Recently a question was asked on Law Acq about the development of in-house acquisitions lists.
Up until recently, Peter Ward was the known developer of acquisitions lists for law libraries. With changes in his company in 2000, however, it became apparent that he would no longer be able to satisfy the needs of many of the libraries that had previously relied on him.
While there has been discussion over the past several months, or perhaps even years, about developing in-house acquisitions lists, the issue has been given new momentum with the Ward situation. There are many options available to libraries, depending on how much time, effort or money one wants to invest. Some may go to OCLC to develop their list, others might try to find another outside vendor, and still others may want to develop their own in-house procedures. This article discusses the development of in-house procedures, and particularly the experience at the Marquette University Law Library.
There were basically four main things we considered as we chose to develop our in-house list
Before we decided to explore the possibility of developing our list in-house, we had to decide whether it was even necessary. Our sense was that some people read the list faithfully, but a large number probably did not read it all that much. So a question was raised whether the list was even necessary.
In reality, this was not much of a question. After a bit of discussion, we decided that while the list can be a good tool, we needed to evaluate how we could make it better.
We decided early on that an electronic list would not be appropriate. Having an electronic list would mean that we would make it possible for faculty to place requests directly from the list. While technologically possible, we decided that this was not feasible at this time.
One possibility we had looked at in the past would have been to adapt the model set up by Yuan Yao, Head of Cataloging at Georgetown University Law Library. Yuan and Xiaowen Huang of Vector Research Inc. developed a Perl Script that takes the subject, title, imprint, call number and OCLC number for each new title, and ties it back to the catalog. The recipient of the list can then click on a link in the list and see information in the catalog.
While we considered this approach, we decided against it, primarily because we do not currently offer an option for faculty to request books from within the catalog.
After deciding that the list is important, and that we wanted to opt for a paper list, we then looked at what we had been providing and at what some other libraries had done. Next, we decided on a plan of action. We thought that the process of producing the list wouldn't be too difficult, but soon discovered that it is more complicated than we initially projected.
We discussed how the faculty use the list, what their needs are, and came to a decision that the list, if intended for the faculty, needs to be faculty-friendly. We then sat down with our reference librarians, and compared an existing list of "Subject Areas in the Law Library" with a breakdown of the KF tables. From these discussions we were able to come up with a list of 33 "subject" categories (appended to the end of this article)1. We also developed a lengthier cross-reference list, so that we can ultimately have a controlled list that leads the reader into appropriate subject categories.
While developing the "list of 33 subject categories", we were also developing the procedure for producing the list. Simply put, the procedure is as follows:
Once we had developed the procedure and the "list of 33 subject categories," we were ready to create a test list. What we found is that the whole list can be produced in a matter of a few hours. The most time-consuming part is in coding and uncoding the message fields in Innopac, and then updating or beautifying the final list in Word.
Two other items we produce as part of this project include a separate cover page and a final page with numbers for people to circle so they can request a book from us. We also discovered that it is more economical for us to print the list in house on a duplex laser printer, rather than sending it outside to photocopy.
As we become more comfortable with the procedures, we feel we should be able to shave additional time off of the monthly project. Through the development of this procedure, we are now able to create a more focused, better list, in a more timely fashion than we were able to do before.
1 List of 33 Subject Categories: Administrative Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Anti-trust and Trade Regulation, Business Associations Law, Civil Procedure, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Domestic Relations, Education Law, Elder Law, Employment Law, Environment and Health, Evidence, Foreign and Comparative Law, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, International Law, Jurisprudence, Legal Profession, Ethics and Education, Periodicals and Law Reviews, Practice Aids, Property (Public and Private), Regulated Industries, Sports and Entertainment Law, Tax Law and Public Finance, Torts, Wills-Trusts-Estates, Wisconsin Law, Other Areas of Law, Law Related Materials, Congressional Documents.
2 TextPad is available from www.textpad.com.