Library collection evaluation is essential to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of its community. Johnson (2014) suggests that evaluation measures the utility and effectiveness of the resources within the library. This means that the data collated assists ensuring the value of the collection is maintained as well as assisting in collection developmental decision making in order to future proof the collection. The evaluation assesses that the collection remains balanced and inclusive; meets the needs of the students; reflects changes in technology and that it continues to be of value to learners (Nat. Lib of NZ, n.d.). TLs use the results of the evaluation to determine which shortfalls need to be remedied. These remedies could be as simple as increasing the number of resources, to a systematic change in the selection policies in order to adapt to the changing needs of the school (Nat. Lib. of NZ, n.d.). Irrespective of the remedies suggested, the result is a collection that suits the needs of the community, which is the primary purpose of a library.
One of the reasons that collections require evaluation is that libraries are no longer ‘just in case’ providers of information. In the past, when public monies were freely given to libraries, many collections held resources ‘just in case’ they were required (Grigg, 2012). But this trend has changed. The most pressing problem facing libraries is finances with many generally struggling to maintain their funds and resourcing. Therefore the halcyon days of endless monies are over, and with it, free range purchasing, which means that there needs to be an accountability of what is in the library and how it suits the community it services.
There are many ways collection evaluation can be accomplished using outputs and outcomes. Johnson (2014) separates them into user/use based vs collection based and qualitative vs quantitative based. These methods include usage statistics of resources, formats, age and condition of materials, breadth and depth of resources as well as language style (Johnson, 2014). Arizona State Library (2015) is similar in its terminology such as collection centred and client centred as well as qualitative and quantitative measures. Ideally, evaluation should be spread between the subsections in order to get a holistic view of the collection. On the other hand, Grigg (2012) suggests that usage data, overlap analysis, survey instruments, benchmarking, focus groups and a balanced scorecard method are methods of evaluating collections. Both examples cite usage statistics as method of evaluation which indicates that it is an excellent source of evaluative data.
Usage data identify which resources are used most frequently and which are not and are easily collected using the library information management system. Often described as output measures, this data is essential for digital resources, such as databases and subscription services, which often are very expensive. Resources that are insufficiently used within a school context need to reassessed as to their value to that community. There is no point holding onto resources that are simply not used sufficiently (Hart, 2003).
There are hurdles to successfully completing a collection evaluation. The primary one is time. This is a process that requires a significant amount of time. Unfortunately, the second most common thing teacher librarians complain about is lack of time. Timing becomes more of an issue when specialist collections need to be evaluated, as subject specific teachers are often required to collaborate on the usefulness of the collection. Ways to speed up the evaluation process include; ensuring that the collection is mapped to the curriculum; surveying the staff and students to determine needs and wants; and lastly; relevant reports are generated from the management system to gauge usage (Nat Lib. NZ, n.d.). All of these parameters provide a TL with what resources are required by the community of learners and thus anything additional is superfluous. These processes, whilst time consuming and require a strong commitment by staff, have significant benefits. These benefits include ensuring that the collection continues to meet the needs of the community and future proofing the collection. Additionally, one could argue that failing to allocate time and resourcing to regularly evaluate the collection could result in its value diminishing. All staff and students, as stakeholders, are affected if the collection loses its value, reliability, currency and appeal.
A method employed by many TLs in evaluating their collection, is to complete sections in short bursts. National Library of NZ (n.d.) suggests that collection analysis is priortised when a new unit of work is created and or commenced. Completing an assessment of the collection at this time ensures that the resources are judiciously buttressing the learning outcomes of the unit. This evaluation can assist in the creation of Lib guides for teachers to help with their teaching and learning activities and to promote the value of the collection to the community. In short, collection evaluation is a necessary part of library resource management and needs to be an ongoing process with a framework and fixed goals. Without regular assessment, there will be little evidence to ensure that the resources match the curriculum and needs of the community.
Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. (2015). Collection Assessment & Mapping. Retrieved from https://www.azlibrary.gov/libdev/continuing-education/cdt/collection-assessment-mapping
Grigg, K. (2012). Assessment and evaluation of e-book collections. In R. Kaplan (Ed.), Building and managing e-book collections (pp. 127-137). Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/lib/csuau/detail.action?docID=1158439
Hart, A. (2003). Collection analysis: powerful ways to collect, analyze, and present your data. In C. Andronik (Ed.), School Library Management (5th ed., pp. 88-91) Worthington, Ohio: Linworth (on e-reserve)
Johnson, P. (2014). Fundamentals of collection development and management [American Library Association version]. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/lib/csuau/reader.action?docID=1711419&ppg=312
Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2014). Library media program: collection mapping. The school library media specialist. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/mapping.html
National Library of NZ (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