Monday, April 4, 2011

The Cost of Deselection (5): Title Review from Lists

The previous steps in the deselection process have been directed at identifying candidates for withdrawal. In our hypothetical model, we have focused on titles that:
  • have not circulated since 1998
  • were published in 1999 or earlier
  • show more than 100 US holdings in WorldCat
  • did not appear in either CHOICE or Resources for College Libraries
These are fairly conservative parameters, but as noted in previous posts, a final deselection decision creates an irrepressible urge to double-check. This is completely understandable, but it is not completely free.

In some deselection scenarios, these candidate titles might be destined for storage rather than withdrawal. This tends to make the decision less fraught, and there may be less need for review. (It may also create the need to revisit the decision years later, but that's another story.) But let's be strong, and assume that we have a list of 10,000 withdrawal candidates that are actually intended for withdrawal. Most libraries, at least for now, feel the need to review these titles, and call on subject librarians, the Head of Collection Development, or teaching faculty to perform this task.

Title-level review of candidate lists is quite possibly the single most expensive step of the deselection process. How expensive depends on how the work is designed and executed. The key variables are:
  • Will the review be conducted from lists or from book-in-hand?
  • Will book-in-hand review be performed in the stacks, or will books be separately staged?
  • If duplicate copies are involved, will both copies be inspected to find the one in best condition?
Today's post addresses the first option, in which qualified deselection candidates are reviewed from a list. An example of such a list is pictured here.

 In this case, the list includes live links to both the library's OPAC and WorldCat, along with location, call number, and other details. Remember that these titles have not circulated for more than 12 years, and that more than 100 other US libraries hold them. Also remember that every hour spent reviewing such a list by a librarian costs $35/hour. Teaching faculty hours are presumably even more expensive, but do have the virtue of not drawing from the library's budget!

Let's project a review rate of 1 minute per title. This average allows time to scan titles and groupings, plan an investigation strategy, and to review some portion of the candidates in context, by drilling into the OPAC and WorldCat. The process is in some respects similar to review of approval plan materials, but in reverse. To review 10,000 titles at 1/minute requires 10,000 minutes, or 166 hours. 166 hours @ $35/hour = $5,810. For one person, this would represent just over 4 weeks' work. To look at it another way, this list-based process costs just over $.58/title.

In practice, the 1/minute rate may be optimistic, and the proportional costs actually somewhat higher. And of course there is the question of opportunity cost as well: what else could those 4 weeks have been used for? Still, list-based review, particularly when the candidate list is based on criteria agreed in advance, clearly costs less than physical review. We'll consider those costs in the next post.

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