Our first blog post and feedback from December’s workshop

We’re really pleased to launch our blog with this first official post for the Copac Collections Management project. Though we’ve been working steadily in this area for nearly a year now, we’ve done so, I’ll admit, slightly under the radar.  As we commence our second phase of development activity, it’s clear to us that we need to start more openly sharing our progress and lessons learned. Collections management, the freeing up of library space and at the same time the preservation of unique or rare items of importance to UK researchers are key strategic issues facing many libraries today; so we know our work is of real interest to the broader community.

If you would like to learn more about this project, we invite you to explore this site, where you can find more detailed information about our proposed approach, read our reports on work so far, and the use cases we’re testing the tools against. Between now and July 2012, this blog will be updated at least monthly with information on our progress so far. We’ll also be inviting you to give us feedback on approaches we’re taking.

The December Workshop

Though our blog is new, we have been actively engaging the community through other means.  Before the Christmas break, we invited contributors to Copac to attend a workshop in Leeds. The response to our invitation was overwhelmingly positive, and on December 5th over thirty attendees joined us in Leeds. This gave us an opportunity to discuss the project with the wider community, looking at broad collection management issues and gaining input into the direction for the continued development of the support tools and related work. It also helped us to identify libraries we could recruit to help us with the next phase of our work – i.e. testing the tools within their own institutional contexts and providing feedback.

It was certainly an energising day. Our colleagues gave presentations on the project and their uses of the tool, and throughout our discussions the overall reaction from the participants was very positive, with an appreciation of the benefits that the collection management tools could offer, as well as a general discussion of problem areas.

Broadly speaking, participants could immediately see the potential of the tools; but in our group discussions some interesting themes and questions emerged:

  1. The standard of cataloguing was raised, and the question of what the national libraries are doing about long term retention.
  2. There were concerns about pre-1800 material. This may need a lot of detailed information in a record to make retention decisions. etc.
  3. It was clear that non-catalogued materials need to be addressed; i.e. do we invest time money and effort in cataloguing this material?  There was agreement that the tool could be very useful in support this
  4. The tools could inform preservation decisions e.g. damaged items.
  5. We should consider providing regional or consortia views on the data
  6. Concerns were raised over the reliability and currency of records within Copac. Also, the quality of data in an institution’s own catalogue. In general, issues of trusting the data were raised – if results indicate ‘last copy’ how do we test validity of this?
  7. It was felt that the provision of guidelines and working principals for using the tools to provide the statistics and data that will inform productive dialogue with senior managers.
  8. The role of ebooks was also raised. Will they count as a trusted copy? In addition, could the tool help inform ebook deals and negotiations?
  9. It was suggested that the tools could be used to understand a collection in the context of the wider national collections, and that it might have a role to play as an international comparator tool – which may be useful for attracting international students.
  10. By highlighting subject collection strengths we might be able to encourage new researchers.

In addition, throughout the day broader strategic questions were raised over whether there should there be a national agreement to cover the transfer of unwanted material to other institutions, and also the need for a national agreement for retention decisions e.g. minimum number of copies. The role of the Legal Deposit libraries was also discussed, and it was clear that Legal Deposit libraries are facing the same space pressures as other libraries, and so looking seriously at rationalising their own collections and revisiting the criteria for ‘permanent’ retention.

As move forward, our energies now switch to refining the user interface for the tool, and determining which libraries we would like to work with us in this next phase of testing. We look forward to letting you know our progress.