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Saturday, September 11, 2010

A day in the life of an Acquisitions librarian.

Part 5 of the "Becoming a librarian series" - a personal advocacy to create awareness about the world of books, libraries, librarians, the librarianship profession and their enduring relevance.

The Acquisitions librarian is the one in charge of acquiring new library materials be it by purchase, as gift, or through loans and exchanges, as prescribed by the library's Collection Development Policy (CDP).

Contrary to some people's belief, librarians, particularly academic ones, do not purchase books at will. Librarians have rules to conform to and that includes the CDP which was constructed with the best interest of the academe in mind. The faculty, being the subject specialists that they are and the ones in charge of implementing the curriculum, are actually the ones who are responsible for the selection of library resources which must be acquired. Acquisition librarians are the information specialists who coordinates the selection, ordering, delivery, and payment of these resources, as well as keep track of the book fund.

A typical day for the Acquisitions librarian, for example, may be like this. He begins his day by checking his e-mail for faculty requests for books for purchase. Should there be any, he double checks the availability of the requested titles within the library's holdings. If unavailability is established, he then ascertains that the books' bibliographic description are correct and complete. These done, he then coordinates with book dealers to request information on the books' availability, the books' prices at the current exchange rate, and the earliest possible delivery dates.

It may take a while for the dealers to answer so he then proceeds to prepare the purchase documentation of recently delivered books. This may take a good two-three hours of his day, provided that he remains uninterrupted. But he has lending desk duty for an hour, so that is very unlikely.

After lunch, he makes calls to various offices to follow up the purchase papers he had sent out late last week. It should have returned by now. Then, there are also calls to dealers to follow-up on book deliveries. Wait, the big international book fair is due in 2 weeks. He might as well make some calls about that too, find out likely sponsors for faculty members who might be interested to select new books at the book fair. As he does his task, he makes a mental note to send an e-mail to the library faculty committee representatives to  inform their colleauges that the library will provide arrangements for faculty who would like to visit the book fair. E-mail must be followed-up by a call to the department by the end of the week.    

While he was on the phone, a dealer arrives to deliver books. He now sits down with the dealer, verifies each book against the delivery receipt, and then signs his name as recipient in behalf of the library. Afterwards, he arranges the new arrivals at the proper shelves.

Before he has a chance to again sit down to compose his e-mail to the faculty representatives, an inspector from the property office arrives to check the books listed on the purchase documents. He proceeds to show the inspector each title. When he glanced at the purchase documents, he noted that one of the titles is yet to be returned by a faculty member. He must recall the book immediately so that it can be processed for payment. He does this after the inspector leaves.

Minutes later, a faculty member arrives wanting to peruse books which are available for selection. The librarian assists the faculty in this. It will take him about half an hour to return to his desk. It is then almost time for him to leave the office, so he saves the documents he have on the computer screen, makes  a list of his priority tasks for tomorrow, marks papers for later filing, clears his desk, and clocks-out.

Assuming that the librarian's job description is 100% devoted to Acquisition work, he should be able to survive a day like this quite well. But then of course, there are also other activities like library events, staff meetings, and resource demos that we have not even covered yet. And what if, the librarian is not just the Acquisitions librarian but the ONLY librarian managing the library? What if he is a one-man-librarian? Will he survive it? What do you think?

(To be continued....)
Next in the series: A day in the life of the Cataloger
kaigachi is a conjugation of the Japanese term "kigaicha" or crazy. It roughly translates as "crazy about something."

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious." - C.Jung

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