The Culture of Collection Evaluation in Pakistan

By Ameen, Kanwal | Library Philosophy and Practice, February 2010 | Go to article overview

The Culture of Collection Evaluation in Pakistan


Ameen, Kanwal, Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

"A library is a place where books are kept" is still the ruling perception in both developed and developing worlds. For many people, library collections and libraries are more or less the same. The history of libraries demonstrates that only recently have LIS professionals have turned their attention toward clients. Now they are asked directly about their information needs instead of librarians making assumptions and collecting titles to meet them. This development took place in part because of the need to evaluate collections to get grants as well as the application of marketing ideas in libraries since the late 1970s.

Experts such as Mosher (1979), Lancaster (1988; 1993), Gorman (2000), Clayton & Gorman (2001), and Crawford (2006) have produced valuable literature on collection evaluation. The emphasis on evaluating has grown, to keep balance between inputs and outputs, and to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in managing collections. Recently, the aim of building a huge physical collection has also lost its inherent worthiness.

Nonetheless, one should not view the development of evaluation culture as a global trend. It is apparent from the comparison of the developed and the developing countries' literature that there is a major divide between their practices in this regard: it may be called an "evaluation divide." A review of the local literature and practices testifies that our libraries have had been living in the collecting era, with a focus on developing, adding to, and increasing the size of collections (Ameen, 2005a). The issues of identifying strengths and weaknesses, effectiveness and use, outputs and outcomes of a collection have not been discussed in the local literature (Ameen and Haider, 2007). The reason behind the absence of evaluation culture might have been the traditional perception about libraries--inherently valuable agencies for society.

With the impact of globalization the situation is destined to change, sooner or later, in Pakistan also. Certain indicators show this trend, such as the concern of university administration, government funding agencies, and clients regarding delivery of desired quality services (e.g., Higher Education Commission (HEC); Tahira, 2008). Since 2006, HEC has started ranking the universities using its eight- point set of standards.

Defining Collection Evaluation

The following definitions have been used for the purpose of this study. They are relatively old, but suitable for studying developing countries' practices.

"CE is concerned with how good a collection is in terms of the kind of materials in it and the value of each item in relation to items not in the collection, to the community being served, and to the library's potential users". (Magrill and Corbin, 1989, p. 234)

"On the most fundamental level, the term means assessing the intrinsic quality of a library's holdings. On a broader level, the term includes determining how well the collection is serving its purpose and meeting pattern information needs". (Nisonger, 1992, p. 9)

An Overview of University Libraries in Pakistan

There are 120 HEC recognized universities and chartered institutes of higher education at present, including both private and public sector universities. Public sector universities generate their own funds besides getting HEC grants. The income from students' admission fee covers only a small portion of expenses; there is a very nominal admission fee in public sector universities as compare to very expensive private sector universities/institutions. Only wealthy people can afford to send their children to these universities. However, in all kinds of universities, funding authorities, parent organizations, and the service community are becoming sensitive about quality services. The author has observed this phenomenon as a member of selection board interviewing for university librarian, in job advertisements, and discussions with peers.

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