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Library to purge unused materials to revive itself

The revitalization process consists partly of removing unused books from shelves. (Photo by Garrett Fuller, assistant design editor.)

Unused books may be flying off shelves soon — going to new owners or recycling bins.

The collection at the James C. Kirkpatrick Library is undergoing a revitalization. Librarians said the process is intended to purge unused books, streamline the acquisition process and make collections more student-centric.

The process, known as deaccessioning, involves removing unused books from the shelves to replenish them with new materials. Librarians said unused books will either be donated to Better World Books,  which donates the books to literacy programs worldwide, or recycled.

According to library officials, the process is necessary to renew the collection to ensure it can be helpful to library users.

“Our collection needs to be a living organism that reflects the content that is going to be utilized by the students,” said Janette Klein, collection management coordinator.

Laura Horne-Popp, assistant university librarian, said the deaccessioning process is also necessary to ensure the collection includes factually accurate resources. She said the department needing the most material review is science due to the quick pace of changes.

Horne-Popp said material is often removed because it includes incorrect information.

“That danger of misinformation is significant because as students you’re learning, you’re discovering new ways of acquiring knowledge and information,” Klein said. “Having potential misinformation in our collection means you’re going to absorb that as a student as being fact…We want to ensure what’s in our collection is truth and current.”

Klein said the process is carefully done to ensure that the proper materials stay in the collection and unused materials are removed.

“This is systematic,” Klein said. “It’s not just a slap-dash approach. This is an evidence-based process of acquiring new content and going through and checking the collection to see what is being used. Is it still current? Is it still relevant? There is a complete approach that the subject experts — the library liaisons — utilize as they go through and are looking at the content on the shelves.”

Klein said liaisons will be evaluating material based on its currency, condition and whether there are newer editions and possibly better formats, like e-books. As more academic programs go digital, the library is providing more digital resources for its users.

“A lot of the programs have gone entirely online and we’re still getting paper,” Horne-Popp said.

Horne-Popp said there is a science to selecting material. Each academic program has a different collection development policy, which outlines the information behavior of the program.

“We study how people use information and we study what different fields do,” Horne-Popp said.

Although other libraries typically deaccession books annually, the last time the JCKL collections did this was nearly 30 years ago. The last deaccessioning took place before the library moved to its present location in 1998 from Ward Edwards.

“It seems at some point in the past that there was not much review happening,” Horne-Popp said.

In those 30 years, the library collection has grown and so has the popularity of electronic resources such as the internet and e-books. Unlike physical books, e-books don’t consume costly space.

According to a presentation performed to the UCM Academic Council on the library update, utilization of the physical collections at JCKL has dropped 52 percent in the past three academic years. The drop in collection usage has occurred between undergraduate and graduate students as well as staff and faculty.

Klein believes the usage drop is associated with the rise in popularity of e-books and e-book readers.

“I think that (drop) stems in part from the fact that we live in an internet age,” Klein said. “We want to access content where we can read at home in our slippers or with a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. We’re trying to model our collecting approach to reflect what students and faculty actually use.”

Although JCKL is removing unused materials from its collections, access to those materials will not be lost. Interlibrary loan programs allows students to receive materials that JCKL doesn’t have from other libraries.

JCKL is also revamping its collection management system, which allows students to search for materials in the collection. According to a presentation to the UCM Academic Council on the library update, the new system will integrate interlibrary loan requests and allow users to search WorldCat, a worldwide library catalog. The new interface is expected to launch June 2019.

Klein said that while there has been unclear communication with faculty and staff, there has been minimal criticism.

“We have heard from a small number of faculty and to our knowledge have not heard from any staff a few concerns over the deaccessioning process,” Klein said. “The time constraints we were under were not optimal and as a result there was a perception by some faculty outside the library that communication of the project was not clear.”

Klein said titles which are candidates for deaccessioning will be listed on the JCKL website.

“I still think there’s great potential here,” Klein said. “JCKL is positioning itself to be part of that conversation (between students, faculty and staff), because we will ensure that students and faculty are successful at UCM.”

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