Tuesday saw two presentations on managing the collections of the libraries of Oxford University in the morning, and tours of 3 college libraries in the afternoon. However, as it also saw my ongoing bout with a head cold, I have to say that the day was a little fuzzier for me than it might have been otherwise. Collection Management
As I mentioned previously, the libraries at Oxford University are consolidating, and one of the trickiest bits of that consolidation is figuring out how move from a system where every library managed their own collections to something more centralized.
Our first presentation of the morning, given by Alice Keller, Head of Collection Management, Oxford University Library Services, was an overview of how Oxford is handling this problem.
The primary sticking point here is how to manage subscriptions to scholarly journals. For the folks reading this who are not currently involved in things academic, journals are the primary publication method for scholarly research. They are very large and necessary chunk of any academic library's collection, and in recent years their prices have been skyrocketing.
So, one of the big tasks in creating a more centralized, co-operative collection management policy for Oxford libraries, is to see just what journals the libraries in the system are subscribed to and to try to reduce the number of duplicate subscriptions as much as possible.
Which is where the second of the morning's presentations came in.
Managing Electronic Resources in a UK Academic Environment
This presentation was given by Jonathan McAslan, Electronic Resources Co-ordinator, Oxford University Library Services
Many of the academic journals libraries subscribe to are available in electronic format (sometimes in several different electronic formats from several different providers). The electronic versions of these journals are, like their print counterparts, also extremely expensive, so it's in a University Library's best interest to do everything in their power to negotiate the best deal they can for access to electronic materials. (And let me tell you folks, having spent the past year using mostly electronic material for my class research projects - electronic blows print out of the water - don't get me wrong, I love books, and I love curling up with a good read, but for academic research, the electronic world offers a lot more flexible search options.)
Because most universities in the UK are public, they've banded together to form some collective bargaining partnerships, the details of which I won't go into. In part because it's the sort of thing that's likely to make the non-library folks reading this whimper (unless they happen to have a particular interest in contract negotiations), and in part because I wasn't feeling well during this presentation and I'm a little fuzzy on the details myself.
However, having heard this, my advice to my fellow librarians is this: Learn How to Negotiate, and be willing to look for other libraries to partner with on big vendor contracts (which probably hold true for vendors beyond those selling library materials).
Tuesday afternoon was taken up tours of 3 of the libraries of individual Colleges at Oxford. And English weather running true to form, I seem to recall that it tended to start raining almost as soon as we stepped outside and then stopped almost as soon as we got to where we were going and went inside again. All the libraries we saw were lovely, although as an interesting commentary on how library use is changing in Oxford, I'd say that these libraries are well on their way to becoming museum pieces, rather than libraries proper.
In fact, the library at Merton College may already be there. The collection it contains looked to be pretty small and quite old (lovely for the antiquarian scholar, but not so useful for, say, the average chemistry major). It's also still very much an old-fashioned library - dark, close, and without many places to sit and study.
The library at All Souls college is striding the line between museum and library, I think, and since we didn't see all of the library at Christ Church, only one of the older more museum-y rooms, I can't comment on where it stands as a whole. I also have to say that my impressions of these libraries may be entirely off base, I was still battling with my head cold and was rather... medicated... during those tours.
One other cool thing about the tours though.... When we toured Christ Church, we got to see the dining hall there - the dining hall that was the visual inspiration for the Hogwart's dining hall in the Harry Potter movies (and there's some confusion about whether the scenes in the movies were actually filmed there or not - the hall in the film is a bit larger than the Christ Church dining hall and I've heard both that they filmed at Christ Church and then digitally enlarged the room, and that they just based the set on the Christ Church hall, but I don't know which they actually did, or if it was a combination of both).