Tag Archives: collection development

Making informed decisions

This, yesterday from Unshelved. Says it all about libraries really. Not just the things in our collection, but the information we provide about research impact, copyright, collection management or just about anything else. We are about providing the information so that our user community (client? patron? customer?) can decide what’s best for them, in their situation. Everytime.

Incoming links

Putting chance to work from CarbonNYC via flickr CC

I’m a little bit obsessed with the stats page here on WordPress – I like to see how many folk are reading my blog (not very many, trust me) and what they are reading when they get here, but I REALLY like to see where they’ve come from to get here. Sometimes the search strings that have been used to arrive at my blog seem a bit bizarre but they mostly make sense and relate more or less to something I’ve written. Twitter remains the main source of visitors to this blog – emphasising the power of self promotion I guess! (Facebook is the main source of visitors to my personal blog – again reflecting where I choose to broadcast).

However, sometimes readers arrive because someone else has linked to me and that always feels a bit different. I’ve written previously about feeling a bit nervous when I discovered that students were being sent to my blog from an LIS course and I’ve just discovered another similar link. In an online training exercise about weeding, Heather Braum has linked to a post I wrote about 18 months ago.

When I look back at that post it has considerable content – something I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing (particularly during #blogjune!) as I’ve become more familiar with my job and the professional issues I encounter. I’m not sure if it’s that I understand the issues better so feel less like I need to write about them or if it’s a familiarity (or even complacency) thing, that is, do I not even notice them anymore?  Sometimes it’s neither of those things and is just a lack of confidence in my ability to write about them in a way that will engage others. As the best cure for this is to just get on and write it anyway perhaps I’d best go away now and write a list of ‘things to blog about’!

Wait until I tell you about e-books

I love this. Like most Unshelved offerings it gets to the ‘good bits’ of an issue in 3 simple steps.  Do you have to work in libraries to appreciate Unshelved I wonder?

Pushed for time today – this, I am afraid is my post for the day. However, it signals an intention to get back to the subject of e-books. Hopefully during June.


Another day in the life

Today was the kind of day that would have been perfect for the library ‘day in the life’ project – it was a really interesting day at work and a great example of why I love working in a large academic library. Of course, I can just write about it anyway…

First up was an interview with the first of a small group of  international students as part of a research project gathering information about the students’ experiences following a research skills workshop we ran for them. I’m not part of the project at all, but the interviews are to be done by someone who had no involvement with delivering the workshop sessions, so that’s where I came in. We had to record audio of the interview – I discovered there’s no native voice recorder on the iPad (who knew?) so ended up setting up Evernote to record the interview. This actually worked out quite well as exporting the recording to the research team using the web client was simplicity. I haven’t actually used Evernote very much so this has been a good learning experience for me.

Next up was being a play tester for a third year game design class from the Media school. They are using the concept of plagiarism as the basis for designing a Serious Game so the library has been involved from the beginning – providing a design brief as the ‘client’ then acting as play testers for the students over the next few weeks. It was lots of fun and great to interact with students at such a detailed level. There are some seriously creative and clever young men and women out there!

After lunch I survived my 6 monthly performance review. We don’t actually call it a performance review at MPOW but whatever it’s called, it was an opportunity to sit down with my team leader to review my achievements to date and make a few suggestions for some professional development opportunities and goals for the next 6 months.

There was also everyday routine stuff of course. I replied to some emails, liaised with some faculty co-ordinators about the planning for the library’s involvement in a program for indigenous high school students that will be run in the mid year break, did some trouble shooting for an academic and had a discussion with a colleague who is working on a collection project that I’m co-ordinating.

During the afternoon I proof-read another colleague’s draft conference paper and provided some feedback, followed by a phone conversation with an ALIA staff member in my role as co-ordinator of the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee.  Somewhere during the day I also took the time to do some reading on the digital humanities and digital libraries as I have to present back to staff about the conference I attended a few weeks back and I’m still trying to get my head around the concepts I heard about, let alone explain it to others.

It was a busy, productive day – without being overwhelming. I had spaces between my meetings and that doesn’t always happen. The last few months have thrown up many days like this – a variety of interesting projects and things to do that don’t always seem to be related to my job description. If only I could move the university to a more convenient location…..

Doing a spot of gardening

Weeding. It’s a term all library folk know, even if it’s referred to in different organisations by another term. Such as culling. Or disposing. Or deselecting. Or ‘managing the collection’. You get the idea.

For as long as libraries have held books there has been the vexed question of what to do with them as they age, fall out of favour, become politically incorrect or just don’t fit the organisation’s purpose any longer.  Vexed because it seems a waste to get rid of ‘perfectly good books’ but also a waste to keep them on the shelves taking up valuable space year after year and not actually being used.  Of course, libraries now have to deal with this issue across many more media than just books – but it’s specifically the ‘traditional’ and tangible media such as books, DVDs, videos and other physical objects I’m talking about in this post.

The rationale behind the disposal or weeding section in a library’s collection development policy is to ensure the collection remains up to date, current and most importantly, meeting the needs of the library users.

In my prac placement at a NSW TAFE library, one of the projects I was given was to assess the collection in one particular subject area and make some decisions about what to keep and what really had to go and subsequently, recommend any acquisitions to then fill the gaps.  The subject area was childcare, the faculty had recently changed the courses so that some of the material in the library was no longer needed and much of it was potentially out of date.  Budget restraints meant that much of the AV material in this subject area was still on video (and the library provided facilities for students to watch these on site as most people don’t have access to VCR’s at home anymore).  The process of watching bits of these videos, studying the course outlines and recommended reading lists, liaising with faculty and building up a picture of what was contained in the collection was for me, a fascinating process. One 12 video series was packed off to the head of the faculty on campus to determine whether the material was still useable but most of it I was able to make decisions and recommendations on my own.

The issue of censorship and subjectivity comes into this a lot.  Just because the 80’s fashions in a particular video had me and the other staff in gales of laughter doesn’t mean the content isn’t sound.  However, I had to weigh up whether the material would have any credibility with our students, as they have grown up with digital media, good sound and sophisticated techniques.  All the solid content in the world is immaterial if the students dismiss it as old or boring at the opening credits. (One memorable video from the travel industry collection featured mustachioed men in short shorts and long socks playing deck tennis on a cruise liner and rendered the entire library staff helpless with laughter – it was all so very 1980’s!).

Sometimes making a decision about what stays and what goes feels perilously close to deciding who gets to read what, which starts to feel like censorship….  It’s all very well deciding that as a particular book was published in 1980 and has only been borrowed 3 times in the past 10 years that it’s probably no longer relevant to the collection but … what if… ?

This is the point at which it is good to remind oneself of the needs of the actual users of the library:

  • Perhaps that book relates to a subject that is no longer offered by the college? Easy – get rid of it!
  • Perhaps there’s 3 copies of later editions? Sure – toss it out!
  • Perhaps it’s aimed at a university level student and as such, isn’t really what TAFE (in this example) students are looking for? Well… maybe, but what about that one student who does want to go the extra mile – you know, the one who’s doing this course as a pathway to university… can I really deprive them of the chance to use this fabulous, albeit a bit old, resource?

And so the internal struggle starts up again….

There’s not really a straightforward answer. A good Collection Development Policy allows you to select and dispose somewhat dispassionately – after all, you are just following the rules. … I think. At MPOW, the library is on the move in the next 6 weeks or so.  It seems to me that ‘s a good time to do some weeding.

In closing, an excellent example of just what to DO with all those old videos that come off the shelves:

If I build it, will they come?

I am heartened by the fact that other staff at MPOW seem to think that student patronage of the library has increased tenfold since it has been staffed full time (about 6 weeks now).  I like to think that the fact that I am bombarding the students with messages, information, classes and emails is helping.  If I bang on about the Facebook page long enough surely some of them will take notice?

Collection development has been my focus this past week – taking a break from lesson planning and writing of objectives.  Collection development is tricky without a budget of course – but I am slowly building an argument for aforementioned budget and a workable, measurable collection development policy is an essential part of that argument.  There is a collection development policy in place, but I want to take the library in a slightly different direction so a rewrite has been called for.  It happens that collection development is something I have had some experience with so I am reasonably pleased with my efforts thus far.

I’m also joining the team of staff developing our online course management system, using Moodle as the platform – the idea (well, my idea anyway) being that the library and associated ideas of information management and resource discovery are included in the system as it is built from the ground up.

The library here is isolated from the computers – partly because of space restrictions but I think also because it just didn’t occur to anyone to put them together.  So, students can either look at books OR search google – they can’t do both easily.  Co-locating the library and the computer lab is a high priority for me, reinforced by some reading I did today on user behaviour in digital information seeking.  Essentially, this JSIC/OCLC study points out what we already know anecdotally – users see libraries as being about books – and my library is reinforcing that stereotype by keeping the books separate to the information source they prefer to use.

Re-inventing the wheel

Welcome to my ramblings as a first year graduate (at 43) librarian.  I wanted to use this blog to record my achievements, efforts and successes (and yes, I guess my failures too!) so that I would have some way of being able to measure how far I had (hopefully) come in my first year of full time work in nearly 18 years.  You are cordially invited along for the ride.

At MPOW (My Place of Work – a very useful acronym I first saw on KG Schneiders ‘Free Range Librarian’ blog) I am charged with the somewhat vague task of increasing student patronage of the library and assisting with improving their academic English and information literacy skills.   I also maintain the collection and manage circulations (after all, isn’t that what librarians do all day anyway?).  Oh, and I am the Records Manager at the organisation as well – just for good measure.

This is not too onerous a task for a librarian – after all, isn’t this what I spent the last 9 years of my life studying for? (the length of time it has taken me to get my degree is a discussion for another time).

Let me add that MPOW is a small higher education institute with a student population of about 200, all of whom  are international students, mostly from mainland China.  Like most librarians, I have little or no training or experience in teaching or educating – let alone to ESL students.  Do you start to get some idea of the challenges?

So, my days thus far have been filled with reading, reading and more reading.  I understand the basics of information literacy training, I’ve been training my own kids for years for one thing.  Bringing some of that experience, bits and pieces from other parts of my extensive background in administration and project management and dredging up memories of my library science subjects (finished long ago, it was the dreaded non-library major that took up most of the past 3 years) I managed to cobble together a passable effort and present a few topics to the students in my second full week on the job.

Well, so I thought anyway.  I realised after the 3rd session, when we had a practical application lesson in the computer lab that they hadn’t understood anything I’d said and as I had failed to tie the sessions to any measurable outcomes, I couldn’t work out where I had gone wrong with them – at what point had I lost them? Welcome to the world of teaching I guess….

We have another intake of students starting in mid year – this first lot will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that my first experiments in teaching have yielded much that will benefit those to come after them!  In the meantime, I have gone back to basics in an attempt to write a course from the ground up that will meet measurable outcomes and take account of the particular ESL aspects of teaching this stuff.

I have started with the obvious – the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework standards and a wonderful article from some library staff at the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland on the challenges of their pilot information literacy course with international students (Hurley, Hegarty & Bolger 2006).  Over the next few weeks I am immersing myself in the world of outcomes and lesson plans as I attempt to get this right.  I’ll be posting on this fairly reguarly – even if only to convince myself of my progress!


Hurley, T., Hegarty, N. & Bolger, J. 2006, Crossing a bridge: The challenges of developing and delivering a pilot information literacy course for international students. New Library World, vol.107, no.1226/1227 pp.302-320