Conversations with the Associate Provost: Campbell Collection Curation

December 8, 2023
Image of Rober Hilliker
Image of Rober Hilliker

We sat down with the Associate Provost of Campbell Library, Dr. Robert Hilliker, to find out more about how and why the library is carefully curating their collections to reflect the needs and interests of the Rowan community.

Q: What is the Campbell Collection Curation initiative all about?

A: This initiative is all about ensuring the library's collections continue to meet the evolving needs of students, staff, and faculty. Renovating Keith & Shirley Campbell Library isn’t just about the building–it’s also about the services and information resources we provide–the books, journals, databases, study rooms, course reserves, research consultations, information literacy instruction–all of it.

Q: Can you tell us more about the history and significance of collections at Rowan University Libraries?

A: Certainly. Rowan University Libraries have come a long way since their humble beginning in Bunce Hall. Over the years, the library has grown and evolved, culminating in its current home since 1995, Keith & Shirley Campbell Library. Some of our employees fondly remember the move from Savitz to Campbell, when they formed a human chain to pass the books from the old shelves to the new ones. I like that story because it emphasizes the human labor involved in caring for a library’s collections–and that we need to work hand-in-hand to get that work done right. As we celebrate Rowan University's 100th anniversary, this renovation project symbolizes our commitment to continued growth and transformation.

Q: How is the Campbell Library planning to revamp its collections?

A: We’re taking a thoughtful approach that combines the creative use of technology and extensive community outreach. On the tech side, we are using calculated algorithms to evaluate our extensive print collections, considering factors like book checkouts and availability at partner libraries. Our librarians will use that data to help categorize items into three groups: "Keep On-Site," "Store Off-Site," and "Donate or Recycle." And the librarians will continue working, as they have over the last 100 years, with our faculty and student partners to make sure that those decisions support the teaching, learning, and research that happen here at Rowan.

Q: What materials fall into the "Keep On-Site" category?

A: The "Keep On-Site" category includes materials that need to be on hand to support classroom teaching, faculty and student research, and personal reading. These items will continue to be part of our on-site collection in Campbell after the renovations are complete. This will also include the new print material we are adding to our collection, in partnership with the community, as part of our Diverse Collections building effort.

Q: What about the "Store Off-Site" category? How will those materials be accessible?

A: Materials in the "Store Off-Site" category will be those that are less frequently used, but that our librarians determine are still of value for teaching, learning, and research. They will be moved to a nearby facility. Members of the Rowan community will still have convenient and rapid access to less frequently used materials, which will be delivered upon request.

Q: Can you explain the process for materials in the "Donate or Recycle" category?

A: Books and items no longer needed in our collection will be donated or recycled as appropriate. Before any item is discarded, a subject-area librarian evaluates its necessity within our collection to ensure that the decision is well-informed.

Q: How will the Campbell Collection Curation Initiative benefit Rowan students, faculty, and staff?

A: The primary goal of this initiative is to ensure that everyone on campus has easy and rapid access to the books they want and need. If we focus simply on growing our collections without paying attention to evaluating our existing books, our patrons would quickly be swamped by materials they don’t find useful. By recycling unneeded books and moving less-frequently-used ones off-site, and adding new collections driven by faculty and student requests in support of the evolving Rowan curriculum and areas of research, we aim to make it easier for people to find the books they are looking for. This curation process aligns with our commitment to providing quality information resources that meet the needs of current and prospective students and faculty.

Q: How do electronic resources fit into the Campbell Collection Curation Initiative?

A: The libraries are committed to supporting our community, in whatever formats that requires. Our print books are only one part of the collections the libraries offer to the Rowan community. We also offer a growing selection of hundreds of databases, thousands of electronic journals, and over a million ebooks. As we are working on curating our existing print holdings, we are also working on adding new books, driven by community suggestions. We now offer direct integration of our Research Guide tutorials into Canvas as a way to make our resources more visible and available. And we are working on a project to bring title-by-title library collection links directly to faculty Canvas sites with a new electronic Reading List tool we are piloting Spring 2024.

Thank you, Dr. Hilliker for your time! We look forward to more conversations on future projects at Campbell Library.