“In the summer, do you just tidy the book shelves for a few weeks?”
This is a question I’ve been asked more than once. And to be fair, it’s not an unreasonable one. Exams are over. The libraries and lecture theatres are largely empty. People go home. Many academic and support staff go on holiday – it’s not surprising that there’s a perception of things slowing down, of taking it easy between the end of one academic year and the start of the next. For the Library Collections and Acquisitions (C&A) team however, summer is one of the busiest times of our year.
It really begins in mid-May, when we start to think about two things in particular – the Financial Year End, and the “stock usage reports”.
The first involves a process of chasing-up with our various suppliers any unfilled or outstanding orders, in order to getting the materials into stock quickly, or cancelling orders that won’t be fulfilled, so we can free-up the money and invest it elsewhere before year-end. Ebooks are always a good option, as they are generally accessible within three days of the order being placed, and are always in high demand by both on-campus and distance learners. So year-end (actually July 31st, but in practice, for us, somewhat earlier) is heralded by a period of cancelling and ordering, of re-allocation of funds and of careful targeting of the remaining resources budget.
At the same time, we run the stock reports which show us which items in our Libraries are being used, and which are not. These usage statistics are cross-checked with Reading Lists and double-checked by Academic Librarians. We want a “hard working” Library collection, which reflects the courses and subjects being taught on each campus, and gives access to content in formats our users can engage with. Different subject areas have different needs and preferences – for example, a Law student might need up-to-the minute statutes available to consult on-line; whereas in Cultural Studies, a twenty-year-old classic edition might be the definitive text on a particular topic.
Materials no longer needed, unused works, or those superseded by newer texts and editions, are then withdrawn from stock. We don’t throw them away – the overwhelming majority are sold on to a charity called Better World Books, which in turn generates income for the Library whilst also supporting international literacy initiatives.
Meanwhile, we’re thinking about the new books, eBooks, CDs, DVDs, and so on that will fill these spaces and further enhance the usability, accessibility, and relevance of the Library collection. We place approximately 600 orders per month- averaging over 1,000 new items coming into the Library on a monthly basis all year round, with late August and early September the busiest times of all, just ahead of the start of the new Academic Year. We collect and input Reading Lists, identifying stock gaps and order new materials, with over 3000 Lists guiding individual users via their My Beckett page to the right materials they need for their studies. . Each year the module codes change, modules disappear or are added, new courses start…C&A are responsible for administrating this highly complex system.
The summer is also the time when we review our processes and workflow, and trial new approaches and working styles – things like faster, more efficient ways to order; more streamlined methods of receiving stock; new ways of accessing content; reviewing the performance of our suppliers; and looking to see what working practices and technologies are out there which could help us to improve the service we deliver.
And then, when we’ve done that, we tidy the shelves…
Eric Jackson, Collections and Acquisitions Manager
Back l-r Eric Jackson, Phil Todd, Paul Scholes, Dawn Elson.
Front – Amy Campbell, Ellie Windle, Sarah Dacre, Donna Easton