Evaluating the Collection
What are the practicalities of undertaking a collection evaluation within a school in terms of time, staffing, and priorities, as well as appropriateness of methodology?
Without any experience working in a library, I believe that an effective collection evaluation can take place if it is part of a well-planned cycle, as suggested by Johnson (2014, p. 328). The librarian needn’t evaluate the entire collection at once. Rather, they can focus on each next resource category as part of a long-term plan (Johnson, 2014, p. 328). It is not practical, however, for school libraries with fewer staff to take on more complex evaluation methodologies, such as the Balanced Scorecard method (Grigg, 2012, p. 132), or Direct Collection Analysis (Johnson, 2014, p. 316), unless additional staff or time is granted for this specific purpose, or if a specific area is identified as requiring urgent evaluation. A more appropriate approach might be to implement a selection of simple methodologies, such as Circulation Studies (Johnson, 2014, p. 323), for each area of the library collection, throughout the evaluation cycle, and implement complex methodologies when practical. Then, at least, some relevant and consistent data will be available at any given time.
At the school with which I am most familiar, the librarian works alone and is not employed full-time in the library. The simple schedule mentioned above would be most appropriate in this case.
How does the need for, and possible benefits of an evaluation of the collection outweigh the difficulties of undertaking such an evaluation?
The National Library of New Zealand (n.d., “Why assess your library collection”) highlights the many benefits of a collection evaluation:
- Ensuring that the collection meets students’ needs.
- Ensuring that the collection supports the teachers and the curriculum.
- Growing stronger partnerships between the library and other staff.
- Ensuring the collection is balanced, inclusive and relevant.
Although it may be difficult to undertake complex evaluations, a school library is only as good as the degree to which it effectively services its community (Johnson, 2014, p. 297). If a librarian chooses a simpler method of evaluation, or no evaluation at all, simply because there will be difficulties along the way, then the library is not fulfilling its purpose.
Is it better to use a simple process with limited but useful outcomes, or to use the most appropriate methodology in terms of outcomes?
Despite being more complex, and often impractical, the methodology with the most useful outcomes should be used to ensure the school library collection stays up-to-date with the needs of its students and teachers. Of course, due to time and staffing limitations, it is not always possible to use the most appropriate methodology and the process with limited outcomes will be better than nothing, especially if the library needs data to explain selection or deselection decisions, or campaign for funding in certain areas.
Grigg, K.S. (2012). Assessment and evaluation of e-book collections. In Kaplan, R. (Ed), Building and managing e-book collections (pp. 127-137). Chicago: Neal-Schuman
Johnson, P. (2014). Fundamentals of collection development and management (3rd ed.). Chicago: ALA Editions
National Library of New Zealand. (n.d.). Assessing your school library collection. Retrieved from https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/school-libraries/collections-and-resources/assessing-your-school-library-collection?search%5Bpath%5D=items&search%5Btext%5D=assessing+your+school+library+collection