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Development of a Reference Collection

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents.................................................................................................................2
Introduction..........................................................................................................................3
Explanation of current collection........................................................................................3
Recommendations ..............................................................................................................3
Phase One 2009 - 2010.....................................................................................................4
Phase Two 2011 – 2012....................................................................................................4
Phase Three 2013 – 2014..................................................................................................6
Conclusion............................................................................................................................6
Bibliography.........................................................................................................................8

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Introduction
This report will make recommendations for the development of the reference
collection of the engineering section of the library of Prime University, a large
university with a strong engineering bias. The report will first explain the current
state of the library’s collection, then it will make recommendations for the collection’s
development in three stages (2009-2010, 2011-2012 and 2013-2014). These three
stages can be broadly described as the following: (1) a user study to determine the
level at which resources are currently used within this collection; (2) assessment of
potential acquisitions and purchasing basic texts and subscriptions to supplement
the existing collection; and (3) making further long-term purchases, promoting the
use of new subscriptions, resources and core texts as part of the library’s collection,
and completing a final user survey in order to ascertain the effectiveness of the
implementation of this plan.

All of these decisions will be taken in conjunction with key stakeholders and users of
the engineering reference collection including the relevant members of university
staff, researchers and other library users. This will help both with making decisions
regarding collection development, and will also provide a ready audience for
informational campaigns to promote the new collection both to staff and to their
courses.

Explanation of current collection


The engineering reference collection in the Prime University Library is currently
heavily biased towards print resources, and it is fairly out of date as it has not been
significantly updated since the retirement of the Engineering Liaison Librarian in
2004. Over the course of the subsequent five years, subscriptions have been
maintained, but large decisions regarding the allocation of resources within the
reference collection have been postponed. As the library has now appointed a new
librarian, it is now in a position to make these decisions and to update the collection.

Recommendations
This evaluation process will follow the recommendations in Tucker and Torrence in
that the primary criteria used will be: budget allocation; identifying user needs;
selection of resources; and collection evaluation.1 The first phase of this project will
attempt to complete identify the user needs and will evaluate the effectiveness of the
current collection in meeting those needs; the next step will involve selecting the
resources needed to further develop the collection; and the third phase of the project

1
J.C. Tucker and M. Torrence, ‘Collection development for new librarians: advice
from the trenches,’ Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services, 28 (2004)
p.401.

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will re-evaluate the collection and identify further user needs.
Of particular interest to the development of this collection will be the necessity to
include further electronic resources in the engineering core collection. The collection
currently is heavily biased towards print resources, reflecting its fairly out-of-date
status. As so many resources for the engineering field are dominated by
electronically accessed resources2 it will be important to ensure that the library
subscribes to the proper packages through electronic resource providers for an
engineering collection. In particular, some of the specialist engineering
bibliographical and abstract databases are not already available as part of this
library’s reference collection, and so we will need to assess and evaluate the
importance of investing in a few of these services.

Phase One 2009 - 2010


This phase of the project will comprise a use study to determine the extent to which
the collection is currently used. This will help to identify well-used sections of the
collection and those that can be significantly updated. This use survey will also help
to identify potential candidates for weeding. In order to fully evaluate the ways in
which the collection is currently used, this use survey should take place over the
course of a period as long as feasibly possible so as to capture data from as many
course and exam cycles as possible.3
During this phase of the project, the subject librarian will also examine the
engineering reference collections at peer institutions, with a particular view towards
determining which resources have been purchased since the collection was last
updated, and also keeping in mind the ability of students to access other libraries’
collections when searching for less frequently used items.4

Phase Two 2011 – 2012


Having completed the use study within the library, and being aware of which
resources are available in peer institutions, a collection development policy will be
formulated specifically for the engineering reference collection. The library’s broader
collection development policy will need to be adapted for use with the particular
needs of this collection, and with specific attention paid to the departmental needs of
engineering researchers and students—how serials and core texts are generally
used within the discipline. A part of the development process for this policy will follow

2
See, for instance, the electronic resources in engineering accessible in the Cardiff
University Library at http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/insrv/bysubject/engineering/index.html.
3
As the collection has not been evaluated or significantly improved for more than
five years, it will be valuable to receive information over the course of a long period
of time in order to ensure that as complete a view of use patterns as possible is
obtained. Andrew Booth, ‘How unused is your reference collection?’ Health
Information and Libraries Journal, 23, pp154-155.
4
In particular, the engineering collections of Loughborough, Imperial College and
Cardiff University libraries should be taken into consideration. The relevant
information for these libraries can be found in the bibliography.

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Lee’s formulation of determining (1) what the collection has, and (2) where various
stakeholders wish it to be.5
Phase One of this project will have helped determine what the collection has (and
how it is used), which will help the library staff and key stakeholders in the collection
determine how they want the collection to be composed in the future. Using the
allocated budget as a guideline, a series of decisions will be made during this period
about acquisitions and major new additions to the library’s collection. In consultation
with the engineering faculty, major new print and online resources will need to be
purchased if there are sizable gaps in the library’s collection.
The assessment programme for determining the utility of purchasing new print and
electronic resources will involve significant liaising with the engineering faculty in
order to assess, trial and evaluate resources. Researchers, subject specialists and
IT personnel will be involved in primary and secondary evaluation procedures, while
library staff ensure that license agreements and other resource terms and conditions
match the library’s collection development policy.6
In addition to the acquisition of new resources, this phase of the programme will also
involve identifying potential resources for weeding—either electronic or print
resources. This stage will have to be taken with great care, and in particularly close
consultation with relevant members of the faculty, but it is vital in order to allow the
development process to go forward. While some additional library resources will
need to be allocated to the engineering reference collection to make up for several
years of under-development, this process of weeding will help to free resources—
both financial and physical—for new acquisitions.7 In particular, it will enable new
resources to both complement and replace existing resources.
In the case of more minor works or resources that are missing from the collection,
the librarian and faculty will need to decide whether it is necessary to spend money
on the resource or whether it is sufficient that the resource be available through any
other source such as consortium libraries. As Tucker and Torrence make clear,
when updating a reference collection it is useful to think of the reference collection
more in terms of a collection of access points rather than a physical or electronic
collection of materials or publications.8 From the library user’s point of view, the
provider of a document or resource is unimportant as long as they (a) have access
to it, and (b) know how to access it. It is the job of a good reference collection to
identify these means of access and provide them if necessary.

5
Lee, Stuart D, Building an electronic resource collection, (London: Library
Association Publishing, 2002), p.64.
6
Lee, pp71-81.
7
Due to the fact that most of the engineering-specific resources and journals remain
in print resources (as the library’s holdings currently stand) it is not expected that the
library will lose access to any current electronic subscriptions. However, with new
electronic resources, it may be possible to move some print journals and other
resources to storage in order to free up additional shelf space.
8
Tucker and Torrence, p.402.

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Phase Three 2013 – 2014
The final phase of this reference collection development programme will be to
explain the new resources to faculty, students and other stakeholders and resource
users; and to launch a new use study to determine whether the development of the
collection has resulted in a higher use of the reference collection.
A programme of user education should be launched immediately following the
acquisition of new resources in phase two. While key researchers and academic
staff in the engineering faculty will have been involved in the selection process for
new resources, and thus will be aware of what is now available, a more formal
programme of education should be launched to extend this user education to other
faculty members, researchers, students and other library users. This can be done in
a number of forms including direct liaison through attending their faculty meetings or
communicating with them via email; updating or creating printed documentation for
the engineering department’s resources in the library that is available both in printed
form and on the library’s website; and organising a series of class, school or college
inductions at the beginning of the term in order to involve as many new and returning
students as possible in viewing the newly available resources. This will help to avoid
the problem of library users continuing to use old reference resources simply out of
habit.
Finally, having completed this programme of development for the library’s
engineering reference collection, it will be useful to conduct a follow-up use study of
the collection. This will help to determine the effectiveness of the collection’s
development programme, and it will identify areas for which there is a continuing
need for development and improvement.
As well as using the 2009-2010 survey as a benchmark, usage levels should also be
compared against other subject specialist reference collections in this library, as well
as against engineering reference collections in peer institutions. The levels of use of
reference collections noted in Booth should be used as further benchmarks in order
to help maintain an idea of the levels of use that can be expected both prior to and
following the development of a reference collection. 9

Conclusion
This report has provided recommendations on how the Prime University Library can
improve its reference collection of engineering sources. The collection has currently
stagnated for more than five years, since the engineering liaison librarian retired.
The collection, therefore, needs to be updated to reflect contemporary reference
works in the field as well as contemporary uses of reference collections. As a result,
it is predicted that at the end of this five-year plan for modernising the reference
collection, a far higher percentage of the core texts will be available electronically
through journal and database subscriptions than are now available. Further, the
proposals bear no relation to the size of the collection, either hard-copy or
electronically. The revised collection may very well contain far fewer hard-copy texts

9
Booth, pp155-156.

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and journals than it does now—resulting in a shift in the library’s financial resources
from print to electronic resources; the collection may need to grow both in terms of
print and electronic resources, in which case the long-term development plan will
have to include phased purchases of subscriptions and other major investments; or,
the new librarian and departmental specialists may determine that the reference
collection can successfully achieve parity with peer institutions with only targeted
investment in new electronic databases, while otherwise making use of databases to
which the library already subscribes, thus saving money in the long run.
According to the plan laid out in this report, new items will be added to the reference
collection throughout a three year period, following an in-depth study of how the
current collection is used and how it compares to similar collections at peer
institutions. In order to improve the collection, it is important to understand its
current status. It is only by a thorough period of evaluation that we will be able to
fully understand what the collection needs in order to best benefit our students,
faculty, and other library users.

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Bibliography
Booth, Andrew. ‘How unused is your reference collection?’ Health Information and
Libraries Journal, 23, pp.154–157.
Carrigan, Dennis P. ‘Toward a theory of collection development.’ Library
Acquisitions: Practice & Theory, 19 (1995), 1, pp.97-106.
Lee, Stuart D. Building an electronic resource collection: A practical guide. London:
Library Association Publishing, 2002.
“Library”, Imperial College London, http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/library, accessed 26
October 2009.
“Loughborough University Library”, Loughborough University,
http://www.lboro.ac.uk/library/index.html, accessed 26 October 2009.
“Trevithick Library”, Cardiff University Information Services,
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/insrv/libraries/trevithick/index.html, accessed 26
October 2009.
Tucker, J.C. and M. Torrence. ‘Collection development for new librarians: advice
from the trenches.’ Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services,
28 (2004) pp.397–409.

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