Tumescent Collections and Saving for Necessity
There seems to be a visible divide in the library field (in many areas) but more specifically in how to best utilize off-site storage. As a library’s collection grows each year, there will be certain titles which find little or no usage. There may come a day when a researcher will want to take a peek at this title, but a large number of titles will find themselves without audience. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to predict when an item will meet its information suitor, so how can we gain shelf space without losing opportunities?
The majority of off-site storage programs try to maintain a rapid delivery time of 24hrs from the request being initiated. Many researchers will agree that this sounds reasonable, but more than a few librarians still subscribe to the “just in case” model of collection management. As collections also venture into the digital realm, many librarians are torn on whether sending titles that you subscribe to electronically should have their physical counterparts sent off-site. In many others’ minds, including my own, items which have not circulated from their creation date or less than once in a period of 3 years should almost without question be moved off-site.
So then the question arises as to why items aren’t being used. One possibility is that the collection development policies are either outdated or too specific. I would wager the more suspect possibility lies in the inability of the library catalog to accurately represent the physical holdings. If a catalog relies on the user to laboriously uncover layer after layer of bibliographic data, the user will most likely become frustrated with the effort it takes to find what they need. This is not saying that all searching should be easy or immediate, but to require every user to be adeptly skilled in information retrieval seems as irrational as not having a catalog at all. A catalog could offer as many access points as necessary to allow the user multiple avenues of investigation. This concept only succeeds if there has been a concerted effort to catalog items in such a way that these access points become viable.
There isn’t a single answer for how to maintain your collection or for what could be the most efficient use of off-site storage. The solution must come from within, at least at this venture.