Collection Development Librarians – The Challenge of Acquiring Confere…

How many times have you heard the statement, “Cut out the middleman and you’ll save money”? As consumers, we all want a better deal…and as the manufacturer (or publisher in this case), you would want the same thing because you could potentially earn more, have more control, and be directly connected to the consumer. In the case of conference proceedings, a highly specialized publication filled with scientific papers presented at specialized meetings, the form gets a little more complicated.

To build a general and thorough collection of proceedings, the consumer (a Collection Development Librarian or Subject Librarian), has literally thousands of publishers (specialized society publishers and scientific publishers), to choose from. While it’s great to have choices, the task of searching, reviewing and acquiring proceedings from so many publishers is daunting. Taking a closer look discloses already more hurdles to get over.

  1. The top-tier of specialized societies have paid staff and can manager inquiries and orders. However, the majority of societies that produce proceedings have limited staff or are volunteer run by engineers in academia and industry. This makes the acquisition course of action already more cumbersome since they are often not set up like a “for profit” business, and have other priorities.
  2. Contacting hundreds of publishers in order to build a collection of proceedings may not be functional, particularly when most of these publishers are understaffed or not staffed at all. Unless, of course, you have nothing better to do than use the day on Google searching for conference chairs and their emails or fax and phone numbers.
  3. Society meetings are held on different dates each year so publication dates are uncertain.
  4. Some society meetings plan to publish proceedings but for a variety of reasons, the publication may be delayed months or already years, or may be canceled all together.
  5. Since proceedings publishers are located all around the globe, many publishers are sleeping when you’re awake, and there may be language and money issues.

There are perhaps many other hurdles, but it would be safe to say that finding a good distributor could be advantageous. Better in addition, finding a “conference proceedings specialty company” that has a track record of supplying a variety of proceedings to libraries, may provide the best bang for the buck.

A good distributor will be able to gather a list of titles from many publishers with pricing and availability information included. They may be able to provide more specialized sets like handling certain recurring conference titles on standing order. They also may already be able to sort titles or publishers by subject area. For example:

  • Aerospace Conference Proceedings
  • Electrical & Computer Conference Proceedings
  • Chemical & Petroleum Conference Proceedings
  • Nanotechnology Conference Proceedings
  • Biology & Medicine Conference Proceedings

This can make the librarian’s job much easier. instead of spending countless hours searching the web for titles in specific subject areas, just so you can begin the arduous task of contacting dozens or hundreds of publishers — imagine having new title information, sorted by publisher or by subject, served up to you on a monthly basis. After examining the list and choosing the titles you want, you can hand the order off and let them do the rest.

For the same reasons that a central market or grocery store is more functional than driving all over town to gather a variety of foods and other staples, a good conference proceedings distributor can be worth their weight in gold. Given the price of gold these days, that’s pretty valuable.

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