Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Motley Crew: Collaboration across an Academic Library to Revive an Orphaned Collection

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Motley Crew: Collaboration across an Academic Library to Revive an Orphaned Collection

Article excerpt

In interdisciplinary and general collections for which no subject selectors are assigned primary responsibility for the material, relatively passive and fragmented collection management easily leads to the development of collections with an "orphaned" or secondary status. Management of these collections presents challenges, particularly in the context of space issues. The proliferation of online resources has done little to ease the challenges of maintaining stack space for physical collections as academic libraries continue to acquire new print materials and also develop new user-focused spaces. Space issues are compounded as increased demand for library services and broadening librarian responsibilities divert efforts from collection management activities, which can lead to the abandonment of regular collection evaluation and deselection. When, after a period of passive management, a combination of space issues necessitates aggressive deselection of an orphaned collection to meet competing library needs, it can be difficult to develop a precise assessment of what exactly is in the collection, who should be responsible for its downsizing, and how to develop an efficient and effective plan for collection review.

In late summer 2016, the University of New Mexico Libraries initiated a project to consolidate circulating books within the Library of Congress (LC) Medicine classes, R-RZ, into a single location and reduce the size of this call number range by approximately half. Project PiRate--nicknamed for the R call numbers--provided the opportunity to eliminate overflow shelving in our largest library, deselect outdated volumes, and align the bulk of the science and technology collections in a single physical home, thereby resolving previous access issues caused by overcrowding and physical dispersal. At the project's inception, many of the institution's subject librarians were relatively new and none held primary responsibility for this interdisciplinary area. For this reason, the project was approached collaboratively, drawing upon the interdisciplinary expertise and experiences of employees throughout the libraries.

In undertaking Project PiRate, the project team considered a number of questions to design a process to prioritize necessary collection maintenance and improve collection usability in an interdisciplinary subject area that had become orphaned. These questions include the following:

* How do we establish a culture for cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration?

* What data and subject expertise are available, and how can we use these resources to make informed deselection decisions?

* How do we develop and facilitate efficient collection management workflows?

Literature Review

Motivation and Contexts for Weeding

Weeding library materials is often presented as an undesirable but necessary task in collection management. (1) Librarians face conflicts as they calculate the cumulative expense of years of collecting, consider time needed for higher priority activities, worry about removing materials that might be needed in the future, and fear deselection mistakes or faculty disapproval. (2) Stress and aversion associated with making withdrawal decisions have been documented not only in libraries but across other collection-based professions. For example, Greene suggests that archivists may be wary of reappraisal and deaccessioning work because of assumptions that a collection focus cannot be appropriately reevaluated in new context, materials contained within archives are permanent, and people will be upset if things are removed or, more severely, material removal will destroy an archive's reputation. (3) Similarly, in a thesis, Lapos describes "deaccessioning paralysis" for professionals in small museums who may face the inability to find new homes for unneeded collection items, ethical dilemmas, legal restrictions, the daunting need for collection plans, and shame in deaccessioning parts of their collections. …

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