Posts filed under ‘Collection Development’

At what point do we stop investing in a format?

By Tyler Rousseau

My wife and I just bought an HDTV as a spoil-ourselves gift for our five year anniversary.  Of course, being a type-A compulsive who needs to take things about one step further than necessary, I started looking for ways to extend our viewing pleasures.

While a Blu-ray player would seem to be the next logical step for most, I was a little wary.

I decided to head to the local electronics store and ask their opinions on the matter.

The employee recommended I buy the PS3, which comes with a Blu-ray.  When I asked for any other suggestions, he was ‘hesitant.”  While he clarified that there was nothing wrong with Blue-ray players (quality of video and sound was definitely superior to other options) he wasn’t positive that this format was the way to go when upgrading your media.

It was an interesting lecture (I hesitate to call it a conversation). Since his answer took well over 10 minutes, I am just going to try to highlight his argument in bullet points.

  • If Blu-ray were to take off it probably would have done so by now. It took audio CDs less than ten years to overtake audio cassettes. One of Samsung’s Executives made a statement that he thinks Blu-ray will be gone in another five years.  Not a very optimistic outlook.
  • Netflix has taken off in a seriously big way and that is not really a good thing for DVDs or Blu-rays.  It means people may be watching Blue-rays but they are actually buying less.  In fact current economic conditions have led more people to renting nowadays.
  • On the topic of increasing rentals, Redbox isn’t helping the situation.
  • Blu-ray is already in a new format war…
  • Downloadable movies are looking more and more like the next big format.  Whether through your cable provider or the Internet, the instant gratification of streaming movies, in HD no less, is a tough thing to compete against for the casual viewer.
  • While not quite ready, many TV manufacturers are looking to include wi-fi connections to their products.
  • There was one other point; something about not having to buy things, possessions being fleeting and sticking it to the man or whatever, but I’ll just skip over that one.

While this did nothing in terms of getting a sale from me it was definitely food for thought.

The lecture got me thinking about the difficulties of introducing new medias into a library collection.  It then got me thinking about old collections; more specifically, when to stop funding the collection.

Obviously, changes in formats are nothing new.  Even in the relatively short time I have been in the profession, I’ve seen libraries stop buying audio-cassettes, CD-Roms and videotapes.  More so, I’ve seen them stop purchasing the paper copies of publications in order to invest in the cheaper online versions.

And while I definitely applaud libraries who have decided to invest in Blu-rays I do wonder about how long this media has.  While 5 years seems a little short to me, I would not be surprised to see it obsolete within 10.

By all means, let me hear it; at what point do we back out from a format?

By Tyler Rousseau


September 30, 2009 at 12:00 am 4 comments

Addios Críticas, You will be missed…

I was saddened to learn that after eight years, Críticas has ceased publication. The full Title–Críticas: An English Speaker’s Guide to the Latest Spanish-Language Titles— is the best description of the magazine I could produce. It was a published monthly on-line and covered everything—adult titles, children’s titles, books, movies, and audio, fiction and nonfiction. In addition there are articles and editorials covering everything from collection development to outreach and fundraising. Twice a year, print copies were distributed to subscribers of Library Journal. This was my go to resource for keeping up with the Spanish language publishing industry.

The Latino population in my area—actually in all of the U.S. is growing at a significant rate. According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey three-year estimates, the number of ‘Hispanic or Latino (of any race)’ people increased 24% over the 2000 Census figures, to approximately 14% of the population of the United States. In New Jersey, the increase was approximately 20% over the same time period. More than ever, librarians need tools to assist them in serving Spanish speakers. Reed Business Information, the publisher of Críticas, said there are plans to have this type of coverage in their other publications Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. So far, I have not seen any thing in these publications to reflect that statement. The loss of Críticas will negatively impact my ability to serve my patrons.
This loss is significant, but not surprising. The publishing industry in general has been hurt by the global economic downturn. Rarely a day passes without some news of shut-downs or layoffs at newspapers, publishers, and magazines. At the same time, people are reading more (see the New York Times article for the complete story). Librarians increasingly must rely on vendors for information and reviews. Is this the best model for gathering information? I don’t think so. I prefer my information to come from a more impartial source. That’s not to say that the information publishers provide is bad, it simply means that it must be looked at with a more critical eye.

With niche markets, the loss of even one source is a serious blow to our ability to make informed decisions for our patrons. With English speaking titles, independent reviews are available all over the web. However, similar information is not available to me for foreign language titles because they are generally written in the foreign language! Yes, I want to learn to speak Spanish, but it is a very slow process for me. This is why Críticas was so important.
I don’t have Spanish language collection development responsibilities. I used Críticas to keep up with what is available and what might be popular. To tell a patron who struggles with English that the hot new Stephanie Meyer book is indeed available to them is a big help. By knowing about trends in the industry, I can learn more about the population to whom these books are being marketed. I have learned about authors I didn’t previously know, found interesting non-fiction books on culture and history that were not covered in LJ, and found countless movies I never would have seen had it not been for a review in the magazine. Each of these things helps to bridge the divide that the language barrier creates.
Spanish speakers are not the only non-English speakers in my library. Over 20% of the population of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township—the areas served by my public library—speak a language other than English at home. Of those, approximately 5.2% speak Spanish (10.7 Nationwide), and nearly 6% speak ‘Asian and Pacific Island languages’ (2.7% Nationwide)[1]. Yet there are very few resources for English speaking librarians to learn about titles available in these languages.

When I did collection development of DVDs at Mary Jacobs Library, my foreign population came primarily from India and China. Oh how I wished for a similar publication for these languages! Alas, I could find nothing available in English that would help me to build not only a collection of today’s titles, but one that would help me to build a collection with depth and history. Luckily I had several patrons and coworkers from other branches who helped me with both. Still, I remain woefully ignorant of Indian movies—a topic so large and complex that I could never get completely comfortable with it.
For now I will begin to mine the Críticas web site for all the lists and information that are still available. I have begun to source alternatives (thank you Anna Paola Ferate-Soto for the wonderful wiki and Web Junction for your tips and tools). Likewise, I will continue to look for similar information on movies and literature in Chinese and Hindi. If anyone knows of such resources, please let me know. I would prefer resources that are free or have a very low cost (this is my personal professional development budget). Still, do let me know of strong subscription-based tools as well.
Adios Críticas, you will be missed. To all the people who worked there, I wish you the best and look forward to seeing your bylines elsewhere. I truly hope that Reed Business Information does not abandon this important market. When they have to hire you back, may you all receive huge pay increases and corner offices! You deserve it—for eight years you have provided insight into a world that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. Thank you very much.
[1] All figures are based on the 2000 Census data published via American Fact Finder.

February 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

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