, it is difficult to see how it could have facilitated the growth of knowledge; and, since it took resources to acquire, to process, and to store it, its acquisition was not merely not beneficial, but counterproductive , since those resources might have been used in some other way to foster those values. Every cost is also a lost opportunity. In every library, there are some books that are apparently used little if at all. 27 In large libraries this can represent a very substantial investment. One might conclude, then, that a major pruning of libraries' collections would be cost-beneficial. However, there are three major theoretical reasons why this would be difficult to do:
- It is not known which titles will be used. Prediction of probable future use is a major element in book selection but the reliability of the predictions appears to be low, especially among titles not in high levels of use.
- In open access libraries, most of the use is not recorded in any way. So that, if the books were used, it is unlikely that the librarian would know about it. The use of items retrieved from storage and items borrowed is recorded (or, at least, can be) but use of books on open shelves is generally unrecorded. There is some evidence that recorded use and unrecorded use correlate even on a title-by-title basis. 28 However, this is not very well established and, even if it were, it is still a matter of probabilities.
- Even if one were to know that particular books already in a library would not be used in the future, the cost of discarding them, with present manual records, might well outweigh the probable savings. When uncertainty remains concerning future use, the costs and benefits of weeding become even less favorable. 29
Therefore, we reach the rather unsatisfying conclusion that a combination of inability to predict the future, lack of management information, and present technology conspire to make collection development an imprecise art. One cannot be sure that one will have all (and only) the documents that will be needed.
So far we have assumed that collection development is a trade-off between limited resources and the selection of what would be most informative, but it is not that simple, as will be discussed in greater detail in chapters 11 and 12 on the allocation of resources to and within the library services. The library exists in a political and cultural environment. In this environment the funders, the users, and the librarians have social values that form part of the context of the library's mission. Library collections are constrained to be compatible with those social values. It is for this reason that a library's collection will not always contain the most informative material even where it can be affordedor, if it is afforded, usage is likely to be partially restricted. For example, a child with an inquiry concerning sex is not likely to find the most informative material because the most informative material is likely to be contrary to local cultural norms of decency. 30 Similarly funders, librarians, and (most) users would probably prefer their library not to include material that facilitates or encourages topics deemed socially undesirable, such as poisoning public water supplies, dangerous drugs, pederasty, or how to make bombs. There is some tendency to regard such decisions as censorship and outside librarianship, or somehow separate from selection and collection development. Until one can find a library service that has no context, these cultural constraints are best viewed as an inherent part of selection and collection development.
A diminution of localness
For the user, meanwhile, access to remote data bases is very different from interlibrary loan with its lengthy delays. The distance-independence of data basesin contrast to the localness of paperis important even for what is stored locally, and it is much more important for what is not stored locally. In effect, since the use of data bases is not localized, the difference between what is locally held and what is not is of diminished importance. Stated more directly, local holdings lose their overwhelming significance, which is a radical departure from traditional assumptions about libraries' collections. (It is also a radical departure for assumptions about library catalogs which are, by definition, restricted to locally held collections. As locally held collections come to constitute less and less of what is conveniently accessible, the catalog also becomes progressively less complete as a guide to what materials are available.) 31
For library services not to include access to data bases, local or remote, would be rather like a fifteenth-century library refusing to acquire the newfangled printed books in addition to manuscripts because they did not "fit" traditional views of library provision. Data bases do not fit library collection development practices, but that is not the real problem. Data bases are part of the evolving world of communication and of scholarship. The real problem is that collection development practices do not yet fit that world. 32
Inquiries need resources for their resolution. The range of materials available is enormous. The technology used affects what can be done. In a significant sense library materials can be viewed as evidence that needs to be suited both to the inquiries and to the library users served by each library. Suitability is not only a matter of subject content, but also of the complexity of inquiries, the intelligibility of the materials, the expertise of the users, and the social values of the library's context. In any discussion of these matters it is important to distinguish clearly between library materials (physical resources) and collection development (the logistics of deploying copies of materials). Collection development practice could reasonably be expected to change with changes in the nature of materials33 and in emphasis on the different roles that collections play: preservation; indication of what exists; 34 and location of materials conveniently near to users. 35 Libraries make resources available in a series of stages: material expected to be useful is preserved; copies of selected materials are collected locally to assure convenient access; and various techniques of retrieval are used to find particular pieces of material as and when needed. The next chapter will examine retrieval in this last sense.
Go to Chapter 8
1 For an introduction see G. E. Evans, Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 2nd ed. (Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1987); A. Curley and D. Broderick, Building Library Collections, 6th ed. (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985); W. A. Katz, The Selection of Materials for Libraries (New York: Rinehart & Winston, 1980); Collection Development: A Treatise, edited by R. D. Stueart and G. B. Miller (Greenwich, Corm.: Jai Press, 1980); R. K. Gardner, Library Collections: Their Origin, Selection, and Development (New York: McGraw-Hill, 198 1); M. Moskowitz, "Collection development and the college library: a state-of-the-art review," Collection Building 6, no. 4 (Summer 1984): 5-10; R. D. Johnson, "The College Library Collection," Advances in Librarianship 14 (1986): 143-74.
2 Association of Research Libraries, ARL Statistics, 1985-86 (Washington, D.C.: ARL, 1987).
3 A survey of the nine campuses of the University of California located an unexpectedly high total of 17.5 million photographs. University of California Directory of Photographic Collections, compiled by S. Conkelton (Riverside: University of California, Museum of Photography, 1985), p. vi.
4 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (New York: Encyclopaedia Co., 1910-11) Vol. 21, s. v. Photography, p. 487.
5 A more prosaic explanation is that only in this condition did children remain still long enough to be photographed with early, slow films.
6 Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary, rev. ed. (Edinburgh: Chambers, 1959), s.v. Interpret, p. 555.
7 For an extended critique of library planning from the perspective of research in the humanities see B. Fabian, Buch, Bibliothek und geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung: Zur Probteme der Literaturproduktion in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983). For an English language summary see Minerva 23 (August 1985): 433-40. A similar discussion by Fabian is "Libraries and the Humanistic Scholarship," Journal of Librarianship 18, no. 2 (April 1986): 79.
8 This aspect of collection development has received remarkably little explicit attention in the professional literature. Katz (op. cit.) does stress consideration of the library's "audience" and analysis of the community to be served is often urged, but generally the need for library materials to be both intelligible for the users and complex enough for the expected use seems to be implicit or ignored. As will be discussed in chapter 10, library users tend to adapt to what is provided.
9 This section has benefited from the advice of Barclay Ogden. For further reading see P. N. Banks, "Preservation of Library Materials," Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Vol. 23 (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1978), pp. 180-222; C. C. Morrow, A Conservation Policy Statement for Research Libraries (Occasional Papers, 139) (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 1979).
10 For fuller discussion see M. K. Buckland, "Library Materials: Paper, Microform, Database," College and Research Libraries 49, no. 2 (March 1988): 117-22.
11 F. G. Kilgour, Beyond Bibliography (London: British Library, 1985).
12 J. R. Euster, "Changing Views on Library Collections," Library Issues 6, no. 5 (May 1986): 1-2.
13 For branch libraries see both D. A. Wells, "Individual Departmental Libraries vs. Consolidated Science Libraries," Physics Today 14, no. 5 (May 1961): 40-1 and J. H. Shera, "How Much is a Physicist's Inertia Worth?," Physics Today 14, no. 8 (August 1961): 42-3. For a recent review see R. A. Seals, "Academic Branch Libraries," Advances in Librarianship 14 (1986): 175-209. For interlibrary loan see T. J. Waldhart, "Patterns of Interlibrary Loan in the U.S.: A Review of Research," Library and Information Science Research 7, no. 3 (July-September 1985): 209-29; T. J. Waldhart, "Performance Evaluation of Interlibrary Loan in the United States: A Review of Research," Library and Information Science Research 7, no. 4 (October- December 1985): 313-31.
14 For discussion of library "goodness" see chapter 20. Also M. Buckland, "Concepts of Library Goodness," Canadian Library Journal 39, no. 2 (April 1982): 63-6.
15 Cf., M.K. Buckland, Book Availability and the Library User (New York: Pergamon Press, 1975).
16 Convenient introductions can be found in: ALA World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (Chicago: American Library Association, 1980), s. v. Micrographics, Pp. 370-3; and Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Vol. 18 (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1976), s.v. Microform, pp. 76-99 and Microform Publication, pp. 99-114.
17 For example, M. K. Buckland, "Combining Electronic Mail with Online Retrieval in a Library Context," Information Technology and Libraries 6, no. 4 (December 1987): 266-71.
18 "The logic of print on paper is local availability through multiple outlets of multiple copies of a particular document. Printing entails a multiplicity of local booksellers and libraries. The logic of the new information technology is quite differentit is that of multiple access via telecommunications networks to a single copy of a document remotely held in machine-readable form. Neither logic is implemented in pure formlocal book supplies are supplemented by interlending networks ... and local forms of electronic store are becoming available," B. C. Vickery and A. Vickery, Information Science in Theory and Practice (London: Butterworths, 1987), pp. 323-4.
19 Cf. M. K. Buckland, Book Availability and the Library User (New York: Pergamon Press, 1975).
20 One approach is for libraries to buy or lease data bases. There is some precedent for this. U.S. public libraries commonly rent collections of bestsellers ("McNaughton collections") that help take care of temporary peaks of demand. Some reference works (e.g. Magazine Index and some Dun & Bradstreet directories) are available only on a lease basis.
21 Cf. B. Quint, "Journal Article Coverage in Online Library Catalogs: Next Stage for Online Databases?," Online 11, no. I (January 1987): 87- 90.
22 NISO Draft standard Z39.50. For discussion see M. K. Buckland and C. A. Lynch, "The Linked Systems Protocol and the Future of Bibliographical Networks and Systems," Information Technology and Libraries 6, no. 2 (June 1987): 83-8; and M. K. Buckland and C. A. Lynch, "National and International Implications of the Linked Systems Protocol for Online Bibliographic Systems," Cataloging and Classification Quarterly 8, nos 3/4 (1988): 15-33. This issue of CCQ was also issued as a monograph: National and International Bilbiographic Databases: Trends and Prospects, ed. by M. Carpenter. New York: Haworth Press, 1988.
23 See, for example, G. S. Lawrence and A. R. Oja, An Economic Criterion for Housing and Disposing of Library Materials, Based on Frequency of Circulation (Berkeley: University of California Systemwide Administration, Library Studies and Research Division, September 24, 1979), Research Report RR-79-2.
24 American Library Association, Collection Development Committee, Guidelines for Collection Development, edited by D. Parkins (Chicago: ALA, 1979).
25 E. T. O'Neill, "Journal Usage Patterns and Their Implications in the Planning of Library Systems" (Ph.D. thesis, West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University, School of Industrial Engineering, 1970. University of microfilms o/no. 70-18,704).
26 See footnote 1, p. 60.
27 M. K. Buckland, Book Availability and the Library User (New York: Pergamon Press, 1975); R. W. Trueswell, "User Circulation Satisfaction vs. Size of Holdings at Three Academic Libraries," College and Research Libraries 30 (May 1969): 204-13; A. Kent, Use of Library Materials: The University of Pittsburgh Study (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1979).
28 A. Hindle and M. K. Buckland, "in-Library Book Usage in Relation to Circulation," Collection Management 2, no. 4 (Winter 1978): 265-77.
29 J. A. Urquhart and N. Urquhart, Relegation and Stock Control in Libraries (Stockfield, Eng.: Oriel Press, 1976).
30 "Research indicates that librarians give strong support to the concepts of intellectual freedom and open access to information but do not necessarily implement these concepts in their libraries." M. Pope, Sex and the Undecided Librarian: A Study of Librarians' Opinions on Sexually Oriented Literature (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974), p. 184.
31 M. K. Buckland, "Bibliography, Library Records, and the Redefinition of the Library Catalog," in Library Resources and Technical Services (forthcoming).
32 Cf., P. Briscoe et al., "Ashurbanipal's Enduring Archetype: Thoughts on the Library's Role in the Future," College and Research Libraries 47, no. 2 (March 1986): 121-6.
33 The argument that collection development practice, i.e., library logistics, may need to vary with changes in the nature of the material to be deployed is consistent with Licklider's statement that "any concept of a library that begins with books on shelves is sure to encounter trouble" (emphasis added). J. C. R. Licklider, Libraries of the Future (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1965), p. 5.
34 For the relationship between shelf arrangement and library use see R. J. Hyman, Shelf Access in Libraries (Chicago: American Library Association, 1982).
35 "Near to" users is importantly different from "where the users are." See R. T. Jordan, Tomorrow's Library: Direct Access and Delivery (New York: Bowker, 1970).
Go to Chapter 8
Copyright © 1988, 1999 Michael K. Buckland.
Document maintained at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Literature/Library/Services/chapter7.html by the SunSITE Manager.
Last update February 16, 1999. SunSITE Manager: email@example.com