Too much “collections” is just as poor as too little “collections”. Too much on the physical or digital shelf is overwhelming for customers, and for staff. How can we find the “good” stuff to consume if it is squashed amidst the “should have got rid of it years ago” stuff? Too little on the physical or digital shelf is underwhelming for customers, and for staff. And it is highly likely that your customers will go elsewhere to meet their information needs if faced with either of these situations. Find the “just right” balance for your community.
Collections in libraries is both a science and an art. Science = using the numbers to measure & determine just about anything (how many books, how many shelves, what floor space, what server space). Art = adapting your collections because you are limited to what is actually available/published to add to your collection. Perhaps if the content doesn’t exist, you need to create it, or encourage your customers to create?
Aim for a balanced & healthy collection, a “just enough” rather than “just in case” collection. We have a responsibility to act as faciliators of knowledge creation (Atlas of New Librarianship) and part of that is providing access to information, not drowning the customer in ALL of the information!
Filter. Curate. Facilitate.
Unless your collection management policy states unequivocally that your library MUST KEEP EVERYTHING FOREVER (and if that is the case, you have much bigger issues to face), then collections will ebb & flow as customers needs change, as publishing trends change, as community needs change. Collections should be dynamic & adapting & changing, almost like a living organism. Collections should certainly not be static. Collections should not exist in isolation.
- Determine the optimum size of your digital collection for your server capacity.
- Determine how much of your physical collection needs to be out at any given time so that your shelves don’t burst at the seams.
And if the science of collection size & content doesn’t match the art of your collection size & content, then you’ve got some work to do. But, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Focus. What do you need to achieve? Simple ideas. Simple solutions. Ask what would *actually* happen you changed something. What’s the best/worst case scenario?
- Need to increase the number of items borrowed by each customer per visit?
- improve Reader’s Advisory (make it easier to find interesting things)
- improve self-issue process (make it easier to borrow interesting things)
- eliminate holds charges (make it easier to borrow more of what the customer wants)
- Want to increase the number of borrowers?
- promote externally (your future borrowers aren’t in your library to see your lovely JOIN UP posters)
- encourage family members to have own cards (more cards = more books)
- each one, bring one (reward the person with the most new signups as a result of their encouragement)
- partner with local schools to join all their students up as members
- Need to decrease your processing budget?
- identify a similar size library system, and ask what products/processes they use
- explore what your vendors can do for you (determine the savings from shelf ready materials)
- simplify your spine labels (do you really need pink dots or dragon stickers as well as spine labels?)
- eliminate fiction spine labels (author names are usually printed on the spine)
- Want to decrease your current collection size?
- sell or giveaway your excess stock (make some money)
- weed (if it was published over 10 years ago, weed it)
- weed (if you have a newer edition, weed it)
- make art with your excess stock (tie in with annual Art in the Community exhibition)
- weed (if the information has been superceded, weed it)
- weed (if the format is dead, weed it)
The same tenet for good health applies to libraries. Good input = good output. Just as our dietary needs change throughout our lives, and so do the needs of our customers & collections. We do everyone a disservice by reinforcing a bad diet with bad information.
Honest. Heroic. Hedonistic. Happy. Humourous. Holistic.