Monday, July 18, 2016

Obsolete eBooks: A Poster Session

Last month I presented a poster session at the national American Theological Library Association annual conference.

A poster session is commonly used to display research on poster board. The researcher stands in front of their poster during a scheduled time of a professional conference when fellow attendees can meet and dialog one-on-one on the given topic. Guidelines for poster dimensions are provided by the association organizers.

My poster session was on weeding obsolete eBooks. Libraries have Collection Development Policies that guide their decisions about what kinds of books they will buy to support the research and information needs of their patrons. In our case, we focus on adding items that support the HIU curriculum. The policy also addresses the criteria for the de-selection of materials. Books or videos that have become out-dated or irrelevant over time may be weeded out (i.e., topics that are no longer taught). Physical condition, circulation history, and the need for shelf space are also considered - but not so much for eBooks.

eBooks can certainly “age” over time but that did not occur to me until after we nearly lost a collection of over 2,000 eBooks due to an accounting mistake.

I found very little written in the library science journals about the deselection of eBooks and very few of my colleagues had even considered it. Should we keep all eBooks forever just because we can? Can we discard old eBooks? What are the implications for library policies and for institutional accounting practices?

I submitted my idea when the ATLA annual conference organizers posted a call for presentations in January. It was accepted in March and I was asked to submit a brief bio to establish the level of my credibility on the subject and abstract to pique the interest of conference attendees for the program. Then I began thinking about how I might deliver on my promise to fully, yet succinctly, present a complex issue (as I saw it) visually within proper context.

With everything else on my plate, why did I prioritize this? Committing to give a presentation, write an article, or participate in a panel discussion at a conference is a good way to force myself to engage in the current topics affecting the library profession. To get prepared, I have to take my idea and go deeper with study and reflection.

During the session, I ended up telling my story several times, engaging in interesting dialog with colleagues, and coming away with more questions to think about. I had created a supplemental LibGuide ahead of time and handed out the URL with my business cards for follow up.

It is good for me professionally. It is good for the academy. It is good for the university. And besides, it’s fun!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.

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