Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2004

Collection Management Strategies

Christine Conroy, AUL CollectionsElectronic resources have had a dramatic effect on the collections policies and budgets of academic libraries. Historically at Boston College, budgets were allocated by specific subject areas, and split between monographic funds and serial subscriptions. For many years, the traditional balance held at 40% monographs, 60% serials. With the explosion of electronic resources, the balance began to shift. Purchases of electronic resources were made primarily from monographic allocations, with the result that in the past year, serials accounted for 52%, electronic resources for 30%, and monographs for 18%. Projecting those figures lead to a grim prognosis; without a plan, monographic purchases will continue to decline, and the budget will be consumed by subscription and access fees for serials and electronic resources.


Another factor with major impact on the budget is the skyrocketing cost of serials, particularly in the sciences. The University has generously given the Library materials budget an annual increase of about 4%; even in years when many libraries experienced significant cuts to the budget, we received this increase. Unfortunately, in the area of serials, the increases in our costs range from 6%-15%; we've been losing purchasing power for close to a decade. Two years ago the Library completed a small project to cancel periodicals, resulting in a 5% budget relief. At this point, we need to look for a more strategic approach to collection management, or to undertake a major cancellation project just to balance expenditures. Identifying ways to free up funds for new resources is also crucial.


Over the past year we have begun approaching collection management more strategically by implementing a formal review process for all electronic resources. There is an expectation that this process may enable us to eliminate some resources, and to make better choices among electronic resources we offer. We are in the process of identifying a task force of subject specialists to lead a collection management initiative. This group, working in collaboration with all subject specialists, will identify strategies for the reduction of print resources, especially periodicals, in favor of electronic, for the reduction of duplication among resources, for increasing monographic purchasing, and they will investigate broader based approaches to electronic resource budget allocations. The task force will seek to secure as much faculty input as possible in drawing up these strategies.


The collections and resources of BC Libraries have expanded dramatically over the past decade. Complementing the print volumes that now number over two million and the increasingly strong collections in serials, government documents, media, and microforms are the numerous excellent digital resources that support research and the curriculum. However, we have now reached a pivotal point in resource management. We must carefully define and articulate our future collection management vision for the Boston College Libraries, and ensure that we remain attuned to the needs of the curriculum and the faculty research we support.


Christine Conroy
Associate University Librarian for Collection Services

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