Recently I was chatting with a friend, another school librarian. She’d gone to the Do We Need Books in K-12 School Libraries? session at ALA and I wanted to get her take on it. When Cushing Academy originally announced it was going all digital, there’d been quite an uproar, but here we were two years later and there must have been some reflection and thoughts about the decision and process.
We’ve known for some time that the art books, the books donated by alumni and several other sub-collections were still in print, but what about the digital collection? How was that going? Her response was that they seemed happy with the decision, and that they’d embraced a completely patron-driven collection development policy: if a student or faculty member wanted a book, that was when they bought it. The librarians do look for interesting materials and highlight potential acquisitions (via digital displays), but they don’t have to purchase unless there’s a need. That led me to wonder about all those books that aren’t in e-format yet.
For example, I look at Amazon and see that Caro’s multi-volume biography of LBJ is in print for all volumes, but only in e-format for one of them (the most recent). How does Cushing deal with that? Apparently, their strategy is to find a similar item in e-format. Say it isn’t so! Some books are the seminal texts on their topic – something similar might not quite cut it. So they’d rather provide a lesser resource? Hmmmm… Or they’d deny Harry Potter to their students because J.K. Rowling has (thus far) resisted digital format for her books?
I do hope I got that wrong.
Anyway, my friend and I agreed that what works best now is a mixture of the two. She also expressed a desire to be able to have a very dynamic web presence, with things like LibGuides not just focused on assigned projects and How To screencasts that show how to do manipulate many different resources. She then sighed and said, but how can I (as the sole Upper School Librarian) do all that? It’s a job for more than one person.
So now you see how my post’s title came into being: if you’re in that situation, you really need a clone**. One of you to handle print resources, the other to handle digital. Both collaborating and discussing which format works best for which resources, evaluating how to provide the perfect collection for students. So many of us are in the same boat, trying to be administrators, teachers, collaborators, evaluators and purchasers in addition to staying on top of what’s going on in school librarianship. Maybe we need to rethink how we’re staffing our libraries, reapportioning responsibilities so that we get more (and perhaps deeper) coverage in these areas. I know of one school that seems to have successfully started implementing this model, and it’s one I’d hoped to have at Hackley. But what about schools where that flexibility isn’t possible, or where there’s one person covering a division? Cloning seems to be the only answer.
**you really don’t want a clone, you want a copy. clones need to grow up, copies are ready immediately. yes, I’m a pedant.