Libraries as Doppelgängers: A Meditation on Collection Development

Southeastern Law Librarian, Fall/Winter 2009

4 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2009 Last revised: 5 Sep 2014

Date Written: November 1, 2009


Debates about the balance between electronic and paper resouces typically employ points on economics or patron access. That line of argument can be shown to depend upon an understanding of libraries as reducible to their contents. After showing that this premise must be discarded as logically inconsistent with the broader assertions made in favor of digital materials, the question is posed as to what qualities of libraries are not reducible to the materials they contain. The attractiveness of digital content, even if conclusive from a merely economic perspective, may still founder on the intrinsic properties of library qua "library." One such is the suggestion by Alberto Manguel that the library functions as a "doppelgänger" of the person or institution that it serves. From that perspective the collection within the library should reflect the institution's self-understanding of its role within the community's local information economy. While one library that will be perfectly happy to depend upon a vendor or other libraries for important resources, another will view itself as being the kind of library that should own and control those same materisls.

Keywords: doppelgänger, digital resources, collection development

Suggested Citation

Donovan, James M., Libraries as Doppelgängers: A Meditation on Collection Development (November 1, 2009). Southeastern Law Librarian, Fall/Winter 2009. Available at SSRN:

James M. Donovan (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky ( email )

J. David Rosenberg College of Law Library
620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

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