WESSWEB<P>Western European Specialists Section Newsletter

Vol. 18, No. 2 (Spring, 1995)
New Haven, Connecticut
Page 3

Response to

The WESS/ARL German Political Science Project:
A Cambridge Comparison

Michael Olson (MH)

I have just one question after reading David Lowe's superb article: who is Oskar Lafontaine?

Seriously, David has touched on the right points. What Jim Spohrer and I indicated--that recent acquisitions in German political science are inadequate--had already been intuitively obvious. Less certain now, however, is how to solve the problem. David maintains that book selection is extremely haphazard. He's correct: book selectors cannot acquire every publication deemed appropriate for their libraries, due to insufficient funds. In many instances, justifying the selection of one title instead of another is difficult; a gut feeling says that one is more appropriate than another.

Book selection is a very differentiated process. Selectors must grapple with several variable factors:

Even if selectors control these variables successfully, the problem of insufficient collections may still exist.

The fundamental question is this: when do national collecting interests become as important as local ones? Above all else, we must define what we really want (as the WESS German Social Sciences Working Group is currently doing), and then attain that goal. The health of German political science collections in the United States centers not only on the national set of collections, but also on whether selectors collect the most appropriate materials in support of their institutional needs. If libraries' new acquisitions look more and more like each other in the future, but are also appropriate for each library, is this good or bad? If we consistently fail to collect certain types of literature, is this OK? Ultimately, we need to balance local needs and national interests, and collect accordingly.

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