lrts: Vol. 57 Issue 2: p. 129
Book Review: Fundamentals of Managing Reference Collections
Greever Karen

Karen Greever Kenyon College, Gambier,

This book is part of the ALA Fundamentals Series and may serve as a targeted supplement to more general collection development works. Since most libraries still have print reference collections and librarians are struggling to integrate electronic titles with existing print collections, the topics covered in this guide will be relevant to many practitioners. Singer herself says that the reference stacks are full of useful resources, but admits to rarely consulting them. She then posits that a leaner print collection might gain more use. Her information on maintaining reference collections covers not only strategies for taming the physical reference collection, but also suggestions for incorporating virtual materials into that reference collection and the additional challenges of managing electronic resources.

Singer divides her work into nine chapters: “Reference Collection Fundamentals”; “Reference Collection Development Policies”; “Staffing Models for Reference Collection Management”; “Selecting Reference Materials”; “Acquisitions, Budgets, and Licenses”; “Collection Maintenance”; “Weeding the Reference Collection”; “Reference Collection Development and Consortia”; “Discovery and Access”; and a “Collection Development Policy Template” in an appendix.

Singer begins with some definitions of reference works and continues her discussion with the electronic aspect of reference collections. She then describes the relationship between print and electronic materials, and compares these two types of resources. Singer also considers how to define boundaries for both print and electronic collections. In the next chapter, Singer provides a rationale for a separate reference collection development policy, as well as a very thorough discussion of each of the desirable components of such a policy. The chapter on staffing applies only to larger libraries but clearly delineates centralized and decentralized models for managing reference collections. Singer also provides lists of advantages and disadvantages for both models.

The next topic is selection. Singer discusses some of the tools available to assist with selection and general criteria for choosing resources. She follows this introduction with specific selection criteria for different types of reference materials: online, aggregated reference book databases, freely available Internet resources, print monographs, and print serials.

In the following chapter, Singer provides a broad overview of the acquisitions process, including approval plans. With the exception of a reference to typing paper order forms, the workflows Singer outlines are fairly standard. She continues with a general discussion of various models for reference collection budgets. Singer then briefly covers some of the major components of licenses.

In the next chapter, the focus is on collection maintenance. Singer discusses potential workflows when new electronic resources are added (testing, branding, cataloging, etc.) as well as some of the ongoing challenges posed by collections of electronic resources, such as changing URLs and dropped content. When dealing with new additions to the print reference collection, older editions may need to be pulled or shifting may be necessary to accommodate new materials. Ongoing print collection maintenance may range from repairs and rebinding to inventory. Another facet of maintenance is marketing, both to library staff and library patrons. Singer advises that one should periodically attempt to examine the reference collection with fresh eyes to assess its adequacy.

Singer then tackles the sometimes dreaded topic of weeding. She delineates a number of the reasons offered for not weeding and counters with reasons why weeding is necessary. Singer then discusses some typical criteria for weeding, along with caveats about applying any single criterion as a hard and fast rule. Singer outlines two basic methods for weeding. The first strategy is to conduct a one-time major project with an established timeframe. The alternative is to organize an ongoing or continuous review of the collection without a firm deadline. She then reviews the pros and cons of each option. She provides a section covering the review of reference serials and another on weeding reference books in off-site storage, which is an issue primarily for larger libraries. The lingering question about the utility of off-site storage materials for reference tools is not addressed. Singer then discusses review of reference e-books and reference databases. She closes with some final tips for reluctant weeders.

In the next chapter, Singer discusses the role of consortia in building electronic reference collections. She notes budget implications ranging from potential savings to ongoing

fiscal commitments. Singer includes a review of consortial advantages and disadvantages in terms of the reference collection, including a certain lack of local control over selection. In her final chapter, Singer examines the importance of discovery and access for reference collections, while also noting related challenges, especially with regard to electronic resources. Discovery tools are posited as a potential solution to some of the access issues and a possible bridge between print and electronic collections, but Singer argues that these tools are too new to be able to evaluate their utility thoroughly now. In the appendix, Singer offers a very detailed template for a reference collection development policy.

Throughout the book, Singer provides many useful checklists of criteria to consider plus many lists of pros and cons, which help frame topics for the reader. Each chapter includes bibliographic references and suggestions for further reading.

This book provides a good introduction to the many aspects of reference collection management. It is perhaps most useful for academic libraries, but the concepts are applicable to all library reference collections.

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