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Three academic libraries share how they are adapting to change and disruption with ease
How a new approach to monograph acquisition saved time, increased transparency and improved morale
By Beth McGough, special to the ProQuest blog
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted academic library service across the United States and the world in 2020. The abrupt shift to remote work challenged collections and acquisitions librarians to rethink their in-library workflows to accommodate increased workloads, staffing changes and new collection strategies.
At the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2022, three academic library leaders shared their experiences of adapting to new workflows and collection strategies.
Washington & Lee University
“It kept us functioning.”
– Julie Kane, W&L Associate Professor and Collection Strategies Librarian
The libraries at Washington & Lee University (W&L) in Virginia not only dealt with the transition to remote work but also many staffing changes. In 2020, several long-serving acquisitions staff and the cataloger retired, a new University Librarian began remotely, then a new staff member joined the acquisitions team.
W&L Associate Professor and Collections Strategies Librarian Julie Kane remarked on the extraordinary effort of her significantly smaller team to keep technical services running. With each change, acquisition duties needed to be reallocated across her very busy staff. To reduce the unsustainable workload, W&L libraries adopted ProQuest Rialto in mid-2020 and found it "saved our rapidly shrinking staff so much time and effort."
The new acquisitions staff member did not have a library background and was trained on Rialto before the library’s manual acquisitions workflow. The new staff member’s perspective opened Kane’s eyes to the cumbersome workflows used before Rialto. The new staff member asked, "Why do you have to do all these steps? Why can’t we just do what we do over here [in Rialto]?"
Rialto not only opened Kane and her team to a new way of processing orders and invoices, but it also broke down a communication barrier. Kane shared that the subject selectors carried a perception of her team as "fund information" gatekeepers. The straight-forward display of fund information for each selector broke open the barrier. Kane exclaimed, "The transparency is beautiful."
Before the pandemic many academic libraries implemented or started testing new collection strategies for monographs. Purdue University’s monograph collection strategies include focusing on DDA and e-preferred acquisition. Identifying the electronic versions of monographs and verifying if the library already holds the title takes a significant amount of time when multiple platforms and sites need to be searched by selectors.
Purdue’s Acquisitions and E-Resources Librarian Nathan Rupp remarked on the ease of identifying electronic versions of monographs in Rialto. A monograph is displayed under a single title allowing a librarian to easily choose among the e-versions available. Rialto supports Purdue’s shift to a just in time collections strategy as well. Purdue’s librarians use Rialto to review requested titles, check the title’s availability in the demand driven acquisition (DDA) pool and move the title to the DDA pool without having to purchase the title outright.
University of Central Florida
University of Central Florida (UCF) Acquisitions & Collections Assessment Librarian Sara Duff was looking for ways to support her library’s subject selectors, who lacked a real time view of funding. Rialto was presented as a solution to this challenge among others at UCF. To gain buy-in, Duff approached the subject selectors looking for five volunteers willing to try Rialto. The volunteers were set up quickly and "went wild. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive."
Like the Purdue librarians, UCF selectors see all the relevant information needed to support collection decisions. They no longer need to search the catalog – live updates of holdings are available in Rialto – along with fund information and the ability to order titles.
UCF is also launching Evidence-Based Acquisition (EBA) in Rialto. Duff anticipates it will be "a game changer" because it connects selectors and acquisitions staff in a single portal. Selectors are able to identify titles that are critical acquisitions and flag them for staff. Until now, tracking these important EBA titles has been a manual effort. "This is really, really going to simplify things and help me," she said.
Simplifying new system implementations for librarians
Implementation is a dirty word among librarians. The time and complexity of implementing a new system can take staff away from their regular duties for a year or more. In this case, Duff was pleasantly surprised with the experience implementing Rialto. Duff and her team had full control over the implementation and found the Rialto team "super responsive" to questions and requests.
At W&L, Kane reflected on the implementation as "fun" and the Rialto staff as "so kind and super helpful."
Kane continued, "I do wish all implementations could be like that because you do kind of dread the word implementation, like ‘this is going to be awful’ and it was not. It was great. I would do it again a million times."
Learn more about how your library can save time, build transparency and boost staff morale with Rialto.
Beth McGough, MLIS, is a passionate library supporter and advocate, experienced online content creator and data storyteller. She is currently writing and advising on content for and about libraries, research and higher education.