FALL 2013

Moving Forward: Evolving Library Collections

One of the things that make leading Boston College Libraries particularly interesting revolves around the continuing challenge to blend traditional services, spaces and content with those that are increasingly mobile, digital and technology dependent. As we continue to make changes, we are especially mindful of the "look and feel" of what makes libraries appealing, relevant and iconic academic places. We are not interested in creating an "internet café" or some flashy hi-tech center to replace our current libraries. That might work for some places, but not Boston College.

We employ technology in many ways, have developed a robust digitization program and provide most of our content in digital formats. The number and diversity of our electronic databases is particularly excellent. However, when I begin planning our budget projections, which happens every fall, I am looking for ways to maintain our balance of the traditional and the modern in ways that are right for Boston College.

This year a high priority will be assessing and strengthening our commitment to print monographs. Sure, we have access to hundreds of thousands of e-books, and more and more people are becoming comfortable with the e-format. Still, libraries everywhere are experiencing shrinking monograph budgets as digital content becomes more expensive and prevalent. Some science-intensive universities have only 5% or less of their collections budgets dedicated to print materials; most are between 10% and 30%, excluding special collections and e-books.

Our monograph percentage fluctuates between between 13% and 18%. The situation becomes a little more complicated when we consider that journal, e-book and database costs are rising rapidly, as are print book costs. As such, it will be extremely difficult to meet both print and digital costs with our current budget. However, realizing that we are in a transitional period in publishing, I hope to develop a five-year plan that has a meaningful assessment component, yet nimble enough to adjust as the landscape changes. I look forward to seeking input from as many faculty and students as possible as I develop this plan.

Though, like all libraries, we have experienced budgetary challenges, we have been very successful in expanding our collections to meet the research and teaching needs of our community. And, going forward, we are committed, as always, to continue to get faculty and students what they need, when they need it, from ILL to purchases, in digital or print formats.

As always, feel free to contact me.

Tom Wall
University Librarian