- Use case 1: Identifying last copies among titles considered for withdrawal
- Use case 2: Identifying collection strengths
- Use case 3: Deciding whether to conserve a book
- Use case 4: Reviewing a collection at the shelves
- Use case 5: Prioritising a collection or item(s) for digitisation
- Use case 6: Subject search - collection development and marketing
All academic libraries are under considerable pressure regarding space: there is a constant inflow of new stock, plus many other demands on the limited space available. Most therefore have in place a programme of stock editing, with selective withdrawal of items from both teaching and research collections. It is considered best practice to check whether titles being considered for withdrawal are rare, or indeed unique, within the UK (“last copies”), and if so, to either retain that item or offer it to another library for permanent retention.
Using its Library Management System (LMS), the Library establishes a list of candidates for withdrawal based on various criteria such as recent usage statistics, relevance to current teaching and research interests within the institution, etc.
Once a final list has been agreed, a file is exported from the LMS, listing the record number of each title, and this is submitted to the Copac CCM tool in batch mode. The record number is used by the tool to identify each title within the Copac database and hence the number of copies of that title held by other institutions. If any institution has recorded a reservation status for their copy (e.g. “permanent retention”), then this too can be identified.
A file is output by Copac containing, for each title, the same record number that was submitted, the number of copies held nationally, plus any data regarding preservation status.
The Library loads this file into its LMS, matching on record number and updating the original catalogue record with the additional information supplied by Copac.
The list of candidate titles can then be manipulated using this additional information in order to generate a definitive list of items for withdrawal. Typically, the file would be sorted by the number of copies held nationally and any title with fewer than 5 other holding institutions would either be retained or offered to other research libraries with an interest in that subject area.
At present, it is a very tedious, time-consuming and expensive manual process to check all withdrawals against Copac. This facility saves both time and money as the relevant information can be made available to staff on the ground with minimal effort.
Because the overheads are drastically reduced, individual libraries are more likely to follow best practice and carry out this check for last copies. This will help to maintain the full breadth of our national research collections and avoid the loss of material which could be of value to future generations of researchers.
The inclusion of preservation status information provides a framework which could, in the future, allow libraries to make more informed decisions about long-term retention (and the associated conservation issues)
Our major research libraries face difficult decisions around prioritisation and best use of resources. Many have outstanding collections, but budgetary and space limitations, the availability of digital surrogates and the condition of the physical stock all suggest that a more targeted approach is required. Brittle paper in particular is putting whole collections at risk since so much material published between 1850 and 1980 is slowly decaying on the shelves. Even where material has been or is planned to be digitised, it is clearly important to continue to offer access to the physical originals somewhere within the UK.
Within this context, libraries need to know how their collections fit into the national picture, which collections contain a high proportion of rare or unique materials, and which ones may be of value to researchers because they bring together a body of related material not held by any other single institution. This data can then be used to inform practical decisions about all aspects of collection management.
The Library believes that its collection of material on travel and exploration is particularly strong and unusual within the UK. Publication dates range from 1820 to 1914. Using functionality within its LMS, it exports a list of record numbers for the 2,500 titles within this collection. For purposes of comparison and control, a second file is also generated containing the record numbers for a second collection of biographical and autobiographical material from the same period (1,500 titles). Both files are submitted to the Copac CCM tool in batch mode.
Using the record number supplied, the tool is able to identify each title within the Copac database. From this, statistics can be generated regarding which other institutions hold these titles and how many copies of each title are recorded within Copac.
Staff view the resulting bar charts online via the visualisation options which form part of the CCM tools. They also download the statistics into Excel for more sophisticated local analysis and future comparison with further collections.
The bar charts show that for the travel and exploration collection:
- the British Library is the only institution to hold more than 70% of the titles
- 5% of the titles are uniquely held by our Library
- A further 15% of titles are only held by 2 or 3 other institutions
In comparison, for the biographical materials:
- 4 other institutions hold 90% or more of the titles
- Only 1% of titles are uniquely held by our Library
- A further 5% of titles are only held by 2 or 3 other institutions
From this, it is clear that the travel and exploration collection is a valuable resource which should be prioritised for conservation and should be the focus of active promotion within the wider research community.
Without the Copac CCM tools, there is no objective way of assessing the strengths of a library’s collections, either relative to each other or within the wider national context. Such analysis opens the way to evidence-based prioritisation in many areas of library activity including conservation, digitisation and resource allocation, with consequent improvements in efficiency and return on investment. It provides a framework for local consortia such as White Rose to engage in collaborative collection development, saving money by avoiding unnecessary duplication. It also opens the genuine prospect of a more coordinated approach to the national distributed research collection with clear advantages to both the research community and the funding agencies.
Conservation staff are extremely stretched by the volume of material which needs attention. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the research stock is at risk from brittle paper, remedial measures are expensive and time-consuming, and it is therefore important to use resources to best effect.
Library staff find a book published in 1910 in a poor state of repair during routine shelving. Pages are coming loose because the paper is brittle. They pass it to the Conservation Unit.
Staff in the Conservation Unit call up the record in the LMS. A link on the title display offers the option to launch a search for that record number in the COPAC CCM interactive tool.
From the CCM tool, three pieces of relevant data are immediately clear:
- The bar chart reveals the item is held by 7 other institutions.
- The map shows that the nearest holding institution is another library in the White Rose Consortium, so there is ready access to another copy
- Both the British Library and the White Rose Consortium library have indicated a preservation status of “Permanent retention”.
The staff member therefore concludes that repair of this copy is not a priority and it is a better use of resources to withdraw it from stock and refer any future users to the copy held at the other White Rose library.
Instant access to information and easier integration into standard procedures, leading to better prioritisation and use of scarce resources.
The inclusion of preservation status information provides a framework which could, in the future, allow libraries to make more informed decisions about retention and active conservation of individual items.
Assessment for conservation and/or the transfer of material to Special Collections is time-consuming and expensive, yet is imperative if material is to be preserved for use by future generations. Although such assessments are often event-led and restricted to a single physical item, there are occasions where it is important to systematically review a whole collection. For example, many nineteenth century botanical works contain plates, sometimes in colour. There is a need to review each volume on the shelf, assess and record its physical condition, and decide on what action is appropriate (e.g. active conservation treatment, digitise, transfer physical volume to closed access, leave on open shelves in various combinations).
Carrying a mobile device such as a tablet, the staff member reviews each item sequentially at the shelves. The catalogue record is called up in the LMS, where a link offers the option to search for that record number in the Copac CCM interactive tool’s mobile interface.
The CCM tool immediately reveals:
- The number of copies of that title held nationally
- A map showing the distribution of those copies round the UK
- Whether any of those copies have a recorded preservation status (such as “permanent retention”).
The staff member now assesses the physical condition of the volume and is also able to assess the quality and distinctiveness of the plates.
In this particular case, noting that the item is held by 4 other libraries, of which 2 indicate active conservation and permanent retention, the decision is taken to digitise the item and then return to the open shelves. This decision is recorded in the MARC record within the LMS, from where the information will subsequently be uploaded to Copac.
The staff member is able to inspect the volume physically while having access to the full bibliographic record and the context of national holdings for that title (including their condition/retention status).
From this, appropriate decisions can be made with less effort and manual collation of data.
Many libraries are faced with the monumental task of potentially digitising entire collections either through user request or preservation needs. Dependent upon resources and funding some material may be lost due to the lack of data required to understand what should be prioritised over other content. With all the competing priorities of a digitisation service (on-demand, research led, project funded, preservation) having a tool that identifies what is a strength, is unique or endangered speeds up the selection process and places content in the queue for conversion.
The decision to digitise would be based upon information gathered by the following process (in which French studies has been used as an example):
- Identify bibliographic records in the catalogue relating to French studies
- Submit to the Copac CCM tool batches of records related to sub-disciplines within the broad area of French studies
- Based upon results, it is determined that 18th century poetry contains a particularly large number of titles which are either unique or held by only one other library
- If multiple copies are held are there unique elements in the holding institutions copy that justifies digitisation?
- Cross check proposed items against Google and Europeana for digitised copies Collection(s) or item(s) can also be marked for digitisation dependent upon results of use case 2 and 3
- Digitised collection(s) item(s) are recorded in the catalogue or external holdings are referenced (recommendation for future reports and best practice)
- Once quantities are determined, digitisation costs can be estimated in addition to description and storage for item(s) collection(s).
Using tools such as the CCM tool to understand holdings, both in terms of individual items which are rare or unique, and whole collections which contain a large number of such items, reduces and possibly prevents duplication of effort related to digitisation.
Research led, on-demand, and project based scanning represent significant strands of work within a digitisation service. Parallel to all this would be collection digitisation for access and preservation (preferably research led), which this tool would facilitate.
The tool would support decision-making and prioritisation around digitisation, allowing better use of limited resources and enabling rare or unique materials to be slotted into the digitisation programme and workflow and prevent loss of irreplaceable research material.
Understanding the collection strengths enables funding bids to be targeted toward those collections.
Materials that are at risk can be preserved and made available or dark archived dependent upon copyright status, ensuring ongoing access to them and contributing towards a national distributed resource for future generations of researchers.
Universities are under pressure to attract more students and high quality researchers. This often involves creating new courses and/or research areas and expanding the topics covered by existing courses or research. It also requires strong marketing. An example of the former would be creating a new department. An example of the latter would be a department which historically focuses on their topic in the context of Europe and the US, but in order to offer a competitive course they expand this to include Asia and the Pacific, or even the whole world. The library’s collections will often be weak in the new area and will need building up. Libraries also need to market what they already have more effectively.
A department is expanding its subject coverage to include art from Asia. The Library needs to assess comparative strengths and weaknesses in relation to comparators/competitors and to identify the resources held by libraries which have a strong collection to inform a collection development and budget plan.
The Library does a subject search on the Copac CCM tool and reviews the data produced.
The graph showing number of records indicates which libraries have strengths in the subject area. The graph showing number of holding libraries indicates which titles are core to the subject area and which might be considered for purchase.