Reader Choice, Not Vendor Influence, Reshapes Library Collections

Reader Choice, Not Vendor Influence, Reshapes Library Collections 1

Kristin Murphy for The Chronicle

Rick Anderson, an associate director of collections at the U. of Utah, watches an Espresso Book Machine print a book on demand. With patron-driven book acquisitions, "the purchase doesn't happen until the need is demonstrated," he says.

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close Reader Choice, Not Vendor Influence, Reshapes Library Collections 1

Kristin Murphy for The Chronicle

Rick Anderson, an associate director of collections at the U. of Utah, watches an Espresso Book Machine print a book on demand. With patron-driven book acquisitions, "the purchase doesn't happen until the need is demonstrated," he says.

Building a research-library collection has been an educated guessing game. Librarians try to figure out what faculty members, undergraduates, and other users are going to want. Then they buy the materials and hope someone will want to use them.

Often that doesn't happen. "About 50 percent of the time, the things we pick don't get used or don't get used in 10 years," says Rick Anderson, associate director of scholarly resources and collections at the University of Utah.

He's