Daily Archives: August 31, 2006

Room of their Own

Interesting piece in the Chron about how “Library Renovation Leads to Soul Searching at Cal Poly.” A lot of libraries are looking for ways to add more space for students to do the multiple things they want to do in libraries – study, socialize, write papers, do homework, daydream, and even occasionally use library materials. One way to do that is to build a bigger library. Another, more practical way is to renovate the space you have and pare down the print collections. And until an addition is built, that’s what the director at Cal Poly is doing.

The project, now under way, will add an attractive glass entrance and space for computer rooms, study areas, classrooms, and socializing to a dull 1960s box.

But the renovation and addition — which is smaller than originally planned — may leave less space for books, journals, and other printed materials. That has some campus librarians and professors wondering if the library has forgotten its core mission.

Because this change has led “the library to hastily discard tens of thousands of little-used items and to send hundreds of thousands of books to a storage facility at which they will be inaccessible to library patrons” – people are debating the purpose of the library. Is it a collection or is it a place for things to happen?

It’s too bad the faculty and library staff weren’t involved in the decision, or at least well informed of the tradeoffs, so that they bought into this in advance. Any “weeding” project can become a PR nightmare without a lot of advance process work with all the stakeholders.

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. MLAC gives us enlightened Minnesotans (aren’t you jealous?) the option of jointly retaining materials that have value – but that at the moment have less value to our students than a library where there’s room for them, too.

Reasons To Like Team Blogging

There’s a good read in the Wall Street Journal today (free access – yeah!) that will catch the attention of any blogger – and I know we’ve got a fair number of bloggers among our readers. It’s about the vacation dilemma. What do you do when it’s time to get away for a week or two? Do you just tell the readers to forget about your blog for a while? Do you get a guest blogger?

I faced this dilemma back in July with my other blog that is a solo effort. I definitely did not want to post while I was going to be away for the week (my decision had absolutely nothing to do with my spouse’s threats to do bodily harm if a laptop was spotted hidden away in my luggage), but I did have some worries about how that might affect readership. When I vacationed for a longer period in 2005 I enlisted fellow ACRLog blogger Marc Meola to fill in for me, which I think helped during that longer absence. So I decided just to post an announcement that I was taking off from posting for the week. Readership was certainly low that week, but it did bounce back after two weeks or so. I guess the lesson is that none of us library bloggers is so crucial to anyone’s reading regimen that we’ll be missed (but that’s not necessarily the case with some bloggers according to the WSJ article), and that when we do take off we’ll eventually get the readers back – or we’ll gain some new ones to replace any that are lost.

All that aside, being part of a blogging team such as ACRLog is really nice because any of the bloggers can take some time off and the rest of the team can keep the posts coming. That’s not the only reason to like it – it also gives the reader a better mix and variety of perspectives, subject coverage, opinions, and writing styles. It’s also rewarding to share the development of the blog with great colleagues. While ACRLog is still a few months away from completing our first year of blogging, we will be giving thought to some sort of survey to learn more about how we are doing and to get your thoughts on how we can improve this blog (more posts, fewer posts, shorter posts, more guest blogging, more special features, more visuals, better conference blogging, don’t change a thing, etc.). If you would like to share any thoughts at this time though – leave a comment – they are always appreciated.