Thursday, 21 August 2008

CRIG Report August 15 2008 -Roger Carter

I attended a CAVAL Reference Interest Group Forum on the Reference Collection: print, electronic or the dumpster? August 15 2008.RMIT University Swanston Library.

The Forum took the form of two formal papers, a case study Reference collection rationalization at Swinburne Hawthorn Campus (Emilie Johnson); and a discussion of the development of a Ref collection policy to go with the larger Collection Development policy. (Annette Sullivan, RMIT).

This was followed by four short (5 min.) talks from people from different institutions.

The day was concluded with a short “sharing” of favourite reference resources and closing comments.

Em Johnson- Swinburne

Emilie was charged with radically reducing the Reference collection. Her approached recommended retaining a “classic” print reference collection and discarding or relocating the rest. The result was 31% retained in Ref (1007 titles); 33% relocated to stack (1058 titles) and 36% discarded (1154 titles). She made a good point: We need to be able to answer the question, “What is a Ref Collection?” (& why do we need it etc). PS: They have NO store of any kind.

Annette Sullivan-RMIT

RMIT had a large print Ref collection – 16000 items in 6 branches. (Most of these at their main Swanston Library. They also have “lots” of etitles. The stats show the etitles are being used. The selection and weeding decision making is done via committee like our CMCG. The Policy is a “work in progress” and not complete yet.

The policy sounded like a good idea but the description of the process made it sound like a lot of work. A suggestion that came up here and elsewhere on the day: --You can relocate to stack and still make items “not for loan”. (We are already doing this quite extensively – at least in MML.)

Here are some points from the 5 minute talks:

Jane Miller –Victoria Uni.

  • VU reduced the Ref Coll by 75%.
  • She asserts that relocating to the general shelves has increased the use of the former reference resources.
  • She says “To the client they are all just books!”
  • VU cancelled Britannica Online because of low use
  • “Ready reference” may be the only really useful reference collection
  • Our LMS’s and interfaces are lacking and reference resource discovery is difficult

Colin Bates- Deakin

  • Deakin favours a small “ready reference” collection of “core titles”
  • Small footprint, low-rise shelves
  • No reference desk
  • Increasing etitles, but
  • LIMIT the number to 6 most relevant resources in each topic area (this was an interesting approach)
  • Oxford Reference Online Premium is useful in providing quality scholarly ereference titles for this purpose (See Deakin’s eReference page)
  • Lack of a good federated search system for diverse reference tools is a major problem –I also think this is a key issue

Roy Kennaugh –Uni of Melbourne, Engineering Library

  • They have put their entire research collection into store because of a central planning direction to move to a smaller space
  • It has had little use since then
  • They are left with an undergraduate collection
  • They have all the major eReference tools

A PDF of the Powerpoint for Annette’s talk can be downloaded from

Other presentations may appear at this site later.

The seminar was followed by a tour of the Swanston Library. They have lots of “jellybean” furniture and seem to like them generally, though they have a different leg system to ours which probably makes them better. A notable feature was a floor with three different level of “quiet”. There was a total-silence area completely enclosed in a glass wall!

The day was informative and indicated that we are pretty much in line with thinking of other CAVAL libraries and have most of the same problems of relentless pressure to rationalize flor space, difficulty in evaluating print reference resources and deciding what we really want to do with reference.


Felix Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felix Wilson said...

I found this interesting article the other day while on environmental scan duties, it discusses a use based analysis of print reference resources and has a good literature review.