Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Collection Maintenance

The Technical Services online course continues and this chapter covered collection maintenance - weeding, repairing, binding, replacing, etc.

In my opining, most libraries need to spend more time on weeding their collections. Reasons for removing an item include:
  1. Not used sufficiently to justify the space (or real estate) they require
  2. No longer contains current, correct, reliable, or complete information
  3. No longer needed or duplicate of another item
  4. Poor condition
  5. Outdated or obsolete format or technology

Rather than having more books, most libraries need a better looking collection with books spaced out so they can be seen (not to mention removed from the shelf without pulling down adjacent books). Academic libraries rarely weed, but their mission is different from a public library's and something with information that is not "current, correct, reliable, or complete" can still contribute to historical research.

Mending is a useful tool when used appropriately. However, sometimes it is actually more cost effective to purchase a new copy than try to mend a book. A heavily mended book is usually unattractive and less likely to be chosen by a library patron, so why even keep it?

In the chapter on Preservation and Conservation, the instructors distinguish between preserving the intellectual content and prolonging the life of the artifact. For example, digitizing a newspaper article makes more sense than trying to prevent it from yellowing and disintegrating. However, a rare book should be kept in a climate controlled area to prevent its deterioration.

The chapter ended with a fun little game (I like games). Different items were shown with a brief description. We were instructed to drag the item to one of 5 choices: Dispose, Repair, Digitize, Return to the Collection as is, Replace. For example, a VHS copy of the video Gone With the Wind with over 300 circulations has a broken cassette. Answer: replace it with a DVD. In a few cases, there were 2 correct answers depending on the situation.

This exercise has a major typo. At the very beginning are the instructions for the previous game - the one matching Dewey Decimal numbers to book titles. I'm still looking for a way to report this problem since I'm sure it's easy to fix.

In general, this was a thought-provoking section and one too often overlooked or not thought through very carefully in Technical Services. Too many people still have a horror of throwing away books, but there are good reasons for not keeping some things in the collection. See above.

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