Each year, the Wesleyan Library Acquisitions Department sifts through thousands of requests made by students and faculty to determine what new materials should be added to University’s vast collection. The department is responsible for getting materials for Olin Library, the Science Library, the Art Library and the Psychology Library.
A majority of new materials are chosen by “selectors,” librarians who are entrusted with adding new material to the University’s collection, which currently has over one million volumes.
“We basically assign subjects to each of our librarians,” said Associate University Librarian Pat Tully. “We give each of them four or five subject areas and they have to choose books from those areas.”
Students can also request materials to be purchased through the library’s website. After clicking on “Recommend a Purchase” under “Requests,” students have to fill out a short form. According to Acquisitions Administrator Margery May, only five percent of requests are made by students, suggesting that many students do not know about the service.
“At this point, and I would say historically, most of our selections have been done by librarians, second by faculty, and third by students,” May said. “And within those students are mostly honors and thesis students.”
Tully encourages more students to make requests.
“We’re always interested in anybody’s suggestions,” Tully said. “Very often, we get very little suggestions so we look through publishers’ catalogues to see what’s been recently published. When somebody requests something, we know it’s going to be used by a student or faculty member, when we order from a catalogue we only think it will be used by students or faculty.”
This year, the budget for new monographic acquisitions—one time purchases, unlike journal subscriptions—is a relatively substantial $1.2 million. But, according to May, requested items can be very expensive and she has had to turn down requests because of price.
“The [requests] that I question is if for faculty members it’s something over 900 dollars or if for students, over 500 dollars,” May said.
In many cases, the rarity of certain items drives costs up. May recalls ordering documentaries that cost $500 each because they were produced by independent filmmakers. Many publishers also reason that since so many people make use of the library, the materials should cost more. Such high costs have not completely deterred the department from making big purchases.
“We just ordered a 4,000 dollar atlas,” May said. “It’s an incredible book. It’s called ‘Earth’ and it took two of us to lift this thing. It is beautifully bound, and it is a special limited edition.”
The budget for serial items like journals is even larger than the budget for monographic items.
“We have literally thousands of journals in our collection,” Tully said. “In print we have about 1,200 journals and electronic, at least 5,000.”
Next year’s library budget will be decided in this month’s Board of Trustees meeting. As the University tries to trim costs, she said her department would continue to work to bring appropriate materials to students despite potential budget cuts.
“Our budget will probably be quite severely cut,” May said. “At that point I don’t know how things will work out. But we will give priority to faculty and student requests as long as it supports the curriculum.”