Collection Development Librarians – The Challenge of Acquiring Conference Proceedings


How many times have you heard the statement, “Cut out the middleman and you’ll save money”? As consumers, we all want a better deal…and as the manufacturer (or publisher in this case), you would want the same thing because you could potentially earn more, have more control, and be directly connected to the consumer. In the case of conference proceedings, a highly specialized publication filled with scientific papers presented at professional meetings, the model gets a little more complicated.

To build a broad and deep collection of proceedings, the consumer (a Collection Development Librarian or Subject Librarian), has literally thousands of publishers (professional society publishers and scientific publishers), to choose from. While it’s great to have choices, the task of searching, reviewing and acquiring proceedings from so many publishers is daunting. Taking a closer look reveals even more hurdles to get over.

  1. The top-tier of professional societies have paid staff and can handle inquiries and orders. However, the majority of societies that produce proceedings have limited staff or are volunteer run by engineers in academia and industry. This makes the acquisition process even more cumbersome since they are often not set up like a “for profit” business, and have other priorities.
  2. Contacting hundreds of publishers in order to build a collection of proceedings may not be practical, particularly when most of these publishers are understaffed or not staffed at all. Unless, of course, you have nothing better to do than spend the day on Google searching for conference chairs and their emails or fax and phone numbers.
  3. Society meetings are held on different dates each year so publication dates are uncertain.
  4. Some society meetings plan to publish proceedings but for a variety of reasons, the publication may be delayed months or even years, or may be canceled all together.
  5. Since proceedings publishers are located all around the globe, many publishers are sleeping when you’re awake, and there may be language and currency issues.

There are perhaps many other hurdles, but it would be safe to say that finding a good distributor could be beneficial. Better yet, finding a “conference proceedings specialty company” that has a track record of supplying a variety of proceedings to libraries, may provide the best bang for the buck.

A good distributor will be able to gather a list of titles from many publishers with pricing and availability information included. They may be able to provide more specialized services like handling certain recurring conference titles on standing order. They also may even be able to sort titles or publishers by subject area. For example:

  • Aerospace Conference Proceedings
  • Electrical & Computer Conference Proceedings
  • Chemical & Petroleum Conference Proceedings
  • Nanotechnology Conference Proceedings
  • Biology & Medicine Conference Proceedings

This can make the librarian’s job much easier. Rather than spending countless hours searching the web for titles in specific subject areas, just so you can begin the arduous task of contacting dozens or hundreds of publishers — imagine having new title information, sorted by publisher or by subject, served up to you on a monthly basis. After examining the list and choosing the titles you want, you can hand the order off and let them do the rest.

For the same reasons that a central market or grocery store is more convenient than driving all over town to gather a variety of foods and other staples, a good conference proceedings distributor can be worth their weight in gold. Given the price of gold these days, that’s pretty valuable.

Source by Dave A Curran