Collection Development, School Libraries

Keeping busy, part I

When I look for an assistant, one of the things I am careful to warn them is that there is a lot of “soul sucking” work in the job.  I’m also quick to say that there are many tasks that don’t fall into that category, but let’s face it: every job has that aspect.  I’m also careful to spread the pain around, so that we’re all constantly working on something “soul sucking” as well as other projects that are more fun and fulfilling.  

Over the past five years, with the help of the other two librarians and our assistant (we’ve had two), we’ve managed to accomplish the following:

  • Rebarcoding (the original automation project put barcodes inside the books, making inventory virtually impossible)
  • Weed a significant portion of the collection, going from an average age of 1975 to 2002
  • Clean the Junk Drawer
  • Rethink virtually every book’s place in the collection

My Upper School Librarian and I have presented, now twice, on the idea of cataloging and shelving that meets students where they are; the most recent presentation was for AISL’s 2021 conference (held virtually, obvs). If you weren’t at the presentation(s), you might wonder “what does that mean?” Well, I’m here to explain.

The first part can be done from home, or at the desk: pull reports from your ILS, one that shows the age of the book, and one that shows circulation (note: it really, really helps if you 1. break it down into management chunks and 2. have done “in house” circulation so you get a real sense of books that were used but not checked out). My system can do this if I really tweak a report, and I’ve since saved the template so I can do it again if I choose. We migrated from one ILS to another in 2016, which now gives us five years of circ. data. The reports look something like this:

The far left column is the total circ since 2016, everything that was part of the old catalog has been highlighted, and then within that, those older items with no circ are in red and items with some circ are in blue. The far right column are our comments after we’ve gone to the shelves and looked at the books. Color coding makes it easy to quickly find the books that really need to be looked at! That far right column is the new call number (more on that later).

The next step is to go to the shelves, looking at all the books but paying the most attention to those in red. Weed all the books that are in bad condition or are old (we have a column on some reports that indicate UPDATE; we might also add MARC [needs a fuller record to aid in access/findability]). Then I take all the barcodes from the books we’ve kept and create new spine labels and–here comes the soul sucking–relabel, cover the label with a protector, and rearrange the books on the shelves.

Rinse, repeat. Until you’ve gotten through the entire collection.

So, what about those Dewey numbers?

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