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Collection Evaluation

As presented in Dr. Eileen Schroeder's Building Library Media Collections class (UW-Whitewater, Fall 2003), the following qualitative or quantitative methods are used to assess the collection.  Often, an external standard is identified and used as a benchmark.  Most schools will use collection statistics or a modified version of collection mapping.  

bulletStatistics From Circulation / Inventory / Acquisition Systems.  These statistics may demonstrate the library's purchasing patterns by showing in which call number groups the most items were added in a period of time. They can provide collection profiles of numbers of items and their copyright dates in call number groups. If the collection is very large a sampling of items could be analyzed.
bulletExpert Opinion.  This is used most in schools when teachers are asked to judge the value of the collection for their curricular needs. It is often useful to provide a brief questionnaire to teachers immediately after completing a unit asking them to judge the value of the resources available to them and their students. Print, audiovisual, electronic, and Internet resources could be assessed in the topics covered by the unit.
bulletChecklists or Standard Bibliographies.  Lists such as Elementary School Library Collection and Children's Catalog could be used to judge a school collection, but this makes the questionable assumption that these lists representing the composite wisdom of numerous specialists fits with a school's needs. This rather arbitrary selection of sources contains items that may not be of equal value,may omit others that may be of equal value, and may not match needs of the clientele of the library. It is very time consuming and seldom used.
bulletComparison to Another Library's Collection.  While this is easier with online catalogs, it is sometimes difficult because classification practices vary. In schools where curriculum and student populations differ, this may not provide useful data.

Making checklists or comparisons to other schools is difficult because of the differences in communities and schools.  Teachers can function as the "experts" within their areas of expertise for evaluation purposes. 

Collection Mapping

Using the assumption that the collection should be tailored specifically to the school it serves, David Loertscher developed a technique for counting the total collection and profiling it from three points of view:

bulletAs a basic collection serving a wide variety of interests & needs (i.e., breadth of collection)
bulletAs a group of general emphasis collections (i.e., supporting broad areas of the curriculum and representing intermediate depth in a collection)
bulletAs a group of specific emphasis collections (i.e., supporting individual units of instruction and representing greater collection depth)

In this method, the LMS can evaluate areas when they are used during the year, not all at once. The method considers the needs of courses, individual topics of instruction, and particular technologies. This involves:

  1. Developing a list of courses and units covered.
  2. Listing how many items are held in each area and compare this number to how many are needed according to Loertscher's formula.




Base collection

10 books and av items per student or 3,000 items, whichever is greater

Breadth of collection

Course materials (general emphasis)

2 items for each student in course or 500 items, whichever is greater, for each course using resource-based teaching

Intermediate depth collection

Unit materials (specific emphasis)

1 item per student in topical study or 250 items, whichever is greater, for each resource-based teaching unit

In-depth collection

  1. Constructing a graphic representation of items owned in general emphasis areas and one of items owned in specific emphasis area, comparing all courses and units taught in school that use library resources. Loertscher provides benchmarks for rating the collection in these areas. To get a quick estimate of how many items should be in the library, multiply the number of students in each course or unit by the superior or exemplary rating factor to get the ideal amount. For example, if there are 195 high school students taking a course on the environment at one time, your collection would be exemplary if you have 1365 items. If you have about 205 items. You would have a good collection if you had 117 items and a fair collection if you had only 59 items or less. It is important to remember this focuses on collection, not access to materials outside the library, through databases or Internet resources or items borrowed from other libraries.


Course (goal of 2 items per student)

Unit (goal of 1 item per student)













The technique also suggests considering materials available through networks (electronic or interlibrary loan) but does not give a specific method for incorporating this information into the calculations. He also recommends asking students and teachers to rate materials on diversity of formats, currency, relevance, adequacy of duplicate copies and appropriateness of reading level to go beyond sheer counts to determine how many of the items are actually useful. This technique can be used to discover collection weaknesses, redirect collection efforts, and focus on developing specific areas. For more information on this technique, see David Loertscher's Taxonomies of the School Library Media Program (Libraries Unlimited, 1988, chapter 9).

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Collection Evaluation


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