Recently I volunteered to take on the role of Liaison for the University of North Florida Mathematics Department in addition to my current responsibilities with the College of Computing Engineering and Construction). I’ve always loved Math and my time in the Six Sigma program only deepened my affection for the field. As a librarian, though, I have found the role to be challenging. Being good at math and studying or researching Mathematics are two completely different things. What do Math faculty, students and researchers want? Getting an answer to that is rarely as simple as asking the question. You have to build a relationship with faculty who are focused on their classes and their research far more than on library collection development and rightfully so. After months of trying to meet with Mathematics through their Faculty meeting, I was approached by Mahbubur Rahman, Associate Professor of Mathematics, to discuss the needs of the faculty and students of Math.
Dr. Rahman, who is teaching Ordinary Differential Equations (MAP2302) and Linear Algebra (MAS 3105) this Spring, is clearly passionate about Applied Mathematics. He shared a list of databases and books that he and his fellow faculty beleived were critical to the academic development of their students. He mentioned that he had sent students to look for these titles and was told that they were not in the Library. In some cases they were correct. In others, they were not.
As with any request from faculty, I shared Dr. Rahman’s list with Robb Waltner, our Head of Acquisitions. Robb investigated the books and journals and produced three very useful reports. The first report showed that some of the requested items are, in fact, available from our library. It also showed the coverage dates and sources for the journals. The second report showed Library resources for Mathematics that were underutilized. Underutilized journals are resources that have a very high cost/use ratio relative to the cost of interlibrary loan. These journals could be considered for cancellation in order to pay for the requested titles. The third report showed all of the Math ejournals in our A-Z list. These were fantastic resources to share with the Math Faculty with one caveat. The list of resources had not been de-duplicated. That meant receiving a 2300 line list showing eJournals availability through as many as 15 different sources. As a rule, we don’t share documents like this because they can be hard to navigate and they also beg the question, “Why do we buy the same resource so many times?”. Of course any Librarian familiar with eResource acquisitions understands that we have little choice in the matter. While it may be possible to buy only what we need on a title-by-title basis, it would cost far more than simply buying large packages that may include duplicate content. Another reason for duplication is that some titles included in the packages are free or open journals and, so, everyone includes them.