Competency F

Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items

Statement of Competency

A LIS professional having this competency would have the skills to manage a physical collection as well as curate digital data using the recommended life cycles.

Selection

Collection development has changed dramatically because decreasing funds and evolving e-resources. Kathleen Lehman (2013), Head of the Physics Library at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville says “although digital content is nothing new, the ways of selecting content has changed” (p. 169). Liz Chapman (2012), director of Library Services, London School of Economics and Political Science echoed with, “Our fundamental responsibilities in collection development have not changed, but our methods have” (p. vii). Although we still follow the basic tenets of collection development such as access for all, upholding intellectual freedom, and providing reliable information with resources that focus on the needs of the community, libraries have to keep in line with their institutions’ mission and stay within their budget allowance.

Collection development requires a delicate balance of decisions based on demographics, circulation statistics, current use and patron-driven requests (Peet, 2015, p. 34). In addition to this, librarians also have to take into consideration the type of formats in which the resources should come in. Thankfully, predicative analytic tools are now available to help libraries estimate what they may need. One example is collectionHQ by Decision Center which collects and analyzes circulation data on individual titles, authors or genres. There are also web-based analysis tools like Ingram’s Edelweiss which provides data on both library circulation and retails sales from 400 participating bookstores. This has the advantage of returning data on both titles and formats (Peet, 2015, p. 35). But nothing beats the keen eye of the acquisition librarians who read publishers’ catalogs, analyze book reviews, take note of social media buzz and keeps an ear out for word-of-mouth recommendations.

When it comes to digital resources, selection of books usually follow the same criteria however, e-journals are a little different. Most publishers sell all or most of their titles in bulk collections, commonly referred to as the Big Deal (Horava, 2010, p. 147). It doesn’t provide much flexibility in terms of selection. I remember our library having a music and an agricultural journal collection, neither subjects thought at our university. This method of acquiring e-journal collections have become unpopular because of its exorbitant prices.

Evaluation

Evaluating the library holdings is key to weeding. Weeding is the process of removing obsolete, irrelevant, and damaged resources from the collection. It seems counterintuitive but weeding actually has advantages. By doing so, the shelves are divested of unwanted material and users can find items easier. The same is true for digital records, even if it seems they don’t take up space, they do (that is, digital space). Weeding e-resources also makes it easier for patrons to sift through titles. “Materials get lost in a vast digital collection just as they can in a large library. Easy accessibility is the key,” says Ashley Eklof, head librarian at Bibliotech, San Antonio’s bookless, all-digital public library (Chant, 2015, p. 37).

The question becomes what criteria can be used to evaluate what stays in the collection. Usage is the most significant reason for keeping an item in the collection. The techniques used to determine usage are many from the most low-tech like noting what’s in the shelving book cart to putting stickers on the spines of books used, to high-tech solutions like in-house automated reports and data analytic services. Many libraries use an integrated library system (ILS) usage report which returns an objective list of titles that safely be removed. As previously mentioned, analytical tools like collectionHQ that can use library data and create a weeding report are also helpful (Chant, 2015, p. 37).

The most obvious benchmark for removal is age. This is very critical for certain subject areas like medicine and technology. In the library I used to work in, we had to weed the medical section more often because the nursing board has a rule that the nursing students can only use titles that are five years old and newer. Sometimes though, there are old volumes that are classics or have historical value which should be kept in the collection. There are also circumstances when wear and tear makes a book look aged. In this case, it can safely be withdrawn and replaced with a newer copy. This happened a lot in our library because we loaned out textbooks.

Any librarian would agree that weeding is not something they look forward to. It’s messy and time-consuming. Colson’s (2007) literature review confirmed there is a strong aversion to weeding. There are some methods that help alleviate the dreaded task of weeding.  Chant (2015) writes that Holly Hibner, adult services coordinator at the Plymouth District Library suggests that walking the stacks a few minutes every day not only familiarizes the librarian with the collection but gives one the opportunity to pull titles that no longer belong. This method saves the staff form doing a major weeding project which entails loading book carts and examination of each title in one fell swoop (p. 35).

Weeding the digital collection is a little trickier because different vendors have different licensing agreements. Some have automatic removal of titles that are not used based on their own time thresholds. Most the time, weeding of e-resources is not under the control of the holding library. With libraries competing with many commercial enterprises, evaluation of our collections becomes even more important. Lakos and Phipps (2004) stated it best when they said that libraries need to develop a culture of assessment (p. 346). Constant evaluation of the collection is highly advisable given the persistent flux in the information world.

Organization

Having the best collection in the world will not make a difference if the user cannot find anything. In days of old, books were few and priceless so they were literally chained to the shelves. In more recent times, librarians had to find the book for the patron, who was not allowed in the stacks. In 1876, Melvil Dewey created a system of arranging books which enabled more autonomous information seeking for patrons. He published an anonymous guide called Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging Books and Pamphlets of a Library.  It contained three features that ensured its success: books were shelved by relative instead of fixed location; it used a simple decimal notation and; it had a detailed subject index. His system divided the body of knowledge into 10 main subject areas.

The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is the most widely used classification in the world and still being used today. Another popular classification system is based on the Library of Congress Subject Headings – Library of Congress Classification (LCC). This is a more detailed system and consists of 21 classes. It began as an in-house classification system but its scalability made it suitable for large libraries in universities and research facilities (Rowley & Hartley, 2008, p. 207, 211-212).  Libraries also tend to organize materials based on format, so books stay together while CD and DVD collections have their own section, usually tagged with DDC numbers.

In libraries, most electronic records are organized by the vendor. OPAC systems still use either the DDC or LCC. But for journal databases, the vendors usually arrange them by subject area or topic so the best way to retrieve information is by browsing by subject or a subject or keyword search. Other institutions like the government, might have their own classification system for electronic records management. In any case, the purpose of classifying and organizing library resources whether print or digital is to make them findable or discoverable.

Preservation

Since the practice of digitization has taken hold in libraries all over the world, the question now is what print sources should be preserved. Print retention is a problem because of the obvious reason of space. Academic libraries and large repositories have resorted to different solutions. One of them is to remove duplicates and donate them to other libraries. Another is to move items that are older or not as used to an off-site location or to the basement. I was lucky to have toured the archives of the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health Research Library, and the Library of Congress. The librarians who conducted these tours showed us different preservation and storage techniques they used. Rare books are the ones that receive the precision work of the preservation expert. Most books are evaluated for retention and digitization or weeding. In the National Library of Medicine, there are two basement floors of stacks where books are being manually digitized by dozens of scanners. At the Library of Congress, we were told that print items for archives are stored at Fort Meade, an Army base in Maryland, while films are archived in a facility in Virginia. The NIH Research Library has a more user-accessible basement floor where older volumes are stored but still accessible to library users.

But other facilities do not have the same space or resources these national libraries have. One solution libraries have come up with is shared collections. An example is the Five Colleges (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and UMass Amherst) who collaborated in a shared print repository (SPR) for their lesser-used holdings (Bridegam, 2004, p. 31). Kieft & Payne (2010) writes that the Institute of Museums and Libraries (IMLS) has funded a group of institutions and organizations to develop a guideline for the preservation of monographs and some strategies that were developed were focusing on materials already in library storage facilities, those materials in the HathiTrust, or identifying materials by class range, subject and discipline. They also said, “Monographs present complex challenges when at a time when libraries want to ensure the preservation of the print record but have increasing incentives to divest of older, less used print materials and take advantage of the affordances of electronic text” (Kieft & Payne, 2010, p. 229-233).

Digital items pose different challenges to librarians and archivists. Kastellec (2012) cites Berman, et al. (2010) who said that digital preservation are plagued by two technical issues: data loss and technical obsolescence. Authentic digital objects are exact copies of the original with no accidental or intentional changes or data loss. Obsolescence, not only of the records, the format it is on, and the equipment used to access the record itself, is another challenge. Two strategies currently used to addresses these are migration and emulation. Migration is copying or conversion of digital objects from one technology to another while emulation involves preserving the bit stream of the object and creating an access version using current technology (Paradigm, 2015).

The Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model is a reference model that has been widely accepted by the digital preservation community. The term “open” refers to the fact that it was developed and released in an open public forum, which encouraged anyone interested to participate (Lavoie, 2004, Section III). It is context-neutral; its terms and language allows to be used in projects from all over the world. It specifies how digital assets should be preserved but flexible enough to use in a variety of environments. It supplies a common framework and vocabulary that serves as a planning tool for designing digital repositories. (Paradigm, 2015). Standardized metadata ensures that these digital items are discoverable and reusable. Commonly used metadata schemas include Dublin Core, Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and PREservation Metadata Implementation Strategies (PREMIS).

The information professional of the future should be able to not only manage collections but also take care of the whole life cycle of each item from ingest to preservation to reuse or removal.

Justification of Evidence

  1. Unwanted Consequence of Weeding (LIBR 210 – Reference and User Information Services)

This is from my reference class where were discussing the different aspects of collection management and I decided to write about my experience with weeding. This was my first full-time library job so it was also my first experience with inventory and weeding. In the years that I was in that library, I saw the print collection dwindle to less than 50%. Although I know weeding is necessary, it was sad to see the empty shelves were not being replaced with newer titles. My supervisor was not a very effective advocate for the library and our book budget had to be approved every month. More often it was not.

What I learned from this experience is that for a library to continue to be viable, the staff must give it value with respect to the institution’s mission. Although our library was a high-traffic area, it was not effectively communicated to the administration. When the whole building was remodeled, the library was conveniently left out. Running today’s library does not only involve collection management but also being an advocate for the library and even fundraising. This would ensure that weeding would not have a negative effect on the collection.

  1. Developing Best Practices for Institutional Repositories(LIBR 284 – Tools, Services and Methodologies for Digital Curation)

In my digital curation class, we were asked to create best practices for developing institutional repositories, as well as note issues and challenges in planning and deployment. This artifact was posted on the discussion forum. I decided to use this assignment as evidence because it shows exactly what is entailed when planning an institutional repository. This is pertinent today, especially for academic librarians because there is a push for preservation of the original research of their students and faculty.

In doing this assignment, I learned that the most important aspect of institutional repositories is accessibility. All the best practices are hinged on providing access which can be achieved by following the OAI protocol, having a system that supports RDF (for data interchange on the Web) and the use of standard metadata schemas and naming conventions. It is also necessary to provide methods of establishing governance. This means any changes to the object must be documented, reported or corrected as well as the use of digital signatures. The signature ensures the integrity of the object. I was hoping to work in research data management so learning about protocols was of practical use to me.

  1. Just Kitten Around (LIBR 284 – Tools, Services and Methodologies for Digital Curation)

The goal of this project was to create a topical collection of web pages and save it on the archival site called Archive-It (http://archive-it.org). Archive-It is a repository for university libraries, state archives, federal institutions, museums and public libraries. We decided to divide the work evenly between the 4 members but I also served as the organizer. We had to find funny cat websites, analyze them if they are ready to be preserved using the site Archive Ready (http://archiveready.com). The site checks for accessibility, cohesion, metadata, and standard compliance and gives the results in percentages. When we had our collection of sites, we first had to ask permission from the site owners before we uploaded their web addresses to the Archive-It site. We also had to use Dublin Core metadata for each site. Then Archive-It uses Heritrix software which crawls and captures pages from the live web.

After some test crawls, we analyzed any errors and we did have to remove some sites that did not work because some required passwords and some used robots.txt files which prevented web content from being captured. After corrections were done, I performed the final crawl. Our project included a presentation, which is the artifact I am using as evidence. We divided the presentation between the four of us: introduction, the sites, the metadata, and a tour (how the collection will appear to the public). Even if this project was a lot of fun, I learned quite a bit about the complexities of preserving websites. Archive-It did not provide user-friendly directions so there was a bit of a struggle but we managed. I also learned that it is not really true that once something it is on the web, it lives forever. On the contrary, most everything is ephemeral and could be removed or replaced. Preserving a site through Archive-It is like taking a snapshot that could be referred to in the future using its sister site, Internet Archive Wayback Machine https://archive.org/web.

Reference

Chapman, L. (2012). Foreword. Collection Development in the Digital Age, ed. Maggie Fieldhouse and Audrey Marshall. London, UK: Facet.

Colson, J. (2007). Determining the use of an academic library reference collection: Report of a study. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47, 168-175.

Horava, T. (2010). Challenges and possibilities for collection management in a digital age. LRTS, 54(3), 142-152.

Kastellec, M. (2012). Practical limits to the scope of digital preservation. Information Technology and Libraries31(2), 63-71.

Kieft, R.H. & Payne, L. (2010). A nation-wide planning framework for large-scale collaboration on legacy print monograph collections. Collaborative Librarianship 2(4), 229-233.

Lakos, A. & Phipps, S. (2004). Creating a culture of assessment. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 346.

Lavoie, B.F. (2004). The Open Archival Information System reference model: Introductory guide. Dublin, OH: OCLC.

Lehman, K.A. (2013). Collection development and management: An overview of the literature 2011-12. LRTS, 58(3), 169-177.

Paradigm. (2015). Introduction to OAIS. Retrieved from http://www.paradigm.ac.uk/workbook/introduction/oais.html.

Paradigm. (2015). Selecting the right preservation strategy: Emulation. Retrieved from http://www.paradigm.ac.uk/workbook/preservation-strategies/selecting-emulation.html.

Paradigm. (2015). Selecting the right preservation strategy: Migration. Retrieved from http://www.paradigm.ac.uk/workbook/preservation-strategies/selecting-migration.html.

Peet, L. (2015). Format follows function. Library Journal,140(14), 34-37.

Rowley, J. & Hartley, R. (2008). Organizing knowledge: An introduction to managing access to information. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Teper, J.H. (2014). Selection for preservation. Library Resources & Technical Services, 58(4), 220-232.

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