Inspiration from Making a Collection Count

Making a Collection Count book cover imageMaking a Collection Count : a holistic approach to library collection management by Holly Hibner & Mary Kelly (2010) is one of the clearest & most concise books written on collection management that I have read since I became a librarian.

This book is great way to get a handle on how a collection takes shape, what issues may impact on collection development, through to practical explanations of creating policies & measuring performance. It discusses the lifecycle of a collection, outlines collection organisation, how to streamline staff workflows and how to maximise vendor liaison. While it does lean more to discussion of physical collections, most of the ideas can be applied across to digital collections.

My aha moment : Chapter 8 : Everything is connected, in which the authors illustrate “how staff impact collections in a holistic library” (p.128).

This chapter clearly explains the inter-dependent relationship that all staff (Selectors, Cataloguers, Information Librarians, Library Assistants, Shelvers) have with each other & with their collections. It stresses the importance of sharing knowledge about collections to build greater understanding of how what you do, no matter what your current role, impacts on the information lifecycle. For example, “Selection has perhaps the biggest impact on collection quality because the succes or failure of a library to satisfy its users depends on the materials it makes available” (p. 129).

I like the analogy of hopitality that the authors refer to. If you work in a commercial kitchen, you have to understand what your role is in the “whole kitchen” to ensure that the service does not become bottlenecked. Kitchen staff need to understand what others around them do, and how their role relates to other kitchen work stations.

I’d recommend this to : a wide-range of Librarians, from LIS students to new staff in Collections teams, as well as using it as discussion book for more experienced Collections staff, to ensure what they think they do actually matches what they are trying to achieve with collections.

What if … this book served as a “Staff Book Club” discussion? Everyone in the team reads it, then a facilitator could spark discussion in a Collections team to refine & reframe Collection statements to better reflect #what & #how they do/don’t collect, and #why.

What if … your Collections team shared their knowledge with all colleagues using the Collection & Information lifecycles models as a basis for discussion? From answering questions at branch team meetings, to encouraging job shadowing, and by running training sessions.

Some interesting conversations along the way …

CycleThis month has seen several interesting, sort of related, conversations happening on Twitter.

The concept of a continuum of customers – from public to school to tertiary to special libraries. We often focus only on our customer base – those people who are currently using our systems & resources – instead of seeing a much bigger picture, where the customer base we currently have is actually part of a much bigger library customer base. And our interactions with them form only a small part of their overall experience with libraries.

Often people start out using libraries as kids (public), then they move into education (school) and maybe onto post-secondary education (tertiary), and then sometimes they come back as adult users of the (public) library, and depending on their workplaces, they may encounter a workplace library (special).

How and when they use the library in their life is somewhat irrelevant, because the point is that for them, each of these types of libraries is part of their continuum of library interactions. And how we as librarians represent the industry and profession impacts of their potential future use of libraries.

So instead of competing against other parts of the library & information industry for customers, why aren’t we looking for ways to collaborate? We share the same customers/members/users/patrons, so why aren’t we approaching this collaboratively? Instead of thinking as these people as distinct entities, they are one and the same.

The other notion which came up was a lifetime library card. The point is that you only get one card. Ever. You treat it as valuable, important, useful and just as critical to your adult existence as a bank card or a driver’s license or bus card.

You could make it so you can choose one design as a kid, and you get two free replacements in your lifetime, so when you decide as a teenager that you want a slightly less childlike design, then you can use one of your free upgrades. And then as an adult, you get to choose again. Or, like some banks have done, you can actually make up your own design. Yes it would cost a small amount to do so, but you can choose to personalise your card.

Some folks out there in the Twitterverse are thinking along similar lines to me, so it was nice to have some back & forth about possible applications & implications of these kinds of ideas.