This is going to be my final blog international librarianship blog entry, which means that sadly, yes, i am leaving Florence. As I was chatting with my professor, Dr. Sarah Webb yesterday, we discussed the idea of making my blog post about Acquisitions, instead of my theme of technology. My job at YBP Library Services is focused on Acquisitions and it has been interesting to see how Acquisitions is done in the Italian libraries we’ve visited. Many of the libraries we have visited specialize in ancient texts and manuscripts and have received these books by donation, so they aren’t buying very many new titles, if any.
We went to the Casanatense Library in Rome and their 60,000 item collection is made up of many rare books, including first editions. They don’t have the capacity to add new books to the collection, so the collection is relatively static. The Casanatense isn’t open to the public, and their users are mainly scholars. So their attitude is basically, this is what we have, we may let you see it and it isn’t changing. We also visited the Harold Acton library, a British Library for ex-patriates and with a small budget, most of their Acquisitions are donation-based. They have to worry about duplicates and the titles not fitting into their collection and this inhibits them from having an overall collection development strategy. With no new, librarian-selected books coming in, one can assume that users would lose interest in the collection and not use the library. The manager of the Harold Acton admitted that library usage was steadily declining.
On the opposite side of the spectrum was the San Giorgio public library in Pistoia, which seemed to be constantly changing to meet the needs of their users, the public. The San Giorgio seemed to be very focused on new acquisitions, weeding, etc to keep the users interested in their collection and coming back to the library. They even have a program where couples getting married can have their guests donate books to the library in lieu of traditional wedding registry gifts. The San Giorgio librarians will select specific titles based on the donated amount.
Many of the libraries we visited seem to be providing digital content to their users, whether it be digitizing content for preservation and access purposes at the specialized libraries like the Uffizi and Galileo libraries. The Harold Acton library doesn’t have the money to provide e-resources, so they only offer print. I was a little surprised to hear that the San Giorgio isn’t doing much with ebooks, but the director said that their patrons prefer the print copy over a digital copy. They bought Kindles and and tried lending them to patrons, but usage was low. I think that San Giorgio would have had better luck with trying a different ebook lending model, such as by letting users download ebook titles to their own devices with platforms like Overdrive or Axis 360. As a user, I would want to view an ebook title on my iPad and my friend may want to download the ebook to his Android phone.
Overall, the Acquisitions strategy in Italian libraries varies depending on the library’s individual mission just like the U.S. They seem a little more cautious than the U.S. and it was mentioned in our meeting with the American Embassy and our DILL class that international libraries watch the U.S. closely to see what they are doing before they make changes to their own libraries. They don’t seem to be jumping into acquisitions models like Demand Driven Acquisitions and digital only purchasing, which are becoming more and more popular in the U.S.