I selected books with funds donated to a fictional university library. To aid selection, I compared policies from similar, real-world, institutions. This was originally written for my Technical Services class in the Fall of 2017.
Halloween University is a four-year research institution located in its state’s capitol, Halloween Town. It’s the largest higher-education within 100 miles, as well as the largest within the state. It features a world-renowned humanities department with an expansive English program, as well as programs in business, biology, chemistry, political science, philosophy, and history.
HU’s offers a wide range of degrees and certificates. In particular, many students are attracted to its aforementioned English, political science, philosophy, and history programs. It also has fine arts, social sciences, economics, accounting, business, and music. The school has non-degree certificate programs as well, such as welding, education, and nursing. Most students attend on campus, but many courses are offered online for distance learners, with a number of programs available entirely online.
Skellington Library, HU’s campus library, must cater to a wide range of subjects in order to keep its relevance to the university’s various programs. To better craft a selection policy that will adequately serve Skellington Library at HU, we’re going to draw on the existing policies from the libraries at University of North Carolina Pembroke and Central Washington University.
UNC Pembroke’s library selection policy opens with a general statement and then a list of considerations for acquiring resources. The list is sorted by priorities, which can be useful for decisions when allocating funding or choosing between competing materials. Next, it has a statement on intellectual freedom and anti-censorship, but also emphasizes that the purpose of the collection is for the school’s educational mission. The document explains the procedure for selection, how the budget is determined, how requests are managed, which librarians and which committees manage requests, and so on. It also explains that the Dean of Library Services is ultimately responsible for selection. Another helpful section is its “Limitations on Purchases,” which describes what the library will not select. Prudently, it also has separate limitations for free resources regarding their “currency, reliability, validity, and stability.” Finally, it has several paragraphs regarding special classes of materials, such as government documents, and how to handle gifts.
The CWU library selection policy opens with statement on the purpose of the policy and their library’s mission statement. Next, it lists the selection objectives and selection priorities. This includes a statement on where funding for selection comes from, and a paragraph about inter-library loan availability. It has a section on intellectual freedom and anti-censorship, which is similar to UNC Pembroke’s policy, and explicitly references the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. It then states that the library will strive to obtain current resources versus retrospective ones, and has a short sentence about using deselection in order to keep the collection current. Finally, it discusses the collection scope, with detailed sections about monographs, serials, newspapers, microforms, and electronic formats. For categories such as serials, it discusses explicitly how they’re funded, and how the budget for them is expected to change over time.
Our selection policy at Halloween University should ideally borrow from both of these policies. I would trim a lot of content from CWU’s policy; their purpose statement and mission statement are both long and repeat content information found in the university’s other policy statements. CWU’s policies on funding, especially for serials, is helpful, and I would include policy similar to that in our own. Both policies had good intellectual freedom sections, and our own should mirror both. In particular, we should adopt CWU’s reference to ALA’s Library Bill of rights. Many libraries do not explicitly invoke the ALA’s policy guidelines, and the ALA’s policies are not enforced the way other professions are. Directly referencing them makes our own policy stronger. We should adopt UNC’s selection priority list, as well as their limitations on selection. Finally, I would also adopt their gift procedure, as well as use their special collections guidelines to model guidelines for our own special collections.
Part 2: Goals and Challenges
Our largest priority is to ensure a positive return on our investment when selecting items. We want to be sure to choose items that will circulate and benefit our students and researchers, and we want to ensure their longevity so they continue to pay dividends. However, we also must seriously consider how to handle the (usually inevitable) time when we must remove items from the collection.
Although many of us dislike thinking about letting go of our materials, most books have a finite lifetime. In the case of gifted books, or books purchased with special funding, the issue becomes more complex. The university wishes to maintain positive relationships with its donors. If there is a belief that donations are being wasted, and donated books are being trashed, then there’s a risk of losing their good will. A deselection plan must account for not only the logistics of removing books, but also respect the spirit of where the books came from.
By using the “Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning” (SAA Council, 2017) as an outline, we can develop an appropriate deselection policy for the Skellington Library. It is prudent that our policy is cohesive and covers the entire collection to ensure fairness. It must also be a policy that we can actively use on a regular basis, not just to fall back on when there’s a question.
As we plan for deselecting donated materials, we have several actions available, listed here from most preferable to least: to donate materials to another repository, return materials to the donor, sell the materials, and destroy the materials. In all cases, the donor must be contacted and informed of the decision, preferably with a letter that tactfully explains the decision’s rationale.
Our recent donor’s anonymity reduces these concerns somewhat, but not entirely. Although we cannot send the donor a letter, we must still treat our new materials with respect throughout the deselection process. As Metz and Gray (2005) mention, deselection creates unique public relations issues, and we must ensure good relations with the donors in the public. Creating a policy and enacting it transparently will alleviate a lot of public anxiety when time comes for us to remove materials.
Part 3: Selecting materials
Our English department at HU has expanded in recent years, and our Skellington Library needs to catch up. We plan to use the generosity of our anonymous donor as an opportunity to add items related to our most commonly requested topic, American gothic literature, and specifically southern gothic literature. When reviewing potential materials, we primarily consulted CHOICE’s reviews. We designed our selection to appeal to a mixture of lower and upper-division graduates, graduates, faculty, and a little bit for general readers as well. To maximize the value of our investment, we leaned towards anthologies, books with primary sources, and current scholarly works. We also selected items that CHOICE marked as “essential.”
Item:> Crow, Charles L. (Ed.). (2012). American gothic: from salem witchcraft to h.p. lovecraft, an anthology (2nd ed.). Malden: MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Review citations: Larson, L.J. (2014). American gothic: from Salem witchcraft to H. P. Lovecraft, an anthology. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 51(5). 830.
Smith, A. (n.d.). Editorial Reviews. In Amazon: American gothic: an anthology from Salem witchcraft to h. p. Lovecraft (blackwell anthologies). Retrieved from http://a.co/1rBCOnB
Rationale: For undergraduates in American literature classes, access to primary sources is invaluable. Smith, cited by Amazon’s review list, says “This anthology is comprehensive and authoritative and will be an essential source for scholars and students for years to come.” According to Larson, writing for CHOICE, “This excellent anthology provides an entertaining collection of gothic works of various genres written by both canonical authors, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, and less familiar American writers, such as Harriet Prescot Spofford and Ella Wilkinson Peattie.” The review concludes by recommending the work for undergraduates as well as general readership. This book will certainly meet the needs of our library users, and prove to be a valuable asset to our English department.
Item: Anderson, E. G., Hagood, T., & Turner, D.C. (Eds.). (2015). Undead souths: the gothic and beyond in southern literature and culture. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State.
Review citations: Ljungquist, K. P. (2016). Undead Souths: the gothic and beyond in southern literature and culture. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 53(8), 1170.
Publisher’s Weekly. (2015). Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond in Southern Literature and Culture. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8071-6107-4
Rationale: Southern studies are popular at HU, and this book will help serve our literature students focusing on that area. Publisher’s Weekly’s review states “This collection is well worth the time of those interested in a close examination of the origins of Southern gothic literature.” Ljungquist at CHOICEnotes that, “the literary range is extensive: antebellum authors (Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms) and later figures (George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, and Ellen Glasgow); and modern and contemporary writers (William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy).” In addition to a wide range of subjects, it also compares the works alongside other aspects of culture and media including television, film, graphic novels, and more. Because this is a work specifically about southern literature, it also critically analyzes the themes that pervade across the southern literary landscape. This includes slavery, the Confederacy, the cult of the lost cause, and forced removal of Native Americans. For literature students who are especially focused on regional studies, this book will be ideal.
Item: Weinstock, J. A. (2008). Scare tactics: supernatural fiction by american women.New York, NY: Fordham University
Review citations: Ljungquist, K. P. (2009). Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. Scare tactics: supernatural fiction by American women. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 46(6), 1100.
Green Man Review (n.d.). Editorial Reviews. In Amazon: scare tactics: supernatural fiction by American women, with a new preface. Retrieved from http://a.co/15XuF14
Rationale: This book will help diversify library material from what is commonly a male dominated field. It covers several well-known authors such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and several less-known authors as well. According to Ljungquist’s review, the author describes the attributes that make women’s horror and ghost stories different than male authors’. CHOICE recommends this for upper-division undergraduates and faculty, and notes that it can tie into women’s and gender studies classes as interdisciplinary material. Green Man Review notes that its jargon is accessible to general readers as well. It’s critical that our library appeals to a wide range of readers and subject areas, so this book will have an important place in our collection.
Item: Hurh, P. (2015). American terror: the feeling of thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville.Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Review citations: Corstorphine, K. (2017). Rebecca janicker, the literary haunted house: lovecraft, matheson, king and the horror in between (jefferson, nc: mcfarland, 2015, $40.00). pp. 224. isbn 978 0 7864 6573 6. paul hurh , american terror: the feeling of thinking in edward, poe, and melville (stanford, ca: stanford university press, 2015, £43.00). pp. 312. isbn 978 0 8047 9114 4. Journal of American Studies, 51(3). http://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875817000718
Miller, J. W. (2015). American terror: the feeling of thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville. Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries,53(3).
Rationale: Poe, Edwards, and Melville are possibly the most cited and referenced authors of American gothic literature, so this book will be perfect for our literature students. Much has been written about them over the years, but this book is fairly recent, from 2015, which puts it at the forefront of intellectual trends. Corstorphine, in his review, notes that, “this deserves to be thought of as a major contribution to the study of Edwards, Poe, and Melville, but also as a provocative and important intervention in the relationship between American literature and the Gothic that continues to dominate the conversation.” The CHOICE review adds, “the two chapters on Poe are particularly strong, perhaps due to his well-known attachment to the gothic,” and that “the book is meticulously researched, and Hurh displays a wide-ranging knowledge of history, philosophy, and literary theory.” CHOICE highly recommends this book for upper-division undergraduates.
Item: Garrett, P. K. (2003). Gothic reflections: narrative force in nineteenth-century fiction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell.
Review citations: Brantlinger, P. (2004). Gothic reflections: narrative force in nineteenth-century fiction. Victorian Studies, 47(1), 134-136.
Fisher, B. F. (2004) Gothic reflections: narrative force in nineteenth-century fiction. Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries,41(9)
Rationale: CHOICE describes this book as “essential” for “all collections supporting serious study of literary Gothicism.” Although it’s not strictly American, it does cover American authors under the wide range of the gothic genre, as well as the canonical British authors. Staples like Poe are analyzed, as well as monster novels like Frankensteinand Dracula. The final section of the book even discusses realistic novels, such as Dickens, and explains how they use gothic techniques to enhance their stories. Brantlinger’s review says, “everyone who studies nineteenth-century fiction as well as recent theories of narrative will find it helpful, at times provocative (forceful but not forced), and always engaging.” Overall, an essential book with such a wide range of material is a must-have for our collection.
Item: Joshi, S. T. (Ed.) (2006). Icons of horror and the supernatural: an encyclopedia of our worst nightmares. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press
Review citation: Fraiser, D. K. (2007). Icons of horror and the supernatural: an encyclopedia of our worst nightmares. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. 44(12).
Rationale: This book is part of a series of encyclopedias on icons in various fields (such as business or music), and this one focuses on horror and supernatural. CHOICE calls it “essential,” for academic libraries. The book has essays on 24 significant horror icons of our culture, and they range from literature, to film, and to other media. The review notes, “This work is a definitive, absolutely indispensable starting point for students and interested readers,” and says that it is recommended for lower-level undergraduates as well as general readers. When a lot of our books are designed for specialized academic knowledge, an item that contains appeal for general readers will help round out our collection.
Item: Norma, B. (2012). Dead women talking: figures of injustice in American literature. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins.
Review citation: Madden, D. W. (2013). Dead women talking: figures of injustice in American literature. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 50(9).
Rationale: While most of our books are about genres, authors, or stories, this one focuses on a specific phenomenon across American literature, the ghosts of women. CHOICE highly recommends it for upper-division graduates, and notes that it can be useful for humanities students also interested in cultural studies or women’s and gender studies. Although it was just published in the last five years, CHOICE notes that “the study is well researched and offers an array of critical approaches. This important contribution to the study of American fiction should endure for some time.” Our undergraduate English students, as well as graduate students, will find this book to be useful.
Item: Fisher, B. F. (Ed.) (2010). Poe in his own time: a biographical chronicle of his life, drawn from recollections, interviews, and memoirs by family, friends, and associates. Iowa City, IA: Iowa
Review citations: Ljungquist, K. P. (2010). Poe in his own time: a biographical chronicle of his life, drawn from recollections, interviews, and memoirs by family, friends, and associates. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 48(3).
Rachman, S. (n.d.). Editorial Reviews. In Poe in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (Writers in Their Own Time). Retrieved from http://a.co/9kRY8Yd
Rationale: Edgar Allan Poe may be the most cited author of American gothic literature, and for this reason it is critical for our library to contain a reputable biography for him. This book draws on a large number of primary sources including, as the title suggests, interviews, friends, and critics. CHOICE highly recommends this book for upper-division graduates and faculty, and says that the book contains several full-text documents that are usually not presented in their entirety, and that a researcher would normally have to spend hours to find. Rachman concurs in his review, saying, “one would have to consult letters, biographies, and dozens of other sources in order to obtain such a concise yet moving picture of Poe.” For these reasons, it seems like an essential part of our library.
Item: Sederholm, C. H., & Weinstock, J. A. (Eds.) (2016). The age of Lovecraft. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota
Review citation: Bandish, C. L. (2016). The age of Lovecraft. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 54(4).
Rationale: Lovecraft studies are an area of literature which have been developing in recent years, and CHOICE recommends this book as it “illuminates current trends” on the subject. It focuses on multiple theories, which makes the book a candidate for interdisciplinary studies such as feminism and post-humanism. It also links Lovecraft’s writing to modern trends in literature as well as our broader culture. For our students who are researching horror literature but looking beyond the staples of the canon such as Poe, this book will be appreciated. It will also help our library stay current with intellectual trends.
Item: Daniel, M. (2016). Creating Flannery O’Connor: her critics, her publishers, her readers. Athens, GA: Georgia.
Review citation: Hall, J. W. (2017). Creating Flanner O’Connor: her critics, her publishers, her readers. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 54(8).
Rationale: Flannery O’Connor is one of the most cited authors of the “southern gothic” genre, and she intersects with local history and literature as well. For our students who want to research her, this book is a study of her life and work based on the writings of (as the title suggests) her critics, publishers, and readers. Many new readers may find her difficult to classify, so a book like this will be useful for them. CHOICE highly recommends this for lower-division undergraduates as well as general readers.
Total cost: $528.56
Part 4: Reflection
The policy comparison was insightful. Many policies I found online were outdated, vague, or otherwise seemed unsatisfactory. The two I ended up choosing were both ones that I thought would be adequately useful for me. As I read through the them, I got the impression that some policies, or parts of policies, are “designed by committee,” or designed just for the sake of having a policy. Those were usually wordy and vague, and I imagine they are less-frequently consulted by librarians on a regular basis. I also saw policies that seemed more practical and written to address specific concerns that the library must have faced. Those policies were the most useful for me, and seemed likely to have the most real-world impact.
With so many possible materials out there, I deliberately narrowed my field to a specific subject area (gothic American literature), which I imagined would be an area of interest for my library. That made the picking of books much easier, versus trying to include every possible topic that falls under English. At first, I had trouble finding good reviews for items, but when I discovered CHOICE, I heavily relied on them. Reviews from other sources served mainly as a second opinion to compliment my CHOICE selection. Even within my selected scope, there were a lot of items to choose from. I had to dismiss several interesting titles because I didn’t see how to make a compelling case for why they needed to be in the collection.
Since this was my first attempt at item selection, the whole process was new to me. But now that it’s complete, I’m much more familiar and confident about selection. When I started, I had no idea that this process would be so time consuming, or that there would be so many decisions to make. Now, I feel like I have a good idea of what a selection policy will look like for an academic library, and what kind of challenges it will face. I also know where to look to find books quickly, even for topics which I’m unfamiliar with. I can also gage a review easily and make a judgement call on whether or not to buy a book. Most of all, I feel much more confident in my future decisions.
- Central Washington University. (n.d.). Collection Development & Management Policy | University Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.lib.cwu.edu/CollectionDevelopmentPolicy
- Metz, P., & Gray, C. (2005). Public Relations and Library Weeding. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(3), 273-279.
- SAA Council . (2017). Guidelines for reappraisal and deaccessioning. Chicago, IL: Technical Subcommittee for Guidelines on Reappraisal and Deaccessioning
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke. (n.d.). Selection Policy. Retrieved from http://www.uncp.edu/academics/library/departments/acquisitionscollection-development/selection-policy