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Updating Your Collection… While Updating Your Staff

A while ago, I wrote about starting a major collection review in my library after the staff members in charge of acquisitions departed. Our review has revealed a lot of (sometimes amusingly, sometimes alarmingly) outdated materials. One highlight was a book on the potential of a hot new website… MySpace.

As satisfying as it is to dig into a big project, I don’t want to find myself in this situation again ten years from now, or leave a similar mess for my predecessor. Our library needs a more structured collection development plan, including a plan for weeding. This is complicated by our reliance on part-time positions – I am the only full-time librarian with collection development responsibilities, supported by a group of PT librarians that has seen significant turnover since I started this position. A liaison model where everyone claims an area of expertise isn’t sustainable in this situation – what happens when a PT librarian departs?

I put out a call on ALA Connect to see if anyone else had solutions to this conundrum. Here are a few suggestions I received:

A librarian from a larger community college than mine has been able to use a liaison model, with specific librarians claiming multiple areas. They also receive purchase suggestions from thier book jobber GOBI based on their library’s profile. However, they don’t have a set schedule for weeding or selection, and both can fall to the wayside when the library gets busy.

A different tactic shared with me was a weeding cycle where all the librarians worked on the same call number section (in this case using LoC classification), with the cycle lasting a total of eight years. Sections where publication date is critical, such as medical information, have a shorter four year cycle. Focusing on one section at a time means the plan is not impacted by staff turnover.

A third library had also found themselves with a collection where weeding had been neglected due to the college’s small size and limited staff time. Their approach was to develop a weeding schedule that aligned with their disciplines’ five year review cycle. That way, faculty would be thinking about their program’s needs at the same time, and the librarians could build collection updating into the review feedback process.

There are some good ideas here, and I’d love to hear more. How do you approach collection development and maintenance at your college?

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