Last week, I had the opportunity to be part of a major project with my library. We are changes vendors for our primary approval plans, and I was charged with scheduling and escorting the vendor representative around for the entire University Library system. I got to sit in on all the training sessions, as well as all the profiling sessions. It was extremely educational.
For those of you not in library land, an approval plan is an agreement with a book vendor that allows them to send us books automatically based on a profile that we set up. Often, (and as was the case in this instance) it consists of a list of preferred publishers, and then is broken down by format (such as textbooks), subject coverage, series, etc. For example, we may say that we don't want to receive textbooks at a high school or undergraduate level, but we do want to get them if they are at a graduate school level. This can be different for different subjects. Another example, since I'm currently doing most of the book selection for the Music Library, I could specify that I wanted to eliminate popular level books to avoid receiving The Dummy's Guide to Drums, which is entirely unsuitable for a university level School of Music.
This is a great way to understand your library's focus. I learned so much about how the university programs drive the library collection. We could say to the representative that since the University is emphasizing interdisciplinarity and globalization that we'd like to receive books dealing with those issues.
If a selector wants to deliberate more on a certain subject, they can opt to receive notification slips instead of books. They'll then look in the vendor's online catalog in their slip notification pool and be able to order those books individually, or not.
One of the other aspects that was very interesting to me was how different selectors define their profile. Some were very willing to accept the representative's recommendations (after all, she does this for a living, at many other universities), while others had very definate views and opinions about every single subject they were responsible for (e.g. receive books about women's rights in developing countries, but not as interested in women's rights in Western Civilization...and only from particular publishers). Some set up profiles in a matter of minutes, and some took nearly an hour.
All in all, I learned so much of value in this one week that I'm actually starting to feel like I may know a little something about my job! This was one of the responsibilities I was hired for, and now I'll be able to take it on fairly comfortably. I feel really lucky that I was given this opportunity - a library doesn't often set up an entirely new profile.