Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Surveying the Stacks: Collecting Data and Analyzing Results with SPSS

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Surveying the Stacks: Collecting Data and Analyzing Results with SPSS

Article excerpt

In fall 2002, the University of Tennessee Preservation Office conducted a condition survey of circulating materials in the school's John C. Hodges main library. The objective of the collection condition survey was to evaluate the physical condition of the collection and the effect of human and environmental factors in order to develop a long-range preservation plan. The project used a random sampling method, and a database and online survey form created with SPSS software. The results of the survey contribute an understanding of the national preservation picture. Locally, the results indicate action should be taken in several areas, including environmental conditions, staff and patron education, and reformatting. Other libraries in the early stages of establishing a preservation program can employ the techniques. used in Hodges Library to develop their own preservation plans.

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Over the last twenty-five years, the challenges of preserving libraries' collections have been well documented, and techniques for preserving library materials have been put to the test, improved, and shared with librarians around the world. In major university libraries, preservation programs that once concentrated on binding and book repair operations have advanced to include state-of-the-art conservation facilities and digital reformatting expertise. Those involved with preservation in the last two decades developed techniques and solutions for dealing with everything from torn pages to brittle books. Preservation professionals can prevent many types of damage and apply treatments with confidence, but the resources to do everything needed are seldom available. Therefore, libraries have developed long-range preservation plans with strategies for identifying and organizing priorities. As Matthews states, "Preservation activity needs to be planned and managed like any other library activity." (1) A collection condition survey is a logical and relevant starting point for preservation planning in any library. Walker writes, "A condition survey of the collections will provide the most significant information relative to the development of a preservation program." (2) Although large libraries have led the way in developing condition surveys, such studies have become feasible even for small libraries. New technologies have increased the flexibility of the traditional process for surveying collection condition.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, several libraries with pioneering preservation programs conducted surveys of their collections in an attempt to determine the overall condition of those collections and to prioritize preservation problems. In 1979, Stanford University conducted a landmark study of the Green Library, which determined that 32.8 percent of its collection was in good condition, 40.8 percent was in moderate condition, and 26.5 percent was in poor condition. (3) For this survey, Stanford developed a methodology that could be applied elsewhere, and that has proven useful to other libraries. The following year, Yale began a large-scale, comprehensive survey of its collections. The Yale survey found 82.6 percent of the collection to be acidic; however, only 12.8 percent of the collection was found to need immediate attention. (4) A few years later, a Syracuse University Libraries survey revealed a similar percentage of acidic volumes, finding 87 percent of the collections to be acidic. (5)

Libraries continue to adapt and build upon the methodologies developed in these early collection condition surveys. In 1996, the University of Kansas Libraries conducted a survey using methodologies similar to the Yale and Stanford surveys, incorporating modern computer software technology for collecting and analyzing the data. (6) Some libraries, such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have completed two collection condition surveys of the same collection, comparing the results of the first survey to a second set of data collected several years later. …

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