Consensus-Based Assessment for Reinvisioning a Reference Collection


Published on

Thursday, November 4, 2010
3:00 - 3:45 PM

Speakers: Michael A. Matos - American University; Patricia J. West - American University Library

Reference collections are best managed through collaboration and cooperative assessment. A “blue skies” approach to print reference is to never discard a title. However, for most institutions budgets are tight, space is limited, and today’s information seeking behavior favors digital formats. A major evaluation of any reference collection is especially difficult due to the existence of multiple stake holders and a lack of clear "ownership." And, while the bulk of scholarly literature discusses weeding collections through reliance on internal documents, bibliographies and other librarian-created tools, this paper will examine an innovative process for assessing and reallocating reference resources based upon consensus building.
We will explain how a systematic assessment of the reference collection was conducted via small teams of subject specialists comprised from units throughout the library. We will elaborate on the method used to weight usage statistics against the teams’ recommendations. Using a model based upon transparency and consensus we were able to arrive at timely and thoughtful decisions without strife. We will elaborate on the primary and tangential benefits that resulted from the project, such as increased familiarity with the reference collection, cost savings, re-evaluation of the lending policies and location of the collection, and the creation of a new reference collection plan based upon a forward thinking user-centric model. Attendees will gain valuable insight into this portable, cost-effective, and straightforward approach to re-envisioning reference resources.

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Consensus-Based Assessment for Reinvisioning a Reference Collection

  1. 1. To Weed or Not to Weed: Reference Collection Assessment through Consensus Michael A. Matos and Patricia J. West American University Charleston Conference November 2010
  2. 2. Other Reference Collection Review Examples • Work handled solely by the Reference Department. • Work primarily delegated to a team or single individual. • Only librarians give input. • Decision driven primarily by usage statistics.
  3. 3. About American University Library Campus population = 11,000 FTE 1.1 million volumes 300 + databases 6,164 titles (comprising roughly 10,300 volumes/editions) 3,700 linear feet of shelving Reference stacks location on main floor of library Reference collection historically not weeded (at least 10 years).
  4. 4. Evolving Reference • Under-utilization of the print reference collection • Predominance of electronic versions • Changing user research habits • Expectation that everything is available online. • Mediated access no longer required • Focus on empowering the users • Increased demand for open floor space. • Users want more computers and study areas • Situated in a prime location on main floor of the library.
  5. 5. REFERENCE COLLECTION The Consensus Based Weeding Process
  6. 6. Collection Options REFERENCE COLLECTION Retain in Reference Move to General Stacks Off-Site Storage Discard
  7. 7. REVIEW Collection Review Process Collection review divided among librarians and staff Collection physically separated for final review Review of master list of all decisions Review of collection issues or disagreements Process document and criteria document created
  8. 8. • The golden rule: Only discard a title if the opinion is unanimous. • Take the most conservative position when there are disagreements. Process and Criteria Documents Created
  9. 9. Subject Specialists Actions D C S R D C S R D C S R Collection Review Divided Among Librarians and Staff Portion of the collection is reviewed by subject specialists, who make their recommendations for each title. Decisions were recorded into a database to collate all opinions for each title to arrive at consensus. Subject specialists could use whatever method they wanted to arrive at their recommendations.
  10. 10. • Disagreements were brought to the reference team for review when there was a tie or strong difference of opinion. • Anyone could request that a title be discussed at the reference team meeting. • Missing titles or preservation issues were brought to the team as well. Collection Issues or Disagreements
  11. 11. • Access database created to track all title recommendations. • Actions list were sent to all librarians weekly for comment. Master List of All Decisions
  12. 12. IMAGE
  13. 13. • Opened for review by the entire library. • Allowed everyone to browse the discards to insure no mistakes were made. • Assisted cataloging once decisions were finalized to process materials. Collection Physically Separated for Final Review
  14. 14. Benefits/Outcomes – Reference collection decreased by 60% – 2,404 titles remained in reference – 1,629 titles were discarded – 1,177 were sent to the stacks – 69 titles were sent to storage – 800 titles could not be located
  15. 15. Continued… • Opened up more floor space in the library. • Liberated many titles for circulation. • Created a leaner, more useful reference collection. • Librarians became more familiar with the collection. • Pointed out holes in the current collection. • Led to creation of a new reference collection plan. • Saved money by cancelling redundant titles.
  16. 16. Lessons Learned • We needed better usage data for our non-circulating collections. • Press to reduced the collection has not been abated. • Fiscal limitations held back many print to electronic decisions. • Many books have been moved, but are really getting used? • There were/are philosophical differences between colleagues.
  17. 17. Where we go from here… • A new reference collection plan was created. • The collection will be evaluated every two years. • Emphasis will be given towards acquiring electronic resource over print.
  18. 18. Questions? • Michael A. Matos • Patricia J. West