Reflections of a bibliographer

Research libraries and the world of information have changed rapidly in the past decade, and we can expect ever accelerating changes to continue.  One of the core facets of the job responsibilities of a bibliographer is to collect, for use of others, relevant – interesting – important – books and materials.

I arrived at ISU the summer of 1995, recruited to serve as the library’s first-ever bibliographer in the newly created subject areas of race and ethnic studies.  I discovered barely-there collections in African American studies; an American Indian studies collection focused primarily on anthropological non-native perspectives, and close to total absence of US Latino and Asian American materials.  I insisted on the creation of separate fund lines to support acquisitions in each of these areas, along with an area I called “general diversity” – which I used to support acquisitions of materials related to other US ethnic and cultural groups (e.g., Arab American; European-descent ethnic groups; Jewish American cultural studies) and materials related to broad multicultural issues.

Sometimes, first acquisitions stick with you.  I remember my first orders for ISU were the video Black Athena and the Centro Journal from the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños.  (My first order at my previous institution was also the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños journal.  I was a Latin American bibliographer at that institution – but curious how some gaps remain the same!)  Since that time, I’ve acquired thousands of books, media (videos; dvds; cds; online indexes & databases, ebooks), journals, encyclopedias, atlases, microfilm, newspapers, and much more to support ISU’s research and learning & teaching needs in race & ethnic studies areas.

My job responsibilities have changed quite a bit as my career trajectory moved into the areas of learning and teaching.  I am the library’s head of instruction now, but remain a bibliographer as well – still collecting in all the race & ethnic studies areas except Asian American studies, which is now handled by a colleague.  In these days, much of the personal art of collecting has become a highly automated process.  Books of pre-defined interest arrive automatically and no longer require individual yay-nay decisions from me.  (I defined the parameters of the types of books desired, so in theory that one macro-decision should suffice in this new age of automated collection building, right?)  The weekly ritual of personally handling and inspecting (browsing – reading – sniffing – admiring – getting to know) each new title is long gone.  Collection development is largely done online now, browsing online slips of book titles, prices, and abbreviated subject lines.  A click of my mouse initiates the chain of acquisition and signifies my digital affirmation.  Impersonal.  Non-tactile.  Far removed from the actual object.  I love the immediacy but do miss the days of the personal art of collecting.

The collections I build are for use.  This blog is meant to help acquaint you with new titles, trends, issues.

Advertisements