Collection Maintenance Tips

So, you've ordered the books, and they're on the shelves! And you weed them occasionally. Maybe you even weed them on a set schedule, instead of when the shelves are overflowing and the pages start pleading with you to do something about them! Aside from weeding, here are some steps I recommend doing as frequently as possible to make sure that your collection looks presentable and is represented accurately in the catalog. As always, I recommend approaching your collection in manageable chunks, which for this exercise should be 1,000 items or less.

If you're low on time, run a list of the items in one part of the collection that have "trouble" or out of the ordinary statuses:
  • missing
  • lost or lost and paid
  • billed
  • claims returned
  • in process
  • repair
  • in transit
Go through (or send a minion, if you are lucky enough to have minions) and look for these trouble items. You'd be surprised how many of these items are actually sitting on the shelf where they're supposed to be. While you're browsing for these items, pull anything off the shelf that looks like it's in serious need of repair, and also anything that is incorrectly shelved. Before reshelving them in the right place, make sure to check those items in, following one of my favorite rules of thumb:

If you're touching it anyway, you might as well check it in to make sure all is well.

This rule applies to picking books up off of tables (internal use), books coming off displays and going back to the shelves, books that you found shoved at an awkward angle on top of other books in a back corner of the library...

If you have more time, or are focusing on a relatively small part of the collection (or a part of the collection where things frequently go missing, such as DVDs, paperbacks, or graphic novels and manga), I recommend checking in every book. I know! This sounds like a lot of work, especially if you have to haul the books back and forth between the shelf and the scanner. I'll give you my example, and then you can tell me that I'm crazy. 

I'm about to do one of my twice-yearly graphic novel orders for the adult collection. I order 30-40 items at a time, and the collection currently includes about 700 items (including some Spanish-language items). Over the course of three to four hours (some off-desk and some on), I put them all in order, checked them all in, and shifted them to make room for new items. I touched all the books. I got a good idea of what series I needed to check on for new titles, I repaired several items, and I checked the circulation of a few I had been tentative about to see whether they were going out (they weren't). Handling the books jogged my memory in a few cases, and I made some notes on what to order (and what not to order again).

In addition to the items I repaired, I also found:
  • Four items marked "lost" or "lost/paid"
  • One item marked "claims returned"
  • Four items with holds on them
  • Twenty-one items marked "missing"
  • Three Spanish language graphic novels without "EspaƱol" stickers
  • One item missing a digit in its record, causing it to come up as "mis-cataloged"
  • Several items that needed to be reclassified or relabeled
Now, tidying the status of 34+ items may not seem that exciting, but that's almost 5% of my collection, and now I don't have to think about repurchasing those not-really-missing items when I place my order. It took some time, but I believe it will be worthwhile in the long run, and for once the section is actually in order (until the library opens).

What do you think?


Amy said…
Hear, hear! It frustrated me to no end the "hands off" feel the entire collection (all 80,000 items) had when I arrived at my new library almost three years ago. While only in charge of all the youth & teen materials, I have at times, run those "weird status" reports and "trespassed" upon adult territory because it didn't seem to bother them that we had MANY pieces of inventory that were unaccounted for and undealt with. No collection will ever be perfect, but finding even just a few things each time that were OUR errors justifies the task in my mind.
Anne Clark said…
My old library system ran these reports monthly. I too am surprised how little attention some libraries pay to inventory. It is so frustrating for patrons when they see "missing" or "lost" on ALL the items. It makes them think their tax dollars are wasted. Even worse would be the perception that the library may not care whether the items really ARE lost, etc.
Helgagrace said…
If they're really lost or missing, that's fine--then we can figure out whether we need to reorder or not, and get that record out of the system so it doesn't look like we're bleeding items.

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