ATG Interviews: Marla Chesler, U.S. Department of State Ralph J. Bunche Library

ATG: Tell us about your job at the Ralph J. Bunche Library at the U.S. Department of State.

MWC: I started in July 2010. As the Head of Acquisitions, I work with the team responsible not only for Bunche Library materials but for all purchases of books, journals, databases, newspapers and other information resources for the entire U.S. Department of State. Bunche Library purchases are less than a third of our total expenditures. By the way, The Ralph J. Bunche Library is the oldest Federal Government library. It was founded by Thomas Jefferson during his term as the first Secretary of State, in 1789. It was renamed on May 5, 1997 when it was dedicated to Ralph J. Bunche.

ATG: How many people work in your department?

MWC: Soon there will be five of us; me, three Library Technicians, and a Serials/Acquisitions Librarian who will join us at the end of May — we can’t wait for him to get started!

ATG: What is your materials budget? Are you buying books and journals?

MWC: The Bunche Library budget is about $750,000 but my department purchased nearly $3 million worth of materials last year. We’re buying books, journals, and lots of newspapers – both print and online.

ATG: Are you buying eBooks? If so in packages or individually?

MWC: Yes, we buy ebooks both individually and in packages. We have offices all over the world, and ebooks are a better way to serve their needs. I’m actually surprised how often I can’t find an electronic version of a title we want to order.

ATG: What’s the future of collection development?

MWC: Since our mission is to provide for the information needs of the entire U.S. Department of State, I think we’ll move more and more to patron driven acquisitions. It will be less about building a collection and more about getting our staff what they need when they need it — just in time instead of just in case.

See also: Marla’s ATG Star of the Week Profile

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