Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reflection on Evans’ View of Information Service Collections: A Practical Perspective

With years of collection development experience in different librarian settings, G. Edward Evans provides important insight to students of librarianship in The Portable MLIS. (Evans, 2008, p. 87). His discussions on information collections versus book collections, vendor relations and media dependence were most interesting to me as an information publishing professional.

His statement that he experienced “a curious resistance to the idea that libraries are in the information rather than book business” resonated with me. (Evans, 2008, p. 91). Although my employer has been a legal information publishing technology leader with our flagship electronic product released in the 1970s, until very recently there was a strong need to offer all of our content in print as well. My interaction with customers at conferences and research sessions revealed that while they valued the efficiency of online searching, they would often use the results of the search to locate the appropriate title in their print library. Print was the preferred medium for reading. The print percentage of our business, though, has been in a steady decline as the next generation of customers focuses on searching, browsing and reading their information in electronic format.

With my aforementioned customer contact viewed as a valuable part of my work, I was disheartened to read that vendors are sometimes viewed as “’the enemy’”. (Evans, p. 94). I have participated in office visits, market research and direct phone calls with our customers to learn their needs first-hand. The same is true of many of my colleagues. We glean something (and often more than one thing) every time we meet with our customers. I do recognize that many want our information to be inexpensive, but we create significant value-add for our products including many that require attorney analysis. There are other considerable improvements in infrastructure that customers would only notice if they were not there (and a search took minutes instead of seconds).

Reading this chapter, I'm reminded that the author, as a librarian, represents one of my industry's customers. His frustration regarding the numerous purchases of Grieg’s Holberg Suite that are required as a result of audio technological advances, puts me into publisher mode. (Evans, 2008, p. 92). How can we alleviate this inefficiency Evans identifies? What if publishers sold the content and then upcharged a relatively small incremental fee for media delivery? Customers would not have to pay the full price for content they already own, and publishers might see that customers upgrade to new media earlier than they did under the traditional model.


Evans, G. E. (2008). Reflections on creation information service collections. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 87-97). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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