Zero-Based Print Journal Collection Development in a Community Teaching Hospital Library: Planning for the Future
Thompson, Lora L., Toedter, Lori J., D'Agostino, Frank J., Journal of the Medical Library Association
Objectives: The paper describes and evaluates the success of a zero-based collection development approach to print serials in a community teaching hospital.
Methods: The authors first assessed the environmental factors that would determine future needs of the medical library and its customers. Liaisons to various departments and constituencies were substantially involved in the data-gathering phase. Using newly defined collection parameters, a list of journals to consider was compiled and each journal was categorized justifying its inclusion. Any title not having a strong fit in at least one category was eliminated from further consideration.
Results: Overall, 21 subscriptions were cancelled and 34 were added. Despite a 15% increase in total subscription costs, mostly due to normal annual journal price increases, the average cost per journal went down from $344 to $327. Journal usage went up over 30%, interlibrary loan lending went down 25%, and borrowing went up 20%.
Conclusion: As resources available to libraries decline, it becomes critical that collections and services are continually and systematically reviewed with a view to keeping them aligned with the mission of the organization, needs of the customers, and emerging trends. Zero-based collection development can be a valuable tool in bringing a print journal collection into closer alignment with the needs of library customers.
Each year, serials librarians are faced with the challenge of renewing print journals. Consideration must be given and concessions made to changes in the budget, the ever-growing popularity of electronic journal collections, the reduction in space for archiving, and the changing needs of library customers. In addition, the parent institution may have added or deleted education programs or services requiring changes in focus. In the context of the prevailing issues of the year, the librarian must attempt to cultivate a useful, accessible, within-budget print journal collection. Too often, this decision-making process is conducted at the level of what holdings must be added and what holdings can be done without.
Zero-based collection development is based on the concept of zero-based budgeting (ZBB). ZBB essentially means to begin from scratch and justify any addition to the budget  based on customer needs, organizational mission, and future projections. When practicing ZBB, "The future, and what is to be accomplished in this future, is paramount" . This is also true with print journal collections. While making decisions about print subscriptions for the following year, serials librarians view the decisions in a longterm context of the collection development process.
Zero-based methodology is also used in the curriculum development process. Paulsen and Pesau call it zero-based curriculum review (ZBCR), in which the goal is "to help us move from an 'accidental' curriculum to an 'intentional' curriculum" . In the ZBCR process, the curriculum is rebuilt through a series of steps based on current student competency requirements, changes in technology and science, and newly established learning objectives. Similar steps can be taken by the serials librarian to assure that the collection remains dynamic and responsive to customers' needs.
When discussing the current and future environmental influences on the library, the staff realized that past processes for collection review had been inadequate and needed to be significantly reformulated. The library director, having previously been an accountant, suggested a zero-based approach that would accommodate the increasingly diverse needs of our individual customers and the curriculum changes in the graduate medical education programs.
THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT
Easton Hospital is a corporate-owned, 369-bed community teaching hospital with 2 residency programs. The residency programs include a total of 38 residents, 24 in internal medicine and 14 in general surgery. …