Practicum Day 1: Acquisitions

Since I’m basically following the progress of the book in our college library as the course of my practicum, my first stop was Acquisitions. In some ways it was the department that I’ve learned the most from (4 days and 3 departments into my practicum) and in some the least.

To start with the negative: Acquisitions is serious business. There was no way they were letting some student with no experience touch their acquisitions, and rightfully so. I got to sit on the side and watch as the two acquisitions staff did their work, but I didn’t actually get to do anything. As a kinetic learner, that meant that I took the least away from this department.

To continue to the positive: I’m learning collection development this semester, and a lot of the theory makes much more sense now that I’ve spent a day with the practical side of acquisitions.

What I did: First I had a talk with the head of the department, who explained how she goes about deciding what to buy for the library, based on syllabi, lecturer recommendations, area literature, and publishers’ catalogs. She also went through the physical process, showing me the Acquisitions module of Aleph 500 (Ex Libris). All books for the system of libraries (the main library, the pedagogical center, the arts college, and the Yemima Center for Children’s Literature) are bought by the central acquisitions department. Because of language issues, the Arab library does its own acquisitions, cataloging, and reference work — in most ways, it’s the one completely independent library, though it is housed in the main library building.

From there I went to shadow the English-language acquisitions process, learning how to check if the lecturer-requested book is the latest version, how  decisions are made about which supplier to use, how to check whether an authorized supplier really can get a book that appears back-ordered or whether the idea is a dud. Along the way I learned a lot about how budgets are actually spent in the library, international shipping, international credit, and how to fudge both of those issues. I also was taught how to make a basic listing in the cataloging module of Aleph 500, because acquisitions opens the entry using the ordering information and website for their own uses; the entry is later corrected and improved based on the book in hand.

My last stop for the day was the Hebrew acquisitions staff member, who had saved books which had been delivered so I could see the process  they went through after it has been decided upon, purchased, and delivered. In this step of the process basic cataloging takes place based on the item in hand — title, subtitle, author, etc. and the system is checked to see if the book is already in the catalog. If it is, the DDC number and Cutter are written in the book and the book is sent directly to have a bar code printed and affixed prior to shelving. Whether it is or is not, an item number is assigned to each copy of the book and written in Aleph and in the book, all stamps are stamped into the book, and a due date page is added. Books which were not previously in the college catalog are then walked over to cataloging (it’s a small office), which was my next stop.

I found it interesting that Acquisitions was the one department which used datasources outside LibraryLand — Google and commercial websites. It didn’t surprise me to hear that though the department head is a trained librarian with decades of experience, the other two staff members are not librarians and came from fields far removed from LIS. I see that I tend to use external datasources more readily and more frequently than the librarians I know; it seems to be a different way of looking at data and its source of authority. I hope that as I continue my training and gain experience I maintain the flexibility I have in finding data without becoming tunnel-visioned.

Date: November 29, 2011
Hours in department:
3.5
Total hours: 3.5

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