Changes at The Urbana Free Library...the FAQ
What’s happening with the collection? | Where have all the books gone? | What criteria are used for weeding? | Has the collection philosophy changed? | Why so fast? | Does everyone have to use self-checkout stations? | The shelves seem so empty. What next? | If shelving is taken down, then will the collection be smaller? | But still, with fewer shelves, there can’t be as many books, right? | What about eBooks? | When will all of this happen? | What does the new Strategic Plan for Services have to do with all this activity?
What’s happening with the collection?
Weeding the collection is a routine part of library operations. It occurs continuously in order to make room for new purchases. Without this process, collections get dated and inhibit the ability for library users to easily browse.
We know that it seems counter-intuitive, but both library research and experience reveal that weeding actually results in increased use of the collection. Increased use is an indication that more people found something of interest to check out.
Where have all the books gone?
Adult books are going to Better World Books, a company that redistributes books worldwide. They supply us with shipping cartons and cover the cost of shipping. They make a small monetary contribution to the library, but the real benefit is the repurposing of the books.
Children’s books are going to the Urbana Champaign Public Health District, which gives the books away for free at their clinic. Some Spanish-language materials have gone to the Urbana schools.
What criteria are used for weeding?
Items considered for withdrawal from the collection are evaluated by physical condition, frequency of use, date of publication, duplication within the existing collection, availability through interlibrary loan, long-term or historical significance or interest, cooperative collection agreements or collection strengths, and incorrect or outdated information.
Adult fiction books are considered candidates to evaluate for weeding if they have no checkouts in the past three years. Retaining books in genre series is an additional criterion.
Adult non-fiction books are considered candidates to evaluate for weeding if the publication date is older than ten years. Children’s books are considered candidates to evaluate for weeding if they have no checkouts in the past three years.
As weeding progresses, the librarians are keeping notes about areas that need to be expanded and updated with new titles.
Has the collection philosophy changed?
No. Urbana has always valued broad collections. We purchase a range of perspectives and unique titles right alongside the popular, high demand items. In our collection, there is room for both.
As we weed and replenish the collections, that philosophy continues.
Why so fast?
Yes, we are moving more quickly right now. The library will be installing new security gates with technology that allows us to have self-checkout stations. To accomplish this change, every item in the collection needs to be retagged—obviously a very large project.
Libraries that have completed this process advise that weeding before tagging is essential. It saves the time and expense of tagging older and lesser-used items that may be candidates for withdrawal.
Does everyone have to use self-checkout stations?
Not at all. The Urbana Free Library will continue to emphasize service. There will still be staff available at the circulation desk to check out your items for you.
Self-checkout stations will be available near Circulation and in Children’s Services for those who wish to use them. In 2008, the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (formerly Library Research Center) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science conducted a random-sample mail survey of Urbana cardholders. The survey indicated that 40% of Urbana users were interested in using self-checkout stations.
The shelves seem so empty. What next?
Part of the reduction in collection simply provides space for us to make the collection easier to browse. We will take books back down off the top shelves and have plenty of open space on each shelf. This makes it easier for people to use the collection and provides the space required for new items.
Part of the reduction in collection will be used to remove some shelving and free up floor space for more seating. Both local community input and overall public library trends indicate that people enjoy the library itself as a physical place. In addition to checking out library materials to take home, people want more meeting rooms, study rooms, and gathering spaces.
Part of the floor space will be used to put all new media items out in the public space. Currently library users look through movie, music, and audiobook selection displays and present their cards at the desk for staff to retrieve the items. The coming change suits the many library users who prefer the immediacy of having access to the actual items and of browsing only items that are in and available for checkout.
If shelving is taken down, then will the collection be smaller?
At first, yes, but it will grow again through normal acquisitions. We routinely purchase about 200 new books each week in Adult Services and 50 new books each week in Children’s Services. And we have the ability to accelerate purchases by using money raised by the Friends of the Library through their popular used book sales.
But still, with fewer shelves, there can’t be as many books, right?
Not really. If weeding and the purchase of newer titles increase the checkout of library materials, then much of what the library owns is actually off the shelves and being used in people’s homes. In a heavily used collection, the library can own many more titles than fit on the shelves.
What about eBooks?
We simultaneously will launch an effort to increase eBook purchases and to make them available directly in our online catalog. When you search for a title, you will see the eBook choice right alongside the choice for the regular hardback copy.
For those who already love the convenience of eBooks, this will be a welcome addition to the library’s collections. As we purchase titles in both digital and physical formats, we satisfy more library users. By supplying eBooks for those who want to read digitally, we reduce the demand on the physical copies, making them more available to the majority of library users who still prefer to read the traditional way.
Library users love physical books; library staff love physical books. We won’t abandon them.
When will all of this happen?
We are just at the beginning of this process so it is a bit hard to predict how long each transition will take.
New seating areas can become a reality once we consolidate the collection to remove some shelving. We will try to add a mix of lounge chairs and small tables for laptop users.
We can consolidate the collection (still leaving plenty of space for new books) once the weeding is complete in an area. It takes a lot of staff time to shift the entire collection, so we want to do this after we finish weeding and can calculate the amount of space to leave free on each shelf.
The installation of new security gates and self-checkout stations can’t happen until we tag the collection. Based on other libraries’ experiences, we should expect the tagging to take approximately three months. Once we get started we can better predict how long this step will take. If our experience matches that of other libraries, we should be ready by early fall.
Selecting and configuring a new start-up eBook collection may take a few months. During the time we need to get this ready, we’ll also schedule the software upgrade that makes eBook titles available directly in our catalog.
When we get a bit further along and have a better idea of what will fit where, we will share some of the planning layouts. Thanks for your patience. Everything takes time.
What does the new Strategic Plan for Services have to do with all this activity?
The new strategic plan resulted in six library service priorities. We will direct library focus toward these priorities over the next several years.
Physical "people" space and collections are the number one and number two priorities respectively. Creating the extra seating areas, striving for a heavily used collection, and adding eBooks—combined, these represent efforts to make progress on both priorities at the same time.
A short version of the Strategic Plan for Services is available as a brochure at the service desks and on the library website. The complete plan, with objectives for measuring our progress, is available on the library website. Go to urbanafreelibrary.org and click on the footer “Your Right to Know.” Here you will find Board information, budgets, planning documents, policies, and statistics.
If you would like more information, please feel fre to contact Debra Lissak, Executive Director, at 367-4058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.