Unused PortionPosted: May 1, 2011 | Author: Steven Harris | Filed under: Collection Philosophy | 3 Comments »
Math Math Math. I keep thinking about math. I blame Eric Hellman.
One of the elements about patron-driven collections that I talk about a lot at my institution is that it doesn’t seem like a good use of funds to buy a lot of books that never circulate. (See Hardesty or Kent.) A thought that keeps coming to mind is that it is probably impossible for anyone to predict exactly what is going to get used by another person (librarians predicting for students or faculty, faculty predicting for other faculty, vendors predicting for everyone). Thus, there will always be a percentage of a “selected” collection that never circulates. Is that percentage static? In other words, will 30% of the collection go unused regardless of whether the collection has 200,000 volumes or 20 million volumes.
In most previous library collection development models, even if the unused portion remains a constant, it makes sense to increase the size of the library as much as possible. A bigger collection will mean more used items (and more unused items too). A few questions about this model come to mind. Is the unused portion really constant? Might a smaller collection actually circulate at a higher rate? And is it really worth the additional expense of growing the collection as much as possible? Is there a point of diminishing returns?
I think a mix of patron-driven and selected collections might be the most effective. Librarians and approval plans could supply a core of materials.Â Although, as I’ve suggested, a percentage of those would likely never be used. But it would be a smaller amount of selection than in the past. Users then would otherwise get what they want in an on-demand fashion. This kind of model does suggest that we need to deliver user-requested materials as quickly as possible. Students, for example, may not want to wait 2 weeks, even 2 days for materials to be available. Ebooks, of course, are ideally suited for this kind of process. Many ebook vendors are now offering on-demand collection building models. Can we afford to continue building the just-in-case kinds of collections? Or should we be embracing the patron-driven, just-in-time kind of plan?
Hardesty, L. 1981. Â“Use of library materials at a small liberal arts college.Â” Library Research 3: 261Â–-82.
Kent, A., et al. 1979. Use of library materials: The Universityof Pittsburgh study. New York: Marcel Dekker.