As I really start to hunker down and prepare for the Rural Libraries Conference, I decided that I might have to wax on about my favorite topic of collection quality. I am presenting with my co-worker, Holly Hibner, about physical inventory and how it can help make a library collection more dynamic and useful to both the librarians and patrons who use it.
In a nutshell, physical inventory makes the assumption that every item in the collection, at some time, will be examined by a real person. In doing a physical exam of a collection item by item, you are also tracking the quality of everything collection related: shelving, cataloging, use/circulation activity. Of course this sounds daunting! Who can possibly physically examine every item in the collection? The short answer is you can’t. Like shelf reading or weeding or any other maintenance activity, you must integrate inventory into the regular activity of managing your library collection.
Managing a collection is more than just selection and weeding materials from time to time. That time between selection and weeding is when we need to be paying close attention. Is it meeting the needs and working within the scope of the library’s collection development policy? Is it being used? Are the librarians responsible for that collection making the best use of budget and resources?
As I continue to preach this gospel of physical inventory, let me put a few ideas out there based on my own experience. In examining about one stack of fiction (about 125 books or so), I came across a missing book, an item claims returned by a patron, two books that were still checked out to patrons. In addition, there were some damaged books that needed some attention and a handful that were shelved incorrectly. For those who count, that is about an error rate between 3% and 5% (depending on your inclusion of misshelved or damaged items). Think about the money and time spent overall in collection and before you know it, we are talking about REAL money!
Loleta Fyan Rural Libraries Conference 2009
Grand Traverse Resort