Again this week, I've been pondering a post from Wayne Bivens-Tatum's Academic Librarian blog. This time it's about weeding printed serials, which is a different beast at a research library like Princeton University than at a community college library. Yet somehow we find ourselves engaged in the same task: Looking at the print periodicals with an eye on the space they are inhabiting. Mr. Bivens-Tatum thoughtfully worries about his impact on the work of scholars who use the periodicals for their professional research. I'm still trying to figure out whom I need to be worrying about impacting. The bulk of our printed periodicals are sadly underused, and we have already canceled print subscriptions when online subscriptions are viable alternatives. This means that the bulk of our print periodicals are not merely historical relics, but they are also duplicated electronically. Even if online subscriptions mean relying on inherently unstable commercial vendors, the periodicals in our collection that have moved from print to online are unlikely to slip away unnoticed -- they were the big-name, established journals in the first place.
In a way, because the community college is not a research institution and because the library's mission does not include supporting faculty research, the decision to get rid of most of our printed periodicals should be laughably easy. So why do I feel a twinge? I think it's because at a community college, although we are serving primarily first and second year college students, it seems like a worthy aspiration to be more like PUL than less. Mr. Bivens-Tatum is agonizing about moving materials merely off-site; we are considering discarding them completely. This is how the gulf between the types of academic libraries widens.
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