Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Picture Perfect: Using Photographic Previews to Enhance Realia Collections for Library Patrons and Staff

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Picture Perfect: Using Photographic Previews to Enhance Realia Collections for Library Patrons and Staff

Article excerpt


Like many academic libraries, the Ferris Library for Information, Technology, and Education (FLITE) acquires a range of materials, including learning objects, to best suit our students' needs. Some of these objects, such as the educational manipulatives and anatomical models, are common to academic libraries but others, such as the tabletop games, are not. After our liaison to the School of Education discovered some accessibility issues with Innovative Interfaces' Media Management module, we decided to examine all three of our realia collections to determine what our goals in providing catalog records and visual representations would be. Once we concluded that we needed photographic previews to both enhance discovery and speed circulation service, choosing processing methods for each collection became much easier. This article will discuss how we created enhanced records for all three realia collections including custom metadata, links to additional materials, and photographic previews.


Ferris State University's full-time enrollment for Fall 2015 was 14,715 students. Of these students, 10,216 are Big Rapids residents and the other 4,499 are either Kendall College of Art and Design students or at other off-campus sites across Michigan. (1) During the 2014-2015 school year, FLITE had 14,647 check-outs including 2,558 check-outs of items in reserves, which is where our realia collections are located. (2) However, reserves includes other items in addition to these collections, thus making analysis of circulation statistics problematic. Another problem with conducting such an analysis is that the educational manipulative collection already had photographic previews and the tabletop game collection is a pilot project, so there is no clear before and after comparison. We can, however, demonstrate that enhancing the catalog records for our anatomical model collection had an incredibly significant impact, jumping from a handful of check-outs from 2014-2015 to almost 450 in 2016.


Although there are very few libraries using photographic previews for their realia collections, the ones that do described similar limitations with bibliographic records and goals that only photographic previews could meet. Most realia collections that warranted this extra effort are either curriculum materials or anatomical models, which is not surprising considering how difficult they are to describe.

As Butler and Kvenild noted in their article on cataloging curriculum materials, "Patrons struggled to identify which game or kit they sought based on the ... information in the online catalog," because "Discovering curriculum materials in the catalog and getting a sense of the item are not easy when using traditional catalog descriptions ..." (3). As they continue, "The inventory and retrieval problems...were compounded by the fact that existing catalog records were not as descriptive as they should be." (4) This was also a problem for our collections because our names and descriptions were often not intuitive or precise. In addition, as Loesch and Deyrup discovered while cataloging their curriculum materials collection, "... there was great inconsistency among the OCLC records regarding the labeling of the format ...," (5) which was another issue we needed to address. Although the General Material Designation (GMD] has since been rendered obsolete, FLITE continues to use it to highlight certain material. This choice is due to some limitations with our library management system as well as our discovery layer, namely the lack of good mapping or use of the 33X fields. Until this is rectified with a more modern system, we have it found it easier to retain certain GMDs like "sound recording", "electronic resource", and "realia". Thus, we needed to standardize our terms for each collection. Another problem that our predecessors indicated photographic previews might resolve was missing objects or pieces of objects. …

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