AASL Day One: E-ink and Collection Development

October 27, 2011

Minneapolis, the location of the 15th National Conference of ALA’s American Association for School Librarians, is gorgeous and friendly—and the cool temperatures are certainly welcome after my endless Texas summer! I arrived Tuesday evening, and found a group of AASL leaders including Susan Ballard and Debbie Abilock in the hotel restaurant. Two hours later, we had discussed so many school library issues—from funding to ebooks—over a pleasant dinner that we had demonstrated to ourselves how face-to-face networking is as much what a conference is about as the programming.

I spent Wednesday in the “E-ink, Databases, and Digital Collection Development” preconference, featuring Laura Pearle (Venn Consultants), Buffy Hamilton (Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia), Wendy Stephens (Buckhorn High School in New Market, Alabama), Frances Jacobson Harris (University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois), and Angela Carstensen (Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City). Wow. We began to look at three themes: flipping the collection/renovating the space, collection development, and future planning. There are no easy answers, but we all got a much clearer idea of the questions.

We started the preconference with a definition of a collection as “curated, findable information, collected thoughtfully and intentionally.” It is not the devices or the delivery system. The conversations about ebooks tend to distract us from our intention to teach our students how to find the information they need because we are so worried about our own uncertainties concerning how to manage the huge changes afoot in formats. As the discussions progressed through the day, it became much easier to remember that core mission even as we admitted that the “battle” is not won and we’ll continue skirmishing with vendors and formats for years to come.

Attendees raised many issues, including equity of access; ability and learning challenges; device support, storage, and replacement; content ownership; shareability amongst devices and libraries; user agreements and issues with constant changes in them, as well as restrictions on library use; durability of formats; differences between e-access to fiction and nonfiction; issues with pagination and citation; and privacy—in the context of vendors having increasing access to patron circulation habits.

We ended the afternoon by beginning a template for a collection development policy that reflects the new formats and challenges to traditional selection methods; we can take this initial effort home to tweak in order to suit our individual institutions. Our notes from the day are something of a “personal toolkit” to become what Laura Pearle described as change agents in our schools and the larger community of school libraries.

Overall, school librarians should be banding together in support of ALA’s Digital Content in Libraries Working Group (PDF file) to be able to use our collective voice with ebook vendors towards a workable solution for libraries.

DORCAS HAND is librarian for Annunciation Orthodox School in Houston.