From: Reeta Sinha <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Fri, 3 May 2013 00:51:10 -0700
"You're right about the thread getting a bit old, but I hope you and
others will excuse my extending it just a little bit further. Perhaps
I missed it, but nowhere in the discussion do I recall seeing explicit
reasons why librarians want to know whether or not a book is a revised
dissertation in order to make a decision on whether to add it to a
I think Rick covered this in his last post--but, I'm going to give it
Speaking as a collection development librarian, but not for all, I
don't believe librarians are focused on 'revised dissertations.' In
general, we who select titles for our library collections do not
obsess over one non-subject parameter.
What's been lost, or obfuscated by some, from the start, is that
'revised dissertation' was not plucked out of thin air--it is on a
list that a vendor uses. Assumptions made subsequently had little to
do with the purpose of that list, or how such parameters are used by
Michael Zeoli of YBP provided this a few rounds ago:
"The designation of 'Revised Dissertation' conveys a sense that the
treatment of the subject will likely be in depth. This is supported -
or not - by other profiling information such as readership level and
Many CD librarians--selectors, remember examining the book in hand on
a weekly basis--approval books. Now, we look at records on our screen,
if we still select. We may have a book jacket image (pretty, but we're
not supposed to judge a book by its cover) and the table of contents
(ok, a little more information about the...contents). If I'm reviewing
300 titles with medical aspects, released each week (which I currently
am), I need a little more than those 2 elements, and broad subject
Non-subject parameters such as 'anthology,' 'handbook,'
'revised/unrevised dissertations,' the 'audience' level, or notes
about the book--if it includes previously published articles, whether
some authors are affiliated with my institution, or if a book has a
geographic focus of Australia (nothing wrong with that but with a
limited budget, maybe that's not where I can spend my money)....etc.
'Revised dissertation' is just one aspect, one.
I started in libraries 'reading' medical books...50-75 books that came
on 'approval.' I read the front cover, the back, the jacket text, and
through the 1st page or so of the 1st chapter. Why? To see if the book
was based on a conference that took place 6 years earlier, or had
content that had been published elsewhere, in part of whole, or, if
the book was based on someone's doctoral dissertation. Yes, I'd look
for the word 'revised' because if it didn't appear, I might be
duplicating content my users already had access to--an unrevised
dissertation available elsewhere. Did I 'measure' how much of the
dissertation had been revised? Of course not--'revised dissertation,'
'based on', 'originated as' -- this was additional information, not a
I would also skim chapters, sometimes because the
preface/TOC/foreword/jacket text didn't make it easy for me to
determine whether the title was relevant for my library's users; other
times I'd skim to narrow down which of the 10 molecular biology books
profiled for my library that week I should keep.
27 years later, I don't have the book in hand; hardly any librarians,
or library staff, I know of do what I did then. That's why we (I) rely
on vendors/profilers to do the reading/skimming, so I don't have to
guess, so I can narrow down a list of 300 medical titles every week
down to the handful I can afford to purchase, that might be in-scope
based on my institution's needs.
> Do some libraries really only collect the work of senior scholars
in particular fields?
With just a touch of irritation, I'm going to go out on a limb and
say, of course not.
This is why Rick's last post was necessary.
> I've never gone out of my way to conceal that a book we publish is a
> revised dissertation (I can't imagine publishing an unrevised one),
> though I confess we don't shout it out either. Understanding why
> librarians care about this status would be helpful.
I have a question for the two university press voices heard in this
thread....I presume there's a 'university library' near the university
press? Have you asked your university's librarians how they select?
Perhaps it could be considered 'market research.'
From Rick Anderson:
> (And let me emphasize that I'm speaking here purely as a librarian, and
> not on behalf of any vendor.)
I AM going to give a shout-out to the library 'book' vendors I've
worked with over the decades, as a CD assistant and a CD librarian.
They asked, understood, how we made our selections, and continue to
ask what might make the selection process more efficient--the YBPs,
Majors, Harrassowitz', Ballens, Blackwells, and many more. Their
services and efforts made my collection development life easier. If
all these years I only had publisher catalogs/blurbs and the
incomplete information provided within to rely on...
I think this bears repeating - the context skipped over in the original posts:
> Libraries set up approval plans for two reasons. They are designed, first,
> to include books that are obviously needed (thus freeing up librarians'
> scarce time so they can spend it seeking out titles that are more obscure
> or harder to get) and, second, to exclude books that, though they may be
> of high quality, are not a good fit for the library's particular needs
> (thus letting the library focus its scarce budget dollars on the
> acquisition of books that it needs more urgently). If libraries had
> infinite budgets and infinite staff time, approval plans would not be
> needed. Sadly, we have neither, so books have to be excluded as well as
Reeta Sinha, MPH, MSLS
Resource Management Librarian