Up to Your Um...Armpits in Alligators: Considerations for Creating a Collection Development Plan


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This program is NOT about developing a Collection Development Plan -- it IS about developing the plan that will put that policy into action. Presented at GaCOMO12 by Carter Nipper.

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  • You already have a Collection Development Policy. Don’t you? If not, you need to get one sooner rather than later. What I want to talk about today is developing the plan that will put that policy into action.
  • Isn’t he cute? Don’t you just want to…well, maybe not.
  • “Why” is not always a good question to ask. In this case, though, the answer to this question is essential to your eventual success. To get to the answer, you must first ask a few more questions.What got you to this point? Do you have personal reasons for wanting to take this on? If so, what were you thinking? Just kidding. If you think that your library is stuck in a collection development rut, you might want to show some initiative by proposing this project. On the other hand, if this is an assigned task, you can earn a lot of points by doing well.What do you hope to accomplish? Where are you going with this. Do you (or your boss(es)) hope to get some guidance on budgeting for collection development? Certainly, this can be an excellent place to get guidance for acquisitions.
  • You know “what” – a Collection Development Plan. Now you know “why”. You can move along to “who”.Who is going to do this? You by yourself? Where will you find the time? A team? Who will be in charge? You? If you propose this project, be prepared to be the boss. If you are assigned to do this, you are already the boss.This will test your people and project management skills. People can sometimes be a problem. Time is always a problem. Money is also always a problem. How good are you at problem-solving?Make sure everyone involved, from your boss on down, buys into this. Without buy-in, you will wind up spending a lot of time, and possibly money, to no avail. Very little is worse than conducting a project like this and having it be ignored. Be prepared to break out your silver tongue and sell, sell, sell!
  • What are you doing? You might wind up asking yourself this question in a slightly different tone of voice at some point.Keeping in mind the “why”, define your task. What EXACTLY are you going to produce at the end of this project? How detailed are you prepared to get? I drilled down to course level. For those of you in larger academic libraries, that is probably not feasible. Or even possible, in some cases. For public or school libraries, you might want to stay at a more general subject level. Whatever you decide on, stick to it. Don’t get side-tracked or drawn into the quicksand of going into a little bit more detail.How far into the future will you project your collection development goals? As I discovered, 5 years is really too far. Too much changes too quickly. 3 years is much more realistic. At all costs, be sure you get clear on the “what”. This is your touchstone, your original intention. You can always come back to this when you get lost.Define your limits. It is far too easy to stretch yourself too thin. If you tend towards obsession, like me, it is easy to get bogged down in details, lose sight of your main objective, your “original intention”, and let yourself be overwhelmed.What compromises are you willing to make? We would all certainly love to have the perfect plan in place at the end of the road. It ain’tgonna happen. In order to get through this, you will have to make some hard choices. You may have to let go of some cherished dreams. Don’t sweat over it. You can fine-tune later.
  • Watch your step! And your back! The beasts are lurking.Who is going to pay for all this? Even if it does not cost any money, time will be a major factor. Everyone involved in this process will need to budget time for it. Where will that come from? Where will any money that is needed come from? What if you underestimate? Far too easy to do. This is where the buy-in becomes critical. You have to have people around you that can and will work with you on these points. It would be a shame to get almost done and have to quit because of a lack of resources.Speaking of time…Set a firm timeline and stick to it. And be prepared to adjust it. This sounds like a contradiction, but you will just have to live with that. Things change. Just don’t let them change too much, or you will wind up in a sinking boat.Stay on track. Let me repeat that: stay on track. Keep your original intention uppermost in your mind at all times. If you get lost, you might wind up with a lot of mud on your face. And gator bites on your…well, you know.
  • Watch your step!
  • You know how to do research. You’re a Librarian!Read as much as you can on the subject. Books, journal articles, pick someone’s brain, if you know someone who has been through this. Gather as much information as you can ahead of time. This is also part of getting clear. The more you know, the better off you will be when the gators gather (and they will, believe you me!).Part of your research will be to look around and gather some of the plans that are published on the Web. Reviewing these will give you ideas on how you want to proceed from here. Analyze them and pick out the parts that you think will work for you. Think carefully about that. You can save a lot of time and effort by letting your predecessors do some of the work for you.Don’t get hung up on this step. It is all too easy to continue gathering information ad infinitum. At some point, you have to consider yourself ready and get started.
  • If you don’t know where you are, you can’t tell where you want to be. You have to know what you have before you can make recommendations about how to develop your collections.There are two ways to proceed with this step: quantitative analysis and qualitative. Quantitative analysis lets you look at numbers. Maybe your mind works better that way. Among the many methods of quantitative analysis are:Counting volumes by subject – see what’s on the shelf in each area.Analyzing the age of the collection – this works hand-in-hand with the previous method. It’s not just how many volumes you have, but really how relevant they are at the same time.What is being used – you can tell this by looking at your circulation and reference questions.Citation analysis – what are the most important volumes in a particular field?None of these methods by itself will give you a complete picture of your collection. Combine them to suit your needs.
  • Then there are qualitative methods of collection assessment. These are more free-form, for the most part, more subjective. They let you develop a feel for your collection rather than just relying on bare numbers.User surveys let you in on what your users want.Focus groups do the same thing in a much more, well, focused way.You can also check lists of recommended titles to see which of them you have and which you don’t.I used collection mapping, or the conspectus method. This involves assigning a value to each collection based on the needs of your particular user groups.You can also use a commercial product to do the analysis for you and make your judgments based on that.Finally, you will need to synthesize your own method to suit your particular needs. Use a combination of the methods mentioned above. Or even invent your own. There is no right answer, here. Whatever suits your needs best is right.
  • Once you know what you have, you have to determine what you need. This will bring you to the very heart of a long-standing argument among librarians around the world: give ‘em what they want or give ‘em what they need.To find out what your users want, you can go back to your circulation and reference question analyses. Find out what people are asking for and what they are using.To find out what your users need, you can use curriculum analysis (for academic libraries, this was very important to me). The recommended collection lists that you may have consulted before will be a great help here, as well. Your professional intuition will also come into play, here.If you build it, will they come? By now, you will have a feel for what you have and what you need. Are you ready to take a flyer and build up a part of your collection that is underused in hopes that it will get more use if it is more current and relevant? Only you can make this choice. It is based partly on the analyses you just did and mostly on gut instinct. Personally, I am often amazed at the results when I have tried this.The process of analyzing your needs is partly based on feelings. You just cannot escape that. As a professional Librarian, you have to learn to trust your feelings. They can lead you into new and more productive areas.
  • Finally, a dry place to stand!
  • The End Is Near! Maybe not the end of the world as we know it. On second thought, it is 2012. What you need to concentrate on right this minute, though, is the end of this project.Don’t burn out now. You have come too far and done too much work to just quit now that the end is in sight. If you need to take a little time to regroup, that’s fine. Just don’t let this thing languish. Get rested and come right back to it. You’ve done the hardest part.At this point you have a ton of raw data. What does it all mean? You now know where you are and where you want to be. Your job now is to figure out how to get there from here. That means making a few more decisions.Once again, how detailed will you get? By this time, you will have a better grasp on this, so this one will be easier. Don’t try to save some work by being really broad. That will turn your plan into a Collection Development Policy, which you already have. You have to avoid getting too focused, as well. You can easily get bogged down here. Keep your “original intention” in mind.Now is the time to decide how far you are going to project your plan. 3 years? That’s doable. 5 years is probably too far. Things can and will change too fast.
  • Details, details, and more details! By now, you should realize that you really have to be detail-oriented to make this work. You have to sweat the small stuff. If you don’t, you will pay for that down the road. With interest. Do the work now and save yourself some grief.You have your data, now you have to present it in some fashion. Make sure it is human-readable. A jumble of numbers and jargon will not work here. You have to be straight-forward and plain-spoken to make sense of this to someone who has not traveled the road with you.Get organized! Outline. Outline, outline, outline. Make sure you are presenting this stuff in a manner that makes sense. If, like me, you are curriculum-oriented, you will want to organize by program. I drilled down to the individual course level, but that may not be feasible or appropriate for many of you. Your outline is your map out of the swamp. Follow it, but don’t let it tie you down. Be prepared to tweak it if you need to. Problems can arise, sometimes suddenly. Be ready to jump.The handout I have given you is the Table of Contents for the plan that I developed. You can see that it pretty closely follows the progression we have been talking about. First, get clear on the “what” and the “why”. Then assess the collection in your preferred manner so you can see what you have. This will also indicate where you need to go. Finally, map out your strategies for the coming years.
  • Now comes the hardest part of all. Not! You are almost done. All you have to do is leap out of the swamp onto dry land and thumb your nose at the remaining gators.Finish! Don’t review any more than you absolutely have to. The work is done. The job is complete. Finish it.Write it up! You have your outline -- flesh it out. Make it look good on the page.Put it in a binder. We all love binders, don’t we? It just gives your work some substance, some heft, to have it in print. Now it feels real. Put one on your shelf and admire it.Present it to whomever you should. Bask in the glorious light of their approval. You have earned that.Have a tall, cold one! One what? Certainly non-alcoholic, if you are at work. Otherwise, whatever you prefer. You have earned that, too.
  • Finally, you’re done, right? Wrong! There is one last step – evaluation and review. What you have here is not a static, unchanging plan. Circumstances change, budgets change, everything changes. You have to change with the times to be successful. This step is constant and on-going. At a minimum, you should look at your plan in some detail annually. I try to do this quarterly, so I don’t get too far behind. You don’t have to be like me, though. Do what suits you best. The important thing is to keep your plan up to date.Whew! Now you’re done, right? Right? Wait. One more thing. Now you have to put your plan into action. Otherwise, you just wasted a whole bunch of time and money. Nobody wants that.So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
  • Up to Your Um...Armpits in Alligators: Considerations for Creating a Collection Development Plan

    1. 1. Considerations for Creating a Collection Development Plan Carter Nipper Central Georgia Technical College Presented at GaCOMO, Oct. 4, 2012
    2. 2. “When you’re up to your @$$ in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.” – Various forms variously attributed Photo courtesy MarathonBooks.com - http://marathonbooks.com/Alligator.html
    3. 3.  Milledgeville Campus Librarian at Central Georgia Technical College Over 30 years experience in public, correctional, and academic libraries Been there, done that
    4. 4. Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/
    5. 5.  What got you to this point?  Personal Initiative? ▪ What were you thinking?  Assigned task? What do you hope to accomplish?  Budgetary guidance  Acquisitions guidance
    6. 6.  Who is going to do all this work?  You individually? ▪ Where will you find the time?  A team? ▪ Who’s in charge? ▪ If you propose it, be prepared to be the boss ▪ How good a manager are you?  People  Time  Money  Get buy-in from all involved
    7. 7.  Focus!  How detailed will you get?  How will you know when you are finished?  How far ahead do you want to plan? ▪ 5 years is probably too much. 3 years is doable.  Get clear on this! This is your “original intention” Define your personal limits  Don’t stretch yourself too thin  What compromises are you willing to make?
    8. 8.  Who is going to pay for all of this?  Time  Materials Speaking of time…  Where will you find the time?  Set a firm timeline (and be prepared to adjust it!)  Stay on track. Keep your original intention in mind
    9. 9. Image courtesy PictureWendy Under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0http://www.flickr.com/photos/picturewendy/6589866439/in/pool-alligators/
    10. 10.  Educate yourself  Read, read, read! Make sure you know what you are getting into. ▪ Books (of course) ▪ Journal articles (of course) Don’t reinvent the wheel  A lot of libraries have their plans freely available online. ▪ Will what they did work for you? ▪ If so, why? ▪ If not, why not? Ready? Set? Go!
    11. 11.  Quantitative collection assessment  Counting volumes by subject  Analyzing the age of the collection  What is being used ▪ Circulation statistics ▪ Reference question statistics  Citation analysis
    12. 12.  Qualitative collection assessment  User surveys  Focus groups  List checking  Collection mapping (Conspectus)  Commercial products (e.g., WorldCat Collection Analysis, Bowker Book Analysis System)  Experience and intuition Roll your own  Combine methods  Invent your own
    13. 13.  Give ‘em what they want  Circulation analysis  Reference question analysis Give ‘em what they need  Curriculum analysis  Recommended collections If you build it, will they come?
    14. 14. Image courtesy wpclipart.comhttp://www.wpclipart.com/American_History/Postcards/Alligator_Joe.png.html
    15. 15.  The End Is Near  Don’t burn out now Lots of raw data  What does it all mean?  What are you going to do with it? Decisions, decisions  Again, how detailed will you get? ▪ Not too broad, not too focused  How far will you project your plan into the future? ▪ 5 years is probably too far; 3 years is doable
    16. 16.  Sweat the small stuff  A little more work now will go a long way later Presentation is key  Human-readable ▪ Don’t jargonize  Organize ▪ Outline! ▪ Follow your outline rigorously, but be prepared to tweak it if necessary
    17. 17.  Finish!  Write it up!  Put it in a binder!  Present it to whomever!  Have a tall, cold one!
    18. 18.  Evaluation and review  Circumstances change -- be willing to change with them  Constant, on-going ▪ Annually at a minimum So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
    19. 19. Contact: Carter Nipper Milledgeville Campus Librarian Central Georgia Technical College 54 GA Highway 22 West Milledgeville, GA 31061 (478) 445-2319 cnipper@centralgatech.edu