Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Inventory at Brooklyn College, 1998-1999: An Original Method

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Inventory at Brooklyn College, 1998-1999: An Original Method

Article excerpt

This article discusses the development of an inventory project at Brooklyn College that entailed examining the collection and comparing it to the corresponding records in the online catalog. The procedure became necessary in large part due to problems resulting from the migration to a new, integrated cataloging system in 1987. We needed to deal with (a) books in the catalog that were not on the shelves, (b) books on the shelves that were not in the catalog, and (c) books that lacked circulation information (item records). We used the circulation module of our integrated system to discharge every book, thereby changing its record. An unchanged record indicated a missing book, Missing books were then removed from the catalog. Books on the shelves with no bibliographic record were redeemed and entered into the catalog. Item records were created for those books that needed them. Other errors were also identified and corrected during this time.

Introduction and Rationale

In 1998, the Brooklyn College Library began an inventory of the main circulating monograph collection known in our NOTIS catalog as "Brooklyn Stacks." The chief impetus to embark on such an undertaking was the expansion and renovation of the library, slated to begin in August of 1999. For at least one year, we would work in temporary quarters with the library's holdings in closed stacks. Because the books could not be browsed, it became crucial that the catalog be accurate. A catalog that failed to match the collection would adversely affect the paging service, as aides would be sent to fetch nonexistent books. Such a situation would be frustrating for our patrons, who would need to research and resubmit their requests, and expensive for the administration funding this service. Also, we knew that after moving the books first to temporary quarters, it would be necessary to send them back, which made it important for us to know exactly what was on the shelves. We had to ascertain which titles, if any, had been misshelved or lost during the course of the moves. We selected only the Brooklyn Stacks collection of about 500,000 books because it was the largest circulating collection.

As far back as 1995, when the library underwent an outside evaluation, the chief librarian made it known that she felt a collection inventory was a high priority. In my capacity as head of technical services, I was charged with looking into the matter and was not entirely surprised to learn that, like ours, many libraries badly needed an inventory but lacked both the human and financial resources to undertake such a commitment. When it became clear that the library construction project would indeed move forward, we received approval from the then vice president of finance and administration to pursue the inventory. The question came down to how it could be accomplished. Due to problems in our catalog, we turned to a unique method that used the circulation module to change the records' status for the books on the shelves.

To understand the daunting work ahead of us, a brief history is in order. In 1975, the last inventory of the main circulating collection had been attempted but not completed, so we knew we faced a formidable task (Yu 1997). Furthermore, from circulation staff statistics on "searched but not found books," it was clear that many works could not be located. Such statistics are compiled manually when a reader turns to the circulation desk for assistance after unsuccessfully looking through the stacks for a book listed in the catalog as available; if the circulation staff, after searching the surrounding area, cannot find the book either, it is added to the count. To make matters worse, many titles on the shelves were not in the NOTIS catalog. Although these titles had been in the card catalog, they had never been converted in the Microcon (retrospective conversion of books in Library of Congress Classification) project.

Moreover, although a great deal of effort had been made to correct the problem, most of our bibliographic records did not have linked item records. …

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