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Meet the MLA ’24 Presenters of Getting Started with Collection Development: An Interactive Workshop on Selecting Resources for Your Library Community

Expecting the Unexpected: Collection Development and Resource Sharing in a Time of Rapid Change Symposium

In the weeks leading up to MLA ’24 in Portland, we’ll profile the experts leading each of the symposium sessions by sharing their answers to questions about themselves and their session. We begin the series with the Getting Started with Collection Development: An Interactive Workshop on Selecting Resources for Your Library Community presenters: Basia Delawska-Elliot (BD) and Karen H. Gau (KG).

Join them for their session on Tuesday, May 21, 9:00-10:15 a.m., pacific time. To learn about all the Symposium sessions and their presenters, please see the Symposium Session Schedule.

What are you most looking forward to seeing/eating/experiencing in Portland?

BD:  I live in Portland. Some of my favorite things to do here are taking in the gorgeous parks and nature spaces, such as the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland International Rose Test Garden, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and our wilderness in the city, Forest Park. The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden has been nominated this year for the Best Botanical Garden in the US. 

The Portland food scene is outstanding! We have many award-winning restaurants and chefs, a great food cart scene, and something for everyone. The best thing about the Portland food scene is that every neighborhood has wonderful places to visit. Here is a recent article on eateries near the Convention Center: Where to Eat and Drink Near the Moda Center and the Oregon Convention Center (

KG: I've never been to Portland and I'm super excited to check out the food cart pods! I'd also like to stop at Nong’s Khao Man Gai to try their chicken and rice and at Akadi to try their stews. I'd love recommendations from others as well.

What’s a fun or surprising fact about getting started with collection development when you don’t have formal training?

BD How much of it is about getting to know your audience.

KG: This is not really a fun or surprising fact per se, but when I was just getting started with collection development, my manager shared a perspective I found really helpful. She pointed out that it wasn't the end of the world if I buy a resource that doesn't end up getting used. I can choose not to purchase the next edition of an ebook or cancel a database if its usage stats are low. And if I miss getting something that we should really have, someone will let me know! We can only do our best. 

How did you get started in librarianship?

BD: I’m a semi-accidental librarian. My first job was as a library assistant at a large academic institution. I caught the bug and continued in libraries as a library technician for many years. Eventually, I was able to get my library degree, and I became a librarian.

KG: While getting my B.S. in Chemistry, I realized that I didn't want to pursue a graduate degree in Chemistry as I'd planned. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, Holly Thompson, and she suggested that I consider academic librarianship, since that would allow me to use my chemistry background but do something a bit different. I've been in librarianship ever since.

What’s the main thing you want participants to take away from your session?

BD: Collection development is a holistic pursuit. It encompasses outreach, collaborations, learning about new domains, analytics, financial savvy, negotiation skills, and flexibility.

KG: You're not in it alone! Connect with other librarians who have collections responsibilities while you're here at MLA ’24, and take advantage of MLA's Collection Development Caucus email list. Seven years into collections, I'm still learning so much from my colleagues.

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