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  1. 1. THE SHRINKING REFERENCE COLLECTION Laura Ruschman LIS 6120 Dec. 3, 2013
  2. 2. Observation Experience • Based on several weeks of observation experience at a mid-sized academic library in Metro Detroit. • Founded in 1960, this library is currently the only library on campus. • Serves a student population of 19,000, plus 600 faculty and staff. • During the 2011-12 school year, more than 535,000 people visited the library. Nearly 1 million people visited the library website.
  3. 3. Observation Experience • The 4-story building has an Information Commons, reference collection and student café on the first floor. • Additional books and periodicals, plus quiet study space, are located on the upper floors. • The reference desk recently merged with the IT desk, providing students with a one-stop spot for both computer questions and research help. • The library employs 12 full-time librarians and 4 parttime librarians who man the reference desk and teach library skills in introductory English classes.
  4. 4. The Problem • Reference collections at major, and even minor, academic libraries nationwide are shrinking every year. • Why?  The space is needed for student study areas, computer labs and “digital commons”  Budget dollars typically geared toward collection development are being spent on online databases and other digital reference services.
  5. 5. Or Is It? • The movement toward fewer reference books comes with several advantages:  Richer, more comprehensive online resources.  An increase in communal learning space – something students crave.  Uptick in digital literacy.  Librarians spend less time maintaining a bulky reference collection and more time working with students where they want to find information – online. Digital Media Commons Snell Library Northwestern University
  6. 6. Dave Tyckoson • “Over time, the reference collection will wither away.” - Facts Go Online: Are Print Reference Collections Still Relevant? (2004) • “It’s high time libraries moved the reference books out of their hallowed sections…” • “…the footprint size of the collections, and the declining usage of those items … are at odds with each other.” - Fantastic Voyage: Reference Service in an Ever-Shrinking Print Environment (2013 Booklist Conference) Dave Tyckoson is the associate dean at Henry Madden Library at California State University in Fresno.
  7. 7. Cutting Reference in Half • According to one administrator, the reference collection at the observation library has seen major changes in recent years: Many volumes have been removed from the reference collection and moved to the circulating collection. The last major weeding project occurred 3 years ago. At that time, the reference collection was cut in half. • The library does not have an official weeding policy, but administrators and librarians work together informally, gathering input on what titles should be weeded. • Future plans include additional weeding of the first floor reference collection.
  8. 8. What Books Are Actually Used? • University at Albany – Jane Kessler, 2012 • During the 2010 fall semester at the University at Albany: • Only 7.1 percent of the 26,000 volumes that make up the university’s print reference collection were used by students and faculty. • “A low use rate such as the 7.1 percent found in this study argues for a thorough review of the collection” … “Some materials may be discarded as outdated, but many sources may benefit from being moved to the stacks where they are more likely to be discovered by browsing patrons.” Percentage of Reference Collection Used 2010 Fall Semester University at Albany Libraries Used Not Used Use It or Lose It! Results of a Use Study of the Print Sources in an Academic Library Reference Collection
  9. 9. Other Major Weeding Projects • University of Louisville – Robert Detmering, Claudene Sproles (2012) • Reference collection are often treated as “sacred cows” at libraries. • Re-thinking how reference materials are used, combined with “intensive weeding” “transformed (the collection) into a useable, pertinent resource.” • University of Vermont – Frances Delwiche, Nancy Bianchi (2006) • Consolidating reference materials made librarians more knowledgeable and engaged in their work. Reference in Transition: A Case Study in Reference Collection, Transformation of a Print Reference Collection
  10. 10. Making Room for Students What are we making room for by weeding reference collections? More space for students to study, collaborate and learn. • University of New South Wales – Kylie Bailin (2011)  Academic libraries are a “third space” on college campuses,  “(Users) flock to library buildings and spaces that are attractive, centrally located, technologically current, and arranged to meet the needs of groups as well as solitary users.”  “The academic library can be a quiet refuge but can also act as a social gathering place for collaborative learning.” Changes in Academic Library Space: A Case Study at the University of New South Wales
  11. 11. At Home, Space Is Needed • According to administrators, the observation library currently has study space for 1,700 students. • The library is 76,000 square feet and has no major expansion or renovation plans planned. • The library is open 24 hours a day to students, a recent move that has doubled the number of students using the library on a regular basis. • During final exams, students are forced to use the floor and hallways for group work, with some students even parking themselves in elevators and stairwells. • Library staff are currently working to weed the periodical and reference collection on the fourth floor to meet the growing demand for student study space.
  12. 12. The Tide Is Shifting … • … When it comes to large, physical reference collections. • With fewer bulky books to worry about: • Students and teachers are reaping the benefits from digital resources. • Students have more room to study and collaborate. • The additional room and space for collaborative learning is transforming the academic library into a hub of activity on campus. • OR • Are students and academics missing out when valuable reference tools are weeded from academic collections? • Are digital databases enough?
  13. 13. Bibliography • Bailin, K. (2011). Changes in academic library space: A case study at the University of New South Wales. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 42(4), 342-359. • Delwiche, F.A., Bianchi, N.A. (2006). Transformation of a print reference collection. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 25(2), 2129. • Detmering, R., Sproles, C. (2013). Reference in transition: A case study in reference collection development. Collection Building, 31(1), 19-22. • Kessler, J. (2012). Use it or lose it! Results of a use study of the print sources in an academic library reference collection. The Reference Librarian, 54(1), 61-72. • Tyckoson, D. (2004). Facts go online: Are print reference collections still relevant? Against the Grain, 16(4), 34-37. • Vnuk, R. (2013). Reference collections in an ever-shrinking print environment. Booklist, 110(2), 54.