Hoarding is not collection development

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Practical Librarian

This is the place that we put more serious discussions of librarianship.

Managing Periodicals

magazinesWhen I started my current job, I was assigned a collection to manage: periodicals.  Honestly, I was less than excited about that.  I was responsible for periodicals in my old job too, and was hoping to get away from it!  I have a lot of admiration for librarians and library staff who work with periodicals because they can be…difficult.

The good thing about this collection is that it is not at all stagnant.  I have to keep up with title changes, changes in publication frequency (from weekly to monthly, for example), and recently the regular dropping-off of magazines that are just plain ceasing publication.

The bad thing about this collection is that it is not at all stagnant.  What you know to be true today may or may not be true tomorrow.  You have to roll with the changes, expect them, and make frequent decisions.

We purchase the majority of our periodicals through EBSCO.  We have some direct orders when it is significantly cheaper or when a title is not available through EBSCO, but those get tricky to manage, so we like the added services of a vendor.  They warn us about a lot of the title and frequency changes I mentioned above, and it’s nice to have the bulk of our subscriptions on one annual renewal list.  Direct orders tend to expire all over the calendar, so we have to keep up with them on our own.  There are lots of magazine vendors out there, but my library has been pretty happy with EBSCO for years before I ever came on board. (This is not an ad or endorsement of any particular vendor. I’m simply stating my experience, which is with EBSCO.)

Yet, I am really surprised at the difference in price sometimes between the publisher’s direct subscription price and EBSCO’s.  For example, Billboard magazine is about half the price directly, a savings of nearly $150.  The New England Journal of Medicine is less than half of EBSCO’s cost when subscribed directly.

So, I go through our annual renewal list with a fine-toothed comb.  I look at circulation figures (which can be misleading in such a browsable collection, since many titles are used in-house but never checked out).  I also look at annual price against frequency (four issues per year at $100 per year is $25 per title, quite exorbitant!).  I ask my co-workers if certain titles enhance their other collections in some way, or if they might use them as part of their selection process.  I also balance religious and political magazines so that our collection is not one-sided in any way.

I think of this as my annual weeding of the magazine collection.  I’ve weeded subscriptions that are no longer pulling their weight.  Titles like the New England Journal of Medicine, Billboard, and North Korean Review are not well-used in my library, so they have been removed.  I also look at “best of” lists for new magazines and consider adding some new titles. Every year since 2009, which is when I started working here, I have cancelled more titles annually than I have added. That wasn’t necessarily my goal, but is indicative of the culture of this collection.  The saved money has been mostly re-allocated to Flipster, our e-magazine collection (another EBSCO product). We duplicate some titles between print and electronic, and others we have chosen to move exclusively to electronic format.

Periodicals is not an easy collection, but is challenging.  I only take this focused of a look at the magazine collection once a year when the big renewal list comes around.  The rest of the year is spent managing donations, adopted titles, and all those changes that crop up.  Luckily for me, my library has assigned a circulation clerk to this collection who handles all of the ordering, cancelling, and the technical services end of things (processing, cataloging, checking in issues, etc.)  She is wonderful, and I think we make a good team on this tricky collection!

-Holly

 

Modified from original post, which was published at http://hhibner.blogspot.com/2011/06/managing-periodicals.html on 6/6/2011

Image creative commons courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/3142216126

Dealing With the Staff Hoarder

book stackHolly and I are fond of telling people in our presentations that every library has at least one hoarder on staff. The punchline is, if you say no, then it probably is you.  Without fail, at every presentation we have given, there is someone who wants to talk about a fellow staff member that is hell bent on saving everything for the coming library apocalypse or for that elusive patron that “might need it.”

I am using the term hoarder loosely.  I am talking about the office pack rat or collector. If you think your library has a problem that needs some clinical intervention, this would be a job for management and a qualified mental health professional. Obviously, this is a delicate and serious issue and it should be treated as such. For the rest of us, here are some strategies that you can try.

Develop some standards and general guidelines

I work in a small library, so weeding often becomes brutal. No space means difficult choices. Remember, you might not be the only decision maker, so make sure there are some agreed-upon general rules. How many circs per year is enough to warrant keeping a particular book? What books are worth replacing? Even before a single book is weeded, have a discussion and reiterate your policies and procedures. Keep those standards fresh in everyone’s mind.

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The Problem of Oversized Books

oversizeMany of my posts start off with a strong opinion. Here is today’s: I HATE OVERSIZE BOOKS! Coffee table books belong on coffee tables. There, I’ve said it. Well…I don’t hate oversize books themselves. They’re gorgeous. What I hate is the problems they cause when casually interspersed in regular non-fiction collections in public libraries.

As I was weeding the 500s, I found a lot of oversize books: huge books with color photos of the animals of the African safari, enormous tomes of pictures of ocean life, ginormous volumes of rain forest photography, and a gigundus atlas of the constellations in the night sky. Really beautiful books. Really, really, really in the way. My library doesn’t have a separate section for oversize books, so they get piled on the bottom shelf closest to where they would have fit numerically. In trying to shift the books off of the top shelves of the section, I needed to use those bottom shelves. I couldn’t forfeit an entire shelf, or even half a shelf, for one large book that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Here’s the other thing: I checked the circulation statistics on most of them, and they don’t circulate very well. People may browse them in-house, but they aren’t lugging them home.

Not to mention the cost. Oversize books are expensive! Worth every penny, for what they are, but when given the choice between an oversize book and one that fits nicely on the shelf with the same information in it, I’ll take the small one 9 times out of 10.

There are a few exceptions where oversize books are OK in public libraries:

1. Art books. They don’t come any other way, so you don’t really have a choice. The whole point of art books is to see the art in all its glorious detail.

2. Atlases. Again, they just come in huge sizes. Atlas stands are a thing of beauty because you can keep atlases separate from regular-sized books.

3. Where there is a section devoted to oversized books where they don’t get in the way of all the other, regular-sized books. That comes with its own set of issues. Patrons have to know to go to that section or risk missing out on the glorious books it holds, for one thing.

Here are some ideas I have on what to do with these oversize books.

1. They aren’t circulating, so taking them away from their current location probably won’t hurt the statistics any. How about scattering them around the library on end tables, displays, and coffee tables? They’re more likely to be browsed that way, at least.

2. Loan them to nursing homes and waiting rooms around the community. The library where I used to work had an outreach program called “Read While You Wait.” They took donated paperbacks to waiting rooms and put stickers on them with the library name. People could start reading them while waiting, and then just take the book home to finish. If they wanted to return the book to the library – great. If not, they could just keep it. The library replenished the pile every now and then. Since oversize books are not likely to be carried home (too big!!), they would make great “Read While You Wait” books. Nursing home residents, senior center members, coffee shop loiterers – anywhere people hang out – are good places for an outreach collection of oversize books.

3. If you had space, you could put those tall, skinny carts at the ends of some of the non-fiction rows and fill the carts with oversize books. This is sort of an impromptu, mobile solution to a separate oversize section. It would get the oversize books out of the regular non-fiction section (where they stick out into the aisles, tripping people) and make them more noticeable by being at the forefront of several rows.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Oversize books are beautiful, but they just don’t work well when interfiled with regular-sized books. I avoid buying them unless they are so special, so irreplaceable, and so unique that we simply must have them. In other words, rarely.

-Holly

 

Originally published at http://hhibner.blogspot.com/2011/08/oversized-books.html on 8/10/2011.

Image creative commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/14707502815