Monday, August 15, 2005

Article from Collection Building on Collection Evaluation

This article is meant to be a guide for librarians, but I would also recommend it for library school classes on collection development and evaluation. I bet that some of those classes have it on their reading lists already or may be adding it soon. I will provide a summary of some ideas and add some observations here and there. Please see the end of the post for the specific citation.

The article addresses the following question:

"How do librarians ensure, however, that they are building useful collections that will provide a good return on their financial investments? By evaluating their current collections, librarians may better manage future collection development" (92).
First, the article, written by Jim Agee, argues for the importance of collection evaluation. It states that a subject librarian who is ignorant of his/her collections is undermining future collection development. Thus, the author argues, "finding time to review the collection is difficult but often necessary" (93). In my short experience as a professional librarian, I can testify that finding the time to evaluate your collection can be challenging given other duties librarians have. I rush to note that I have not been resting on the proverbial laurels; when it comes to collection management, I have been active adding to the collection and deselecting. Also, I have engaged with some of the faculty to learn about their needs and the needs of their students. I have done this along with my other public services duties. Now, if it feels like I am justifying myself a bit, well, maybe I am. I want to show that evaluation can be done, even if it is done in a gradual way, in stages. Overall, I think it requires a good balancing act and some commitment. To new librarians out there I say to figure out early how to manage your time and do a little at a time. I quickly learned that for some things, you can always live to fight another day. Librarianship in some way is like guerrilla warfare. (hmm, I wonder if the nickname "Guerrilla Librarian" is taken? Maybe my next blog? It does sound cool in Spanish too: "Bibliotecario Guerrillero." I may have to make a claim.)

Back to the article, the author observes that evaluation is necessary given the increase in access and use of electronic resources. Being aware of current holdings means being that you are better informed when making decisions about new electronic resources. Librarians need to keep in mind that because electronic information is expensive that this translates into less funding for print resources.

The article then discusses approaches to conducting a collection evaluation. The first approach is a user-centered evaluation. When doing this, the librarian is looking at library user data. Methods vary from using bibliographies from student research papers to surveys and questionnaires. In my little realm, I have been interested and curious in doing some kind of citation analysis from student research papers to see how our collections are doing. My personal interest comes more from an instruction point of view: I want to see what resources students that come in for library instruction are using. I think this would help me in assessing the instructional program. However, this information can also help me evaluate the collection. This is a good example of doing more than one thing at a time (the business people likely use the buzzword "multi-tasking"). At the moment, a formal version of this idea "sits" on my cue of long term things to do. It is something I want to work on down the road.

The second approach presented in the article is a physical assessment of the collection. This is a collection-centered approach, and it is a contrast to the first approach. This approach is labor intensive because the librarian has to go into the collection, look at the materials, and determine if an item should remain in the collection or not. A secondary result of this approach is the option to do deselection as needed a.k.a. as weeding.

The third approach is assessment of specific subject support. This is what most academic librarians, myself included do. However, other librarians do it as well. A wide variety of methods can be used here from citation analysis for journal holdings to looking at ILL requests. While the article tries to make this a separate category, as I understand it, the previous two approaches can come into this third option as well. Mr. Agee writes, "by recognizing the variety of evaluative approaches and adapting them to local needs and standards, librarians have powerful and effective techniques to produce specific and very meaningful assessment results" (94). Again, here is the idea that librarians have to be people ready to adapt. One small example from my experience: as Arts and Humanities Librarian at my library, Music is one of my areas. My university offers classes in Music Appreciation and History; it is a small program within Humanities. However, within that, the offerings in Jazz are very strong. As a result, Jazz is one of the areas I pay close attention to in making my selections and managing the collections in Music.

The article is written in simple and plain language. It is not a technical article, and I get the feeling that many library veterans know this stuff by heart. However, for younger librarians and for library students, this is a short informative piece with practical information. The article includes a good list of references as well for further reading.


Agee, Jim. "Collection Evaluation: a Foundation for Collection Development." Collection Building 24.3 (2005): 92-95.

It is avaible electronically through Emerald for libraries that may have access to that service.

1 comment:

Amarius said...

Hello: After several years as both an academic and public librarian, I have run into the term (s) "guerilla" or "gorilla" collection development. Are you familiar this approach to collection development?
The intent is to develop a lean and mean collection by discarding all old, non circulated, or seldom circulated books. The criteia is 1. Age 2. circ stats 3. condition of the books. Refernce and subject specialists do not review the works consigned to the dumster.
Online sources are readily availble so there is no need to hold on to works such as the "Truman Memoirs" in a College library.
Any one else experiencing this approach to dumpster collection evaluation?