Collaboration between Public & Academic Libraries, Part 2

I had a post suggesting that collaboration between public and academic libraries can be fruitful. Here, I’d like to discuss a little more how I see such a collaboration working to benefit both types of institutions. Again, I’m inserting the disclaimer that I have only a little experience with libraries, zero data, no research, and am not even young enough to claim allowances for youthful exuberance for any outlandish claims I may make. Done.

Of the public library and its academic neighbor (less than 2 miles apart) that I know the best, their collections overlap but neither is a strict superset of the other. May the libraries mutually benefit by letting their patrons have access to each other’s collection? (In practice, this would mean the academic institution opening its doors to local residents since the public library is already open to . . . well, the public, and patrons of the academic libraries probably fall under this category of eligible users.) Maybe the libraries can charge a nominal fee for this access and borrowing privileges, but nothing as pricey as academic libraries presently charge non-affiliated users.

How may the libraries gain from this? The academic libraries can now desist from acquiring popular works that the local libraries buy. (Remember, academic libraries do buy popular fiction and nonfiction alike; not all popular items are low-brow and unsuitable to academic libraries’ taste.) After a certain period of time, perhaps after the books have lost their “new item” status, these works can be transferred to the academic libraries. In this way, the local public libraries save money and space from having to house these now little-used items. The academic libraries can also pay the public libraries a price for these items that is above what the public libraries could get by selling these as used books but below what it would’ve cost the academic libraries to buy these books new. In this way, both types of institutions can free up  resources that were used previously on duplicated materials and devote them to other parts of its collections,.

Not only can libraries be made better off in this arrangement, but so can their patrons. Note that under this scheme, an academic-library user who wants a popular book when it’s first published can go to the public library and get it. If my observation from the previous post is correct and academic libraries generally move more slowly than the public libraries in their city in acquiring new materials, then this user may actually get the book faster by patronizing their local public library. Likewise, patrons of the public libraries who want to check out older works from the collection can go to the academic libraries.

The proposed scheme needs not leave the public libraries denuded of older works nor flood the academic libraries with sub-standard fares since the two libraries can choose what to retain or pass along and what to accept. Of course, acquisition of materials is only one out of a multitude of services that libraries perform. What other forms of collaboration, besides coordinating collection managements, that can benefit the two types of institutions? What other benefits are there to be reaped?

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