Small Press Activism: The CARLI Patron-Driven Acquisitions Program

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I recently made the discovery that many of the small press books of poetry and prose that I might seek out from Milner Library at Illinois State University are in a kind of limbo called the CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois) Patron Driven Acquisitions Program. The program essentially recognizes bibliographic records for book published in the humanities and social sciences that meet certain CARLI criteria and waits for library patrons to browse for and order these books, at which point they are purchased and rush processed through the library at UIUC, then delivered to patrons via typical iShare delivery methods. Read more on CARLI PDAP here.

For example, I was recently searching the library catalog for Octopus Books titles that had made Coldfront‘s Top 40 Poetry Books of 2012 feature that I couldn’t afford to purchase myself, such as Hider Roser by Ben Mirov and Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood. Lo and behold, the books showed up as part of the Patron Driven Acquisition Program and were purchased once I requested them.

Tonight, I performed a search for the following keywords “Request this item and CARLI will purchase it for I-Share” and came up with over 4,700 hits, including books like The Ravickians by Renee Gladman from Dorothy, A Publishing Project (see screen capture above) and Privado by Daniel Tiffany from Action Books, among many, many others (1,306, to be precise, when I limit the search by “Books” and “Language and Literature”).

The moral of the story is this: a lot of the books in CARLI’s PDAP limbo are small press titles, but I can get the CARLI to purchase them by requesting these titles, which takes literally seconds for any library patron with universal borrowing access. This bit of activism is secondary, no doubt, to purchasing the book yourself directly from the press’s website or having a copy purchased by multiple libraries in the state, but I think it’s a worthwhile bit of armchair activism to make sure small press titles are available in Illinois, especially in a bulk era like ours where too many excellent small press titles are being published to purchase (or even read) them all yourself.

Other links on patron-driven acquisition: “A Dialogue on Patron-Driven Acquisition” in The Scholarly Kitchen

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