I evaluated the Young Adult Fiction collection at the Sandwich Public Library, the library in the Cape Cod town where I moved a few months ago. This was the second time I did a collection evaluation exercise for a class in the MLIS program. Last fall I evaluated and weeded the health collection at the Falmouth Public Library for LSC 503. In both cases it was enjoyable to learn more about an area of the collection I don’t know much about and to think about how I might reshape it. I think it’s easy to take a library’s collection for granted and to not see it for the ever-evolving thing it is. The fact that the choice of format is an ever-evolving and ever-more-important aspect of collection development will be an interesting challenge for all of us over the coming years.
I won’t know how well these exercises prepared me for the weeding I will undoubtedly have to do at some point in my career until I get a job and am asked to weed a collection. Both times I’ve done one of these exercises I’ve felt that I was missing a piece of the puzzle that would have allowed me to be better informed. Obviously not having circulation data is a significant issue, but I also feel that coming in as an outsider prevents you from understanding the rationale of the librarians who built the collection you are weeding. Certainly in some cases the outsider’s perspective can be an asset, as it can allow you to see clearly an area where a collection is lacking.
At the same time, however, I think it is easy to come to an unfamiliar situation with preconceived notions about how a library’s collection “should” look without understanding why it looks that way. When I evaluated the Falmouth Public Library’s health collection I criticized the fact that the collection was housed on all levels of the stacks. I felt that books on low shelves and on high shelves were a problem for patrons with mobility issues or who were short. When I did my field placement at the Falmouth Public Library I learned that this arrangement was due to the size of the collection. I also learned through patron interviews that patrons really appreciated the breadth and depth of the library’s collection and wanted to see it expanded, not weeded. My criticisms probably had merit, but if the library had followed my suggestion it might have alienated certain patrons (or at least done them a disservice). I think striking a balance between these two aspects of collection development will be crucial to managing the collections I’m charged with effectively.
Here’s the actual evaluation. I hope you find it useful!