To cope with the recent economic decline, the College asked all units to cut operating budgets by 5% last winter, followed by news that FY10 budgets would at least be flat-funded, a de facto roll back. Since the library hasn’t experienced such deep cuts in decades–if ever–we thought it would be useful to state how we prefer to build collections in the midst of smaller fund accounts and modest prospects for budget growth.
By obligation, the Library collects information resources to support the curricular needs of the College’s academic departments. We strive to provide relevant materials for established programs and to assemble, to the extent possible, retrospective core collections for new College-sponsored academic initiatives. Collection subjects reflect the undergraduate curriculum, and collection developers are informed by class enrollments, intensity of use, new course offerings, and areas of study which must be supported by strong local holdings.
The primary way we build subject collections is by acquiring materials we think will be used by those teaching and taking courses presently offered by the College. This process is a year-by-year layering of new course materials upon older ones, perhaps best described as follows: in year one, professor X (in addition to her textbook order) submits requests to the library for books that augment required readings for a course she is currently teaching; in year two, professor X submits requests for additional books that further augment readings for this same course. Over the years, as X continues to teach this course, the library steadily shapes a collection around this curricular subject. We try to avoid the opposite approach, to expend large sums of money on a single course all at once, because creating an “opening day” collection means significantly reducing acquisitions in other subjects, and because by having sustained curricular activity drive collecting levels, we’re advancing collections incrementally according to needs of students and teachers.