Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Evaluating the Collection

I have to honestly admit that this module on collection evaluation has been quite difficult to get a grasp on. This is primarily because I am not working in a library. I am not familiar with the software used for cataloging in libraries and it is hard to visualise and understand what such software is able to do when you haven't had any experience with it.

So, while I ploughed my way through the readings, at the back of my mind I been trying to work out
what will be my collection evaluation priorities when I begin working as a teacher librarian? I believe that my initial priorities will be very different at the outset, to what they will be after working a year in the library. It is all about KNOWING your collection. So to work out my initial priorities I asked myself
'what would I need to know about my collection when I first start working in a library?'
'how can this module help me address that?'.
It is going to be difficult to come into an established library and hit the ground running. Information about the breadth and depth of the collection is going to be essential for me ensure teachers and students are able to effectively use the library resources available.

I found one answer to those questions when I looked at the information regarding collection mapping on The School Library Media Specialist website (Lamb & Johnson, 2013) and Library Admin website (Tangient LLC, 2014).  Both sites clearly explain what collection mapping is, and what collection mapping can be used for. By completing a mapping of the collection soon after I begin working in a library (amongst all the other enormous learning curves that I will be coping with!!!), I will have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the collection I am working with, enabling me to have a better picture from the get go as to where the areas of excellence are in the collection and where the areas of need are. This will give me valuable information in regards to where I will need to focus my budget priorities, tailor my purchasing decisions, develop short and long term goals and plan for future directions in order to continue building a balance and effective collection.

Module 5 gives links to a variety of sources that give information regarding how to go about completing a mapping of the collection. This is an aspect that I am going to have to think more about, and will really only make more sense when I am actually becoming familiar with the library software and what sorts of data I am able to extract from it, and what I will need to do manually. Ideally, I would like to be able to map the collection through:

  • An initial report giving a count of the number of titles in each dewey class. This will give some information regarding the size of the collection in each class. Even better, will be the ability to break through dewey classes down into sub classes, as this will enable a better view of what is available e.g. in the history resources. This will give a very general overview of the size of each class in the collection. 
  • Being able to generate a report on the publication date for titles, which would enable an average age of titles to be determined, and whether there is a need to update titles in a specific class. Circulation statistics are also important and when viewed against the number of titles help in a certain class, would enables myself as the teacher librarian to see if whether areas of the collection are being under utilised prompting an examination and analysis of 'why?'. It would also enables me to see where an area of the collection may be highly used but under resourced. 
  • being able to generate a report on usage statistics / data will also give some indication of where the strengths and weaknesses in the current collection lie - understanding though, that this will not give information about non-borrowed usage over lunchtimes and in library class sessions, unless other usage data collection is employed for those times as well. 
  • using an online survey instrument - such as survey monkey - if I can generate the right questions and get the executive staff to put aside 10 minutes during a PD day for the staff to complete, it would give me an idea of how the staff feel about the library collection, how they use it and where they see the strengths and weaknesses from their point of view. If I can get time from the executive where everyone has ten minutes to complete it on their laptops (the last few schools I worked at, every teacher had access to a class laptop or i-pad) then I would have much more success than depending on a high return of paper surveys. 
In Hart's collection mapping exercise (2003, p. 90), she indicates that her district recommends that 70% of the entire print collection have a copyright date no later than 10 years from the current year. I could not find a similar recommendation on the ASLA website, but I am assuming that each school / state district library association in Australia would have some formal/ informal recommendation for teacher libraries to use as a guide. Statistical data used in conjunction with standards guidelines will be important in providing the financial administrators of my school a picture of the breadth and depth of the school's collection and where the priorities and goals in maintaining the collection need to be.

Hughes-Hassell, S. and Mancall, J (2005), give suggestions for the types of questions teacher librarians should be asking to ensure they have a learner-centered collection and that these questions need to go beyond asking whether the curriculum resources are dated. I think they make some very good points. However, they are questions that will be initially very difficult to answer for a teacher librarian who is new not only to the library collection but also to the school and to the learners. They are questions that I would need to look at after I have had some time to become familiar with the collection, the school, the teachers and the learners.

Both of the websites mentioned above also go into some detail regarding base and core collections. These were new terms to me, and I was intrigued to know what 'core collection lists might be available for Australian schools. I did a google search using the terms "australian school library core collection". The top search result was for the NSW dept of Education who have a core collection list link halfway down the list of publications for teacher librarians. Unfortunately, I was unable to click through to the list as it is located on their intranet.

Another link led to Trove which had a book titled "A core collection: fiction: recommended print resources for primary school resources centres" by the WA dept of Education. Trove could only find copies available in 2 libraries, and could not locate any options for purchasing. It is dated 2003, so by the time I start working in a library it will be well over 15 years old. The other links in the first few pages of the google search were links from North America associations or booksellers such as Amazon.

So I wonder if I should make an assumption as to whether each school jurisdiction, have their own core collection documents that are kept in house and not published, and are perhaps available for employed teacher librarians on their employee intranet. I assume this because as is stated on the NSW Government Department of Education and Communities website (2011) 'The Core Collection List is intended to support and guide the establishment of an initial collection for new school libraries, and as a reference tool for collection maintenance and development by established school libraries'. 

This has been an informative and challenging aspect of collection management to look at. While I feel that I have an understanding as to why collection evaluation is critical in the management of the library, it is going to be an enormous learning curve when I actually have to put the theory into practice. 


Grigg, K 2012, 'Assessment and evaluation of e-book collections' in Kaplan, Richard, 2012, Building and Managing E-Book Collections, [available from CSU library]

Hart, A. (2003). Collection analysis : powerful ways to collect, analyze, and present your data. In C. Andronik (Ed.), School Library Management (5th ed.) (pp. 88-91). Worthington, Ohio : Linworth.

Hughes-Hassell, S. and Mancall, J. (2005) 'Strengths and weaknesses of the current collection' in Collection management for youth: responding to the needs of learners, ALA: e-book, pp. 40-43.

Lamb, A & Johnson, L. (2013). Library media program: collection mapping. In The school library media specialist. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/mapping.html

National Library of Australia. (2013). A core collection: fiction:  recommended print resources for primary schools library resource centres.  In Trove. Retrieved from http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/16462563?selectedversion=NBD25955236

NSW Government Department of Education and Communities (2011). School libraries and information literacy - publications for teacher-librarians. In NSW Department of Education and Communities. Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/resources/pubfront.htm

Tangient LLC (2014). LibraryAdmin - collection mapping. In Library Admin. Retrieved from http://libraryadmin.wikispaces.com/Collection+Mapping

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