RLI 283 The Confluence of Collections at Johns Hopkins’s Sheridan Libraries 27 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 the particular collecting area. Usually their work is conducted via e-mail or informal conversations. Everyone on the team has authority to spend on the fund and so far there have been no complaints about someone overspending. The rare books (pre 1801) and manuscripts fund is managed by the curator for rare books. However, the curator is expected to actively solicit input and suggestions from other curators and liaison librarians. Due to the cost of rare books, a collecting strategy was developed that requires items acquired from this fund to have a direct tie to current teaching and research. To accomplish this, a process is in place that calls for proposals with an explanation of how the item will be used in current scholarship. Based on the funds available, the rare books curator has final say on the purchase. The last group of funds designated for special collections purchase is endowed funds that fall into what the libraries call “general humanities” funds (excluded from these funds are those that have specific donor requirements, such as “to be used for rare economic books,” etc.). These general humanities funds are managed by the Humanities Discipline Group. The chair of that group, which rotates every two years, is the designated fund manager for those funds. The group uses a proposal process to choose items for purchase. Anyone in the Humanities Discipline Group can submit a proposal. The proposal provides the details of an item and how it supports a specific collecting area, teaching, or research. Group members weigh in on the appropriateness of the purchase. Proposals have time limits on the comment period the libraries operate on the principle that a proposal is automatically approved if it receives no comments in the time allotted. Holistic Results The Humanities Discipline Group members include all curators and any liaison librarian with humanities departments or interest. The libraries allow liaison librarians to participate in as many discipline groups as they like, but they are required to choose one group as their primary affiliation. Broadening the team membership allows for some interesting cross-disciplinary discussions. The discipline-group model was originally conceived to manage electronic-resource acquisition decisions. The model has evolved into a very effective way to manage special collections funds, which extend across all the humanities sub-fields. It seems like a simple model now, but seven years ago moving from a model where everyone had their “own” money to a model of collective decision making was not always smooth. There were discussions about how much should be designated to various funds, why one fund had more than another fund, and general issues of “fairness” that often needed to be addressed both collectively and at an individual level. One practice that the libraries put in place that has had surprising benefits is a meeting of the associate director for scholarly resources and special collections with each discipline group collectively before the annual budget allocation process. Those meetings are used to discuss how well the funding worked in the past year and what might be needed in the coming year. Curators and liaison librarians present their collecting strategy for the coming year, where they see growth, where they are pulling back, and how the last fiscal year’s funds either can or cannot support their strategy. This process is very transparent and allows fund managers to help make decisions on which fund gets more or less. In this way, the fund managers help determine what is fair.
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