Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Measures & factors of collection evaluation


As I have been developing a model of collection evaluation – that is, examining the features of specific subsets of our libraries’ collections, usually based on subjects – I have been collecting a mental list of aspects on which to assess.  Some of these are obvious and quite traditional: number of titles & volumes (by format and by subject), uses (circulation, e-resource use) and expenditures.  There are also measures of need – number of potential and actual patrons, majors & degree programs, etc.  And then there are gaps in need – ILL requests by program members, lower-than-expected use, etc.

However, it can be quite enlightening to step back and consider what others think are important.  This article is by a librarian relatively new to her field, Christina Wray from Indiana University-Bloomington, and her approach to learning collection development “on the job”.  Three of the “four main challenges” to here job involved “understanding the characteristics of…the current users,…the current collection, and…identifying new trends in the subject area.”  I thought it would be useful to use a practitioner’s approach to check against my list of measures.

Users

  • The department’s “fit” in the “institutional heirarchy”.
    • Currently provide: Description of the department and its hierarchy, relative size of faculty, students and graduates
    • Would be useful: Org chart
  • Degrees and certificates awarded.
    • Currently provide: List of degree programs, trends in degrees awarded, online programs
    • Would be useful: ? (what do you all think?)
  • Online programs
    • Currently provide: List of online programs, relative size of online participation
    • Would be useful: size of truly distant students (versus local students who take online courses)
  • Size of faculty and students
    • Currently provide: Absolute size of faculty, students and graduates, trends in enrollment.
    • Would be useful: ?
  • “Crossover” with other departments
    • Currently provide:  Nothing (hmmmm)
    • Would be useful: Anything…I like this idea because of the emphasis on interdisciplinarity in our newest collection development model.
  • Demographics of department
    • Currently provide: Distribution of faculty by level.
    • Would be useful: Not sure…age? Length of time at university?  Is race or ethnicity important for assessing collection need?  Maybe language…
  • Number of classes
    • Currently provide: Nothing
    • Would be useful: Relative number of classes; ratio of classes taught by differing levels of faculty?
  • Research interests & specialization
    • Currently provide:  List of key topics; a word cloud of research interests
    • Would be useful: Not sure…

While discussing users, Wray mentions defining the collection, notably by call number range.  While this seems a bit oddly placed in the article, her idea is at the heart of the collection evaluation model I’ve been developing.  Our subject-based collections all have fairly specific call number ranges assigned, but the collections are neither exhaustive nor, more importantly, mutually-exclusive.  These “profiles” are compared with the courses offered and the faculty research interests to ensure proper coverage.

Which leads to characteristics of the collection:

  • Defining “subcategories” of the collection
    • Currently provide: List of subjects by call number range
    • Would be useful: visualizations of this “map”
  • Inventory of books & journals
    • Currently provide: Well, given that our profiles are purposefully broad and our library is moderately-sized, such an inventory for most collections would be too large to be worthwhile.
    • Would be useful: Complete list of subject ranges linked to the catalog; journal subjects mapped to the profile; other e-resources mapped to the profile.
  • Use (absolute & relative) of collections
    • Currently provide: Circulation by call number range.
    • Would be useful: database & e-journal usage.
  • Historical coverage of books & journals
    • Currently provide: Distribution of book holdings by publication date.
    • Would be useful: Distribution of journal holdings by coverage dates.

What I found intriguing in Wray’s article was her suggestions on applying the data to answer some fundamental questions regarding the strengths & weaknesses of the collection based largely on the relative distributions of holdings and usage.  She also offers ways to “dig deeper”, including:

  • Comparing the holdings & usage with the faculty research interests & course offerings.
  • Understanding faculty satisfaction and perception of the collection.
  • Applying the data to modifying the collection.
  • Evaluating databases & other resources.

Finally, Wray advocates reviewing usage data once or twice annually.  We are currently developing a “collections dashboard” to provide some basic, actionable metrics, and usage data of specific resources could be one such metric.

While (or perhaps, because) this article is aimed at the subject-specialist librarian new to a field, it provides me, the Collection Assessment Librarian, the issues and factors of concern to the liaisons.

 

(2016). Learning Collection Development and Management on the Job. Collection Management: Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 107-114. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2016.1164646

Source: Learning Collection Development and Management on the Job – Collection Management – Volume 41, Issue 2

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2016 by in Academic Libraries, Assessment, Collections, LIS Profession.
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