Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Reference Serials Project at Liverpool City Library: From 'Just in Case' to 'Just in Time'

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Reference Serials Project at Liverpool City Library: From 'Just in Case' to 'Just in Time'

Article excerpt

Staff observation suggested that the reference serials at Liverpool City Library in NSW were underutilised. Patrons were surveyed for two two month periods in 1997 and actual use was also counted. Staff suggestions were simultaneously encouraged. The resulting data was analysed and the entire subscription list and holding statements revised to reflect established customer needs. Stack holdings of reference serials were completely withdrawn. The revised collection is very much smaller and is supplemented by the document delivery service to provide information `just in time'

Liverpool City Library in NSW opened a new, much larger, library in August 1996 and for the first time in years there was enough shelf space. Disturbingly, however, considering the high student use of the library, staff noticed that the reference periodicals were seldom accessed even when staff suggested their use--most patrons preferred to use full-text electronic resources such as Sydney morning herald and World magazine bank (cdroms). The library manager approved a project to assess use with a view to possibly moving towards a `just in time' philosophy, and a small team was formed, comprising the reference librarian, the coordinator city information services, and the serials officer.


Our primary need was to measure actual use of the present collection--75 titles, plus 33 titles where subscriptions had been cancelled but back issues remained on the shelves--and to solicit suggestions.


As many Liverpool residents are from nonEnglish speaking backgrounds, we chose to use lengthy, two month, survey periods. We selected March/April and August/September to catch students completing courses in different semesters.

Survey forms titled `Which magazines do you use in the library?' gave space for titles followed by boxes to tick to indicate `read every issue', `only use sometimes' or `would prefer to borrow'. There was space left for `other comments'.

During the survey periods the current issue of the serial was filed behind the information desk. Surveys were handed out to any patron requesting an issue and staff kept a note of each title requested. Surveys were also placed out at the shelves to allow comment from patrons using back issues.

During the four months of the combined survey periods, only 27 surveys were completed. Average patronage of Liverpool City Library at that time was 1000 people per day (people counter).

Use counts

As the response to the surveys was so small, during the second survey period, August/ September, the reference serials collection was put into strict order twice weekly. Any issue out of order was counted as used. Usage was found to be minimal, confirming staff observations. This was extremely labour intensive but worthwhile, as this method did establish use patterns which the surveys alone had not indicated.

Staff suggestions were actively encouraged.

The results

When the surveys and use counts were analysed, it was apparent that there would be significant cancellations. Coincidentally the resource budget had been cut, resulting in an urgent need for economy in the 1997/1998 financial year.

Only 25 titles were retained as current reference serial subscriptions. 27 titles were transferred to the lending collection; many of these decisions were made in response to user requests on the survey forms. In every case normal collection development criteria were also considered eg whether and where indexed. All remaining titles, including those in the reference periodicals stack--some 96 further titles, most with only a few elderly issues--were withdrawn from the system. …

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