Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Size of colleges & libraries, circa 1930


My postings to this blog have been much more sporadic over the last few weeks, largely because I have been working on a comprehensive literature review on the subject of…(surprise) Collection Assessment.  I have a penchant for learning about a subject chronologically – that is, starting with the earliest knowledge and learning as others learned over time.  I like seeing how ideas initiated, developed and evolved.  So, I am gathering some relatively old articles and books to learn how collections were “evaluated” or judged from the time of the modern library (essentially, the start of the Chicago School and ALA in the late 1800’s).  One such work crosses over from my earlier attempt of this method on the evolution of standards – IAn estimate of standards for a college library by Blanche P. McCrum in 1933.  The first standard mentioned, of course, is size of collection.  The author used data from mostly private colleges in an attempt to illustrate that…

In general, if the small college has a large library, it probably give a very high grade of education and it generally has been rich in endowment and bequests.  A small book collection used by a relatviely large student body usually indicates poverty in the institution or indifference to and neglect of the library…Of course each library presents an individual case which would have to be considered separately before a sound opinion concerning the adequacy of its book collection could be reached.  No such estimate is attempted here.  However, the figures are presented in the hope that they may challenge interest and inspire investigation.

Challenged, I was…and I took this as an opportunity to work on my Tableau skills, as well.  Tableau is the latest in “data visualization” systems that is making the rounds with librarians, me included.  I’ve made a few attempts using Tableau Public – the free version of this moderately-priced software.  One of the interesting features of Tableau is the ability to organize your graphs and tables into a slide-show-like “story”.  So, taking the data provided in this book, I am telling its story.

Now, this is only a story of association between 2 variables: number of students and number of volumes.  It is limited in time (1930’s) and selection (she does not indicate why only these institutions were included).  Notice that she references quality of education, but that is not a variable included here.  Perhaps it was, though, with her selection of institutions – she presuming that these specific (and private) institutions provided high-quality education.  But then, it would not be “variable” – they are all presumed to be high-quality.

So, leaving quality aside, is there an association between size of student body and size of library?  You’ll have to judge that for yourself – no spoilers in this post.

Reference

McCrum, B. P. (1933). An estimate of standards for a college library. Lexington, VA: Washington and Lee University.

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This entry was posted on October 24, 2015 by in Academic Libraries, Assessment, Collections, History, LIS Data, Statistical Analysis.
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