A library collection is like a garden that must be cultivated and maintained in order to flourish. Librarians are gardeners tending the collection - adding new materials, transplanting and weeding. Because libraries are limited by space and finances, decisions about what to add and what to remove from the collection are made carefully, every day.
Planting and Growing
At the Dayton Metro Library, the Office of Collection Development is responsible for selecting the physical and electronic materials which are available to the public. This staff of professionals makes purchases based on a number of factors, including:
“Selection and deselection of the collection is an art,” said Jean Gaffney, manager of Collection Development for the Dayton Metro Library. “As a librarian, you’re balancing all sorts of data against your experience and knowledge of your patrons.”
Most materials are purchased through online vendor sites which provide reviews, excerpts, pricing, sales statistics and more - all of which facilitate the selection process. Collection Development staff work closely with pre-selection committees of librarians to evaluate requests and determine need. Some purchases are made based on staff suggestions, popularity in the current media and patron requests.
“We get 10-20 purchase requests from patrons every day, and each request is seriously researched and considered,” said Gaffney. “Last year we purchased 179,641 physical items and 11,865 ebooks and eaudio items. That comes to around 3,700 items selected and made available to the public each week,” said Gaffney.
Obviously not everything requested can be purchased. Materials of more limited appeal or which are too costly can’t be added. However, thanks to statewide sharing of resources and a variety of online resources, materials and information can often be obtained even if we don’t have it in our own collection.
“We continually build not only our physical collection but the e-collection as well,” said Gaffney. “We have an ever-expanding collection of e-audio books, e-books, e-magazines and databases that we purchase.” Most popular items are now offered in up to five different formats: book, e-book, large-type book, audio book, e-audio book and sometimes a movie version as well.
Like a healthy garden, a healthy library must be weeded. Old, out-of-date, damaged and obsolete items must be removed in order to make room for newer, in-demand items. Weeding, like selecting, is done with great care and consideration by librarians using accepted criteria and their own professional experience. The Dayton Metro Library uses nationally recognized weeding standards for librarians, published in the CREW (Continuous Review, Evaluation and Weeding) manual.
“Ongoing weeding is encouraged because it creates more inviting shelves with the materials our patrons want and can find more easily,” said Gaffney. “We rely on data, CREW, and the knowledge of our professional staff,” said Gaffney.
Materials are removed based on criteria including:
With a major facilities plan involving an almost entirely new Main Library building, a more intense weeding project is currently underway at Main. “The Big Weed” is primarily focused on reducing the number of items housed in storage areas not open to the public. Many of these items have not been used for decades. When the new Main Library opens, it will have better access to the total collection, as thousands of items that have been hidden away will be available for browsing by visitors.
“We started this special weeding project in March with pruning the adults books in storage,” said Jennifer Spillman, manager of Adult Services. “We plan to have 180,000 books in the adult area of the new library. Today there are only about 95,000 adult books for browsing. We’ll also have shorter stacks, wider aisles and more convenient seating to make it easier for patrons to browse and use all of our materials.”
The library is working with Better World Books, a company which accepts discarded library books and offers them for resale online. BWB is used by 3,000 libraries nationwide, including the Ohio State University Libraries and Cleveland Public Library in Ohio. Only books weeded from the Main Library are sent to BWB. In turn, the library receives 20% commission, the Friends of the Library receive 5% and a portion of the proceeds is donated to nonprofit literacy organizations such as Books for Africa and The National Center for Family Literacy. There is no cost to the library.
The best surplus materials are still given to the Friends of the Library for their semi-annual booksales. These sales raise funds which the Friends then use to support library programs and services such as the popular Summer Reading Clubs. (The next Friends of the Library booksale will take place Oct. 4-6 at Hara Arena.)
A healthy public library is a useful one, providing materials its community wants and needs. Choices are made every day in order to maintain a vital, vibrant collection. “It’s an art,” said Gaffney. “It’s a balancing act.” Like the art of a well-tended garden.