For collection development we were tasked with reviewing a selection tool used by the type of library we aspire to work in. I wrote on Choice, a publication of ACRL.
The selection tool Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries is published as a service of the Association of College and Research Libraries and has become the preferred selection tool for many academic libraries, especially undergraduate libraries. While I was unable to determine whether or not the reviewers are compensated, Choice states on their website that reviews are written by selected experts in the subject; the reviews are given additional authority by the listing of the reviewers institutional affiliation along with their name at the end of each review. Since Choice is a selection tool for academic materials and is geared towards academic librarians it makes sense that subject experts author reviews, although making the information about whether or not reviewers are compensated would be a good addition for the authority of the reviews and transparency of the publication.
Choice makes efforts to give selectors lots of options when using its reviews; there are both in-depth reviews and a brief ‘summing up’ line where reviewers rank items from not recommended (zero stars) to essential (four starts) along with the appropriate audience for the item, from ‘most levels/libraries’ to ‘graduate and research collections’, with some audience recommendations falling off the academic scale, such as ‘professional collections’. Another element that allows for quick selection is the LC call number range listed at the top of each review, as well as the publisher’s list price for the item. This information will help a selector make quick decisions based on budget issues or collection holes.
Choice also gives selectors the options to receive the reviews published on individual cards, a feature potentially helpful to the busy selector who wants to be able to select materials on-the-go, as well as the option to view reviews electronically through Choice Reviews Online. With the added features of search and linking, using Choice Reviews Online is another way that selectors can streamline their process. All of the variety in both access methods and review depth options makes Choice a strong source for selectors.
The organization of each Choice issue is an added strength of the resource. The vast majority of each issue is reviews, with brief front matter including a letter from the editor, a bibliographic essay, and a feature of forthcoming titles in a given subject area, as well as occasional special features. The reviews in each issue are organized by the same group of headings, each with their own static group of sub-headings. Each issue concludes with a preview of the next month’s bibliographic essay and forthcoming titles topic, corrections, and indices of advertisers (of which there are very few), authors (of works reviewed, not the authors of the reviews), title, and an index to aid interdisciplinary searching. This simple and constant lay out is another strength of the resource, giving selectors the ability to flip directly to a known section while limiting unnecessary materials.
The materials reviewed in Choice seem decently current, featuring reviews from items published in 2011 and 2012 from the summer 2012 issues I reviewed. The reviews are succinct but long enough to give selectors an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of an item and do not balk when there is criticism to be made. I only found one review of an item that rendered it ‘not recommended’, but some review services will not publish negative reviews at all. While Choice reviews predominantly print sources it does review electronic resources as well, a trend that I am sure will continue to grow as e-publishing becomes more prevalent in academia. On a whole, Choice is an excellent and accessible selection tool for academic libraries of all levels.
About Choice Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/acrl/choice/about
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. June, July, and August 2012 issues.
Newly Revised & Expanded: Choice Reviews Online. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/acrl/choice/cro
Reviews on Cards. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/acrl/choice/roc
Selection Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/acrl/choice/selectioncriteria