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portal: Libraries and the Academy 4.1 (2004) 153-154
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Electronic Resources and Collection Development, ed. Sul H. Lee. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 2003. 126 p. $39.95 hardcover, $24.95 softcover. (ISBN 0-7890-2069-6) Simultaneously published as Journal of Library Administration, vol. 36, no. 2.
This collection of papers presents the proceedings of the University of Oklahoma Libraries 2002 Annual Conference. Electronic resources--their acquisition, management, cost, and maintenance--have been heavily discussed in the library literature in recent years and will continue to be so. What is remarkable about this volume is the wide range of viewpoints on these resources, and the depth of thought reflected in the majority of the papers.
Sul Lee, dean of the University Libraries at the University of Oklahoma, brought together the thoughts of representatives of non-profit library organizations, academic library administrators and practitioners in this volume. From theoretical, practical, empirical, historical, and descriptive perspectives, these nine papers cover the bases. Dr. Lee, who has published broadly in the areas of materials costs, collection development, and access issues, is to be congratulated on the chemistry of this collection.
One of the most striking papers is by Jennifer Younger (University of Notre Dame). Younger addresses the organizational view of electronic resources and collection development. She believes that electronic resources have already overtaken print resources in terms of their importance to library collections. Her case is based on a number of factors: scholars' preference for desktop access, the evolution of e-books, the creation of electronic archives like JSTOR, the rise in local special collections digitization projects, the advent of electronic theses, and the growth of scholarly works born digital. Younger proposes two strategies for libraries living with this reality: cancel print where an adequate electronic version of a journal exists, and cancel little-used journals in order to free dollars to purchase articles on demand. She identifies the two main challenges for libraries using these strategies: resolving the issues of archiving electronic resources and differentiating between building collections and meeting user information needs.
Retaining a practical theme, but adopting a metaphorical approach, Dennis Dillon (University of Texas at Austin) presents an ecological description of the "electronic river." His use of the physical ecology of a river as a metaphor for our current information ecology is somewhat whimsical, but also frees the reader to examine and analyze the environment of electronic information and collection development from a completely fresh viewpoint.
Many conferences include vendors and representatives of various professional or nonprofit institutions as speakers, not always with intellectual impact. While the introductory paper by Jay Jordan (OCLC) is more of a general history of electronic resources from the viewpoint of OCLC than a thoughtful piece, it does provide some context for the papers that follow. Mary E. Jackson, of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), does a good job of detailing the background of the ARL Scholars Portal Project, while providing context [End Page 153] and stimulating readers with the open-ended questions that underlie the project. Kevin M. Guthrie provides empirical data about JSTOR, showing how actual faculty usage has challenged some of the assumptions previously made concerning who would use electronic backfiles. He includes data from a commissioned study of faculty attitudes towards technology and libraries.
A final paper that merits particular mention is Sarah E. Thomas' (Cornell University) piece on the need for a fundamental shift in how local collection development librarians seek to manage Web resources. Thomas suggests that focused, subject-based portals, created and supported perhaps as a community good, would take fuller advantage of our current information architecture, eliminate much duplicative work by bibliographers around the world, and free these librarians to do more in-depth work with more complex materials. She envisions an undertaking that would require a collective, global, team approach to build and maintain discipline-based portals that are freely accessible to all.
There are many titles now available on electronic resource management. Managing Electronic Serials: Essays Based on the ALCTS Electronic Serials Institutes 1997-1999 (ed. Pamela Bluh, American Library Association, 2001...