Interesting assignment

Can it be? Can neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light? Can homework be interesting? Don’t these things contravene the laws of physics? Won’t reality completely break down if I say that I’m actually looking forward to doing this assignment?

Just looked out my window. Reality seems pretty unmoved, so I guess I can blaspheme yet again. So, I had my first meeting of the “Collection Development and Acquisition of Library Material” course, and frankly I’m very excited. The materials look promising, and our series of 3 assignments is downright interesting. I’ll chat about the first one for now because it’s the one that I’m thinking about the most. (It is due first).

The assignment is titled “Collection Assessment”, and true to its name (a hitnomer instead of misnomer?), it calls for us to look at a section of a collection that interests us and then to assess it. We’re to find out how were the materials in this section selected; how well used they are; whether there are gaps in the selection; and what we can do to strengthen the collection as well as increase its usage (two, strangely, distinct things). For the first couple of questions (and some others), we need to talk to the subject specialist who acquired the materials or is responsible for acquiring materials for that section. (The accession of the books can, of course, predate the tenure of the current specialist.) We’ll also somehow need to lay our hands on some usage statistics, be they circulation (check out) numbers, in-house use (usually tracked by how often a book was reshelved), interlibrary requests, or formal use in a classroom (e.g. reserves).

I’ve never seen circulation statistics before, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. (As a shorthand, I’m calling all metrics for use “circulation statistics”.) I’m itching to find out what sort of pictures they paint. What drives circulation rates? Which books are the belles, and which the wallflowers? I’m sure the library profession has already asked and answered such questions (at least within some specific context) much thoroughly than I’ll be able to do with my little section, but there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty in the data muck. Ode to the joy of discovery!

I’ve already laid claim to the section that is to be “mine”. Mine for analysis; mine for leafing through; mine to do a condition review;  mine to find out what’s in it that makes a reader tick (or pass over while barely suppressing a yawn). Mine, all mine are the Z471-z481s. In case you wonder, these LC call numbers fall under the subject heading ” Bookselling and publishing“. Interesting, eh? But you can’t have them; they’re mine.

PS. When I have finished my assignment, I may post of highlights of my findings on this blog. Surely you find assessing library materials as interesting as I do?

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2 Responses to Interesting assignment

  1. Esa says:

    Though I am regular visitor to my local library, I have been quite unaware of what goes into the science of being a librarian. Your continuing series of essays are very illuminating and witty. And this one inspired me to compose a post about mine. 🙂

  2. teasandbooks says:

    Update: I’m now in the library stacks, doing what seems like endless book condition assessment. I think the staff is looking at me funny, and who would blame them? I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get circulation statistics at the end of this process. Here’s to hoping the final write-up will reveal interesting patterns that make this all worthwhile!

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