Skip to Content
Skip to Search
Skip to Navigation
Skip to Content

University of Connecticut University Libraries

Collection Development and Access Plan:
History

Prepared by Peter Allison, February, 2000.

Contents:

I. Characteristics of the Community
II. Collections Budget Expenditure Patterns
III. Current Patterns of Information Service
IV. Emerging Choices

I. Characteristics of the Community

History is offered as a subject of undergraduate at all University of Connecticut campuses, but upper division course work is concentrated at Storrs. Some representative 200 level course enrollment figures are: Stamford 48; Greater Hartford 51; Waterbury 54; Avery Pt. 38; Torrington 28; and Storrs 805. Regional Campus acquisitions in history are limited to instructional support. The graduate program is centered at Storrs and most students, whether resident or commuter, rely on physical access to Babbidge Library for the period of their course work. As of fall 1998, there were 36 full time faculty, 175 undergraduate majors, 35 masters students and 72 doctoral candidates. The breakdown of faculty by subject area and campus (Storrs/Regional Campuses) was: Early America 3/1; United States 7/4; Latin America and the Caribbean 3/1; Ancient-Medieval 3; Early Modern and Modern Europe 7/ 3; Africa 2; Asia 2; Middle East 1.

II. Collections Budget Expenditure Patterns

American History (HIAMER): $40,000
Typical breakdown: Monographs $22,000; Journals $3,200; Major purchases $14,800.

World History (HIGNRL) $75,000
Monographs: $50,000 ($20,000 foreign language); Journals $20,000; Major purchases $5,000

Interdisciplinary $35,000
Separately funded programs spending one third or more of their budgets on historical materials include: African Studies, Classics, Judaic Studies, Latin American Studies and Medieval Studies.

Networked Services: $16,000
Indexes and abstracts: America: History and Life, Historical Abstracts, History of Science and Technology. Electronic versions of history journals contained within Infotrac, JSTOR and Project Muse.

Total expenditures for history: $166,000 This represents 3.5% of the libraries' materials expenditures, the largest percentage for any non-science subject except Business.

III. Current Patterns of Information Service

A. Characteristics of the Literature

Historians require more monographs and published primary source materials than any other discipline.

Only a small percentage of historical literature loses a substantial part of its value over time. Most monographs remain obligatory points of reference for decades. Source materials are never superseded, though some lose evidentiary salience or fall out of favor. For this reason, an ownership and access plan for history must encompass preservation decision making as well as robust current and retrospective acquisitions strategies.

Because of the long half-life of historical literature, the radically decreased inventory carried by contemporary publishers, and our recognition that both instructors and the topics of instruction change, we have typically bought more books in more areas of history than the needs of instructional support have required. At the same time, we have had to be selective. In those areas that are not actively taught acquisitions are largely limited to synthetic surveys and monographs with comparative import. Foreign language acquisitions emphasize key monographs and primary source materials useful to graduate students in their course work and dissertation proposal preparation.

B. Collection Development

1. Areas of Focus
The History Department currently supports doctoral work in all aspects of history of the Americas and on European history from the Middle Ages forward. Within this extensive arena, acquisitions have always been selective and have been strongly influenced by the interests and persistence of incumbent faculty. Long standing collection strengths include: early America; modern American diplomatic history, modern Germany, Austria and Italy and Puerto Rico. A detailed exposition of current collecting emphases can be found in the appendix to this document.

2. Acquisition Strategies

A. Monographs

The following sources are relied upon:

  • Yankee Book Peddler Approval/Slip Plan. YBP covers all university press and most trade publishing produced or actively distributed in the U.S. Publishers who refuse to discount to YBP, or produce less than 5 titles per year, are not covered. A full list of covered publishers is available on the library's home page. /ris/ypbpub.htm
  • Genealogical/local history catalogs from Clearfield, Genealogical Publishing, NEHGS & Picton;
  • Harassowitz slip plan covering German and Austrian imprints
  • Casalini slip plan covering Italian imprints.
  • Livres du Mois for French language imprints.
  • A quarterly catalog of new publications from Iberbook, our Spanish vendor.
  • Nijhoff monthly catalogs of English language imprints from Scandinavia.
  • Approval plans from Mexico and Argentina, supplemented by the review of dealer catalogs from Central America, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile and the Caribbean.
  • Oxbow Catalogs are reviewed for ancient, classical and medieval material.
  • Listings from the African Books Collective and Clarke's Bookshop (Cape Town, S.A.) are reviewed for English language materials published in Africa.
  • South Pacific Books and New Zealand Export Books flyers are reviewed bimonthly.
  • Quarterly newsletter from DK Agencies is reviewed for Indian imprints in English.
  • Annual summary of new publications from Canada is checked for publishers not handled by Yankee. The catalogs or web sites of individual publishers are consulted for further information about specific titles, but are not routinely reviewed. Additional ordering is generated from faculty recommendations, selective checking of bibliographies in new publications, and investigating the previous publications of specific authors.

See Appendices A & B for detailed coverage of current selection criteria.

B. Journals
Only a small number of largely commercial journal publishers routinely promote their new ventures to libraries. New journal subscriptions in history are generally ordered pursuant to a student or faculty request. We require special justification, or evidence of demand from our document delivery statistics, to consider titles from for-profit publishers known for rapidly increasing the subscription costs of their titles.

C. Foreign Language Materials
Foreign language holdings are quite uneven. Fairly active current and retrospective acquisition began in the early 1960's but had largely collapsed by the 1980's in those areas not sustained by individual faculty initiative. Since 1990 we have selectively acquired primary texts and quality monographs as represented below. The number in parentheses indicates historical journals currently received by language.

  • French: France and Medieval Europe (12); North and West Africa (2); Quebec; and the French Caribbean.
  • German: Germany, Austria and parts of Central Europe (15); German-America.
  • Italian: Italy (8), Italian-America.
  • Spanish: Hispanic America (20) and, to a lesser extent, Spain (1).
  • Latin: selected medieval texts
  • Russian: (5); no longer reviewed for monographic acquisitions

D. Collections of Primary Source Material
As costs have risen, newspapers, governmental records and archival collections in microform have become harder to justify as "just in case" purchases. Acquisition of this sort of material is now more typically handled as a "just in time" purchase in support of a planned class project or the ongoing research of individuals whose needs cannot be easily met by travel or interlibrary loan. In this context, the Department may wish to suggest that Ph.D. students, at the proposal stage, work with their liaison librarian to identify the research resources pertinent to their project, and plan a research strategy that may combine loan, purchase and travel to other repositories.

E. Replacements for Brittle Books and Journals
The history liaison plays an important role in preservation decisions. Many titles not originally acquired in support of the history curriculum are replaced or reformatted based on the potential interest of historians. Because we have limited human and fiscal resources, titles to be addressed are largely taken from material identified after circulation. Whatever the modality of preservation: replacement with a new edition, photocopying onto acid free paper, or microfilming, value to our local user community is the first consideration. If a title does not appear to have been microfilmed by another repository, we may consider such an alternative as a small contribution to the national effort.

C. Access Development

1. Bibliographic Infrastructure
Robust desk-top access to key bibliographical sources and on-line forms for interlibrary loan and document delivery service requests are key elements of the libraries service strategy. We recognize though, that licensed access is generally provisional, not permanent. Since historians continue to exhaustively cite earlier work, indexes and abstracts play an ancillary role in historical bibliography. In this context, our exclusive reliance on the electronic versions of America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts seems an acceptable risk. The bibliographic databases WorldCat and RLIN are very valuable for historians because they contain records and locations for monographs, newspapers, journals, microforms and manuscript collections. They have no print equivalents, but are both controlled by non-profit organizations. Although they may ultimately merge, they seem likely to persist.

2. Electronic Journals, Books and Data

User enthusiasm and economic incentives have caused the library to embrace electronic only access to commercial as well as non-profit journal packages. With the subscription year that begins in January 2004, if a cost savings is available, the libraries are generally converting journal subscriptions that currently bring us both print and electronic copies to electronic-only provision.

We are making this change on a publisher-by-publisher basis. Many of our electronic journals do not come directly by license from the publisher, but instead through aggregator products such as Lexis-Nexis Academic, Dow-Jones, InfoTrac and Wilson Web. The arrangements between aggregators and publishers are constantly in flux. Only when titles are available through multiple aggregators, in a complete and reasonably current version will the cancellation of print be considered.

We have resisted going electronic-only up to now because of concerns about long-term, archival access. Commercial publishers cannot be relied upon to archive their content once the prospect of additional sales approaches nil. Although a solution is far from in place, we believe that technologies now under examination, with funding from the National Science Foundation among others, will yield solutions whereby the largest research libraries will undertake the distributed archiving of digital content in all our interest. We expect that even the largest commercial publishers will, ultimately, cooperate with such an arrangement.

One of the primary goals in the immediate future will be to identify the journals for which we have a subscription but not electronic access, and attempt to add said access. Often the stumbling block for doing so is the license agreement. Additionally, many of the society journals are only now being made available electronically. Often, online access to these titles is free with a print subscription. Retaining access to the already respectable menu of online journals provided by the Library is an ongoing library goal although this effort is becoming increasingly difficult. Because of unsustainable inflation of scholarly journals, electronic only access may be increasingly viewed as a viable option. The question of permanent access to reliable archives of this material is not yet resolved, making such a switch a risky venture.

Furthermore, electronic journals can be hot linked to web based indexes like Web of Science, and the electronic resources listed above. Additionally, the Library’s electronic journal locator, eCompass, facilitates the identification of specific e-journal titles "owned" by the Library (i.e., accessible via the University internet domain, ".uconn.edu".)

Electronic texts are currently most attractive where users are many and dispersed, or where searching and other kinds of text processing capabilities are critical to a research project. Electronic reserve and the virtual classroom are currently limited by copyright to the reproduction of small segments of monographs. Initial publisher offerings of electronic monographs largely reproduce print. Historical statistics won't become attractive as digital offerings until the data is marked up for down loading and reanalysis by standard statistical software.

3. Other Internet-based resources
Many ambitious projects are underway to make significant primary sources available over the web.

Links to some of these collections are available on the History pages that can be found under "Resources by Subject" from the libraries’ home page: /research/bysubject/hist.htm

Keeping such links current must be a collective enterprise. The history liaison welcomes suggestions for improvement and is willing to add links to resources being used in connection with specific courses.

5. Document Delivery/Interlibrary Loan
Always an important library service for historians, DD/ILL is an integral part of all our collection development and access plans. DD/ILL data is actively considered in relation to both journal purchase decisions and collection budget planning.

1998 ILL/DD transactions in history: 441 (75% grad. 25% faculty); 70% monographs; 20% journals; 10% microform.

Comparable transaction totals: English 781; MCL 832; Psychology 1087.

Historians' greater reliance on monographs may explain this comparatively low total. Microform borrowing would almost certainly be higher if more collections were universally cataloged. To better serve historical researchers, libraries have to improve both the intellectual access and the lending policies that affect this important body of material.

IV. Emerging Choices

Resource sharing initiatives
Adoption of the Z39.50 standard by library systems vendors has made it possible for us to consider sharing our catalog with cooperating institutions. Under such a scenario, local users could identify that the resources they need are available at a cooperating institutions and place a direct request through HOMER to that institution. Whether as part of a shared catalog or independent of that effort, resource sharing initiatives that will facilitate the identification and sharing of microform research resources would greatly benefit graduate students with limited travel support. If such opportunities arise, the history budget will almost certainly be asked to pay part of the cost.

Microform research collections go digital
Some traditional micropublishers are now moving aggressively to convert their microform into digital products. Digital formats may make primary sources more accessible to undergraduates and greatly facilitate certain kinds of queries, but such advantages will come at high cost. Careful choices will need to be made here. Expensive acquisitions must be accompanied by clear commitments to the repeated instructional use of such products. Ongoing lease arrangements seem inappropriate for research materials and are beginning to be replaced in the marketplace by a one-time purchase cost and a much lower ongoing electronic storage fee. Short-term rental agreements might provide a form of on-demand access that could allow us to meet the needs of classes or individual researchers without an ongoing commitment.

Are historical monographs going digital?
Because most historical monographs remain obligatory points of reference for decades, strong investment in local ownership has seemed the right strategy. However, declining total sales for many categories of historical work, will likely force many specialist monographs into digital formats in the near future. The AHA recently announced that, in collaboration with Columbia University Press and the Mellon Foundation, it would web publish up to six AHA selected dissertations per year from areas "where book publishing is considered endangered by university presses." The AHA hopes to market these works via library subscription, but on-demand purchase arrangements, similar to the way UMI already markets dissertations, seems more likely to emerge as the model for the distribution of digital texts.

Our obligation to university presses and scholarly societies
Our determination to get the most value for our users from limited resources as made us a part of some of the problems we decry. Although we value and depend upon the work of university presses and scholarly societies, we no longer buy all their publications as a matter of course. Specialist work on Japan, pre-modern China and medieval Islam is bought very selectively. Additionally we have told our vendor to supply paperbacks, whenever they are co-published with cloth. For about $7.00 we get a superior binding and generally save 50% or more off the cloth price. Changing either of these practices is possible, but we would be able to acquire many fewer books if we did so.

The future of history collecting in a changing information economy

The library anticipates both continuing inflation in the unit cost of print and electronic publications, and expanding demand for new products and services. We do not expect the University to solve this problem by increasing our share of its limited resources. We hope for a continuation of our current level of support, but cannot regard it as guaranteed. If History retains its present status as a university priority program, its library allocation is unlikely to undergo significant reduction. Increasingly, however, measures of user behavior: circulation by classification and patron affiliation; database use; and ILL/document delivery activity; will play a role in budget decision-making.

If current levels of acquisition cannot be sustained, or new priorities need to be addressed, savings could be made in the following ways:

  • further restrict "major purchases"
  • purchase fewer highly specialized monographs at levels 2 and 3
  • rely exclusively on the electronic versions of some journals
  • decrease foreign language acquisitions
  • purchase fewer synthetic overview works

Return t

>