Tips for Developing Subject Expertise and Learning your Collection

1. Possess a basic knowledge of the discipline. This will help with all aspects of your collection management activity.

  • Read basic texts in the area, whether textbooks or popular works.
  • Read publications from as many faculty in the department as you can. You may select the most prolific, read selectively, or read abstracts.
  • Read online course syllabi for your classes taught in your subjects
  • Consider earning a second degree in subject.
  • Keep appropriate language or subject dictionaries at your desk
  • Teach a continuing education class in your subject.

2. Know your Department's focus and current research interests and be familiar with the field as a whole.

  • Meet with faculty as much as possible. Attempt to schedule at least annual meetings with key faculty, department heads, and library liaisons, to discuss research interests and trends.
  • Create and maintain current faculty profiles.
  • Meet with graduate students to discuss their research interests and collection needs.
  • Identify and meet with new faculty in your department.
  • Offer to meet with potential new faculty during the library portion of their interview day. Take this opportunity to suggest they ask for new faculty start-up funds to enhance the library’s collection in their areas of interest.
  • Participate with annual orientation sessions offered by departments for new graduate students.
  • Attend selected departmental events
  • Identify and join your discipline's professional organizations, attend meetings, monitor publications from these organizations, and be aware of conferences.
  • Maintain files related to your faculty and departmental news.
  • Monitor departmental publications and websites for news.
  • Ask to be added to the general department electronic news list, if applicable.
  • Monitor professional electronic lists in your area or discipline.

3. Know and promote your discipline's use of the library.

  • When talking with faculty, ask about their own research needs as well as those of their students.
  • Offer to teach a course-specific library instruction session.
  • Ask faculty for their favorite publishers, books, and journals.
  • Know quarterly course offerings; try to survey faculty and TAs on classes that may involve library research;
  • Try to obtain course syllabi and assignments; continue offering to provide library instruction; if students come to the Reference desk and you see that a library class would have been appropriate, contact the instructor.
  • Discuss library research needs with both graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Obtain ILL requests to review for adding titles to the collection.
  • Ask for circulation statistics for your areas of the collection to gauge usage.
  • Work with other UCSD librarians to cover interdisciplinary areas of potential overlap.
  • Maintain current “new items lists” in Roger, as appropriate.

4. Network with library colleagues in your discipline.

  • Be active in any UC consortia or subject bibliographer groups for your discipline.
  • Consult with colleagues with similar collection responsibilities and subject assignment.
  • Join library organizations such as ALA, ACRL, or CARL, and become active in relevant sections.

5. Become actively engaged with your collection.

  • Learn the basic UCSD and UC-wide acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Know the relevant major and small-press publishers and scan their catalogs.
  • Know your Yankee subject profile and be familiar with the campus publisher list and series instructions.
  • Visit the stacks in your areas regularly and learn the LC schedule, especially for your .
  • Use Roger to identify titles for deselection, replacement, or to purchase an added copy.
  • Discover the collection strengths and areas of distinction within your areas.
  • Become familiar with basic reference sources for your area by reviewing the reference collection and keeping it up to date.
  • Know about relevant CDL and UC-wide consortial collection efforts.
  • Know about relevant national and international consortial collection efforts such as CRL’s Global Resources Program, the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, and the Pacific Rim Digital Library Association (PRDLA).
  • Know the core journals in your field and identify new journals of potential interest
  • Evaluate subscriptions often based on changing research trends in your subject and department.
  • Monitor journals for overview of research, book reviews, and publisher advertisements.
  • Monitor standard library review sources such as Choice and Library Journal. Monitor sources such as New York Times Book Review and the TLS to remain aware of press coverage and reviews of new titles in your discipline.
  • Examine core bibliographies in the field.
  • Look at online reference guides at other universities and learn and adapt from them.
  • Know collection strengths of other UC libraries, as well as local university and public libraries.


Last Verified: June 29, 2009