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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
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Print Collections Reviewed, Stored

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 18 - January 25, 1996

Anyone who has recently visited Newman Library, the Art and Architecture Library, or the Geology Library knows that most sections of shelving in all three facilities are nearly full.

Whereas library building standards recommend a shelf load of 70 percent or a bit higher, the load in Newman Library is fast approaching 90 percent of capacity. The libraries have had to invest scarce dollars in labor-intensive shifting of materials to make room for growth in the collections, and even to make reshelving possible. For patrons, the costs have been difficulty in browsing and accessing collections, especially where it has been necessary to use both top and bottom shelves.

The existing buildings will be unable to accommodate collections growth even for another year. To solve this problem, the libraries' collection-development librarians, or bibliographers, have begun a large-scale review of the print collections. Many items will be designated for storage, while some other materials will be selected for removal from the collections and recycled. This review continues long-standing practice in which the libraries have periodically stored backruns of serials, but it will be both qualitatively and quantitatively different in some ways.

For the first time, stored materials (including more than 250,000 volumes transferred from Cheds this past summer) are being placed in a dedicated storage building located on Airport Road at the end of the bike path. The storage building, modeled on similar facilities at Harvard and the University of Virginia, is shared by Records Management and the University Libraries. Materials are stored in a closely controlled environment which will maximize their useful lives. Computerized inventory and control mechanisms and semi-mechanized retrieval techniques are used in this facility, in which books can be stored for about one-fourth the cost of conventional library shelving.

Both books and serials are under review. Since only about half the libraries' growth is in serials, the storage every 10 years of another decade's growth in serials has succeeding in offsetting only half of the libraries' growth. The current process will store most serials published before 1980, but it will also be necessary to review monographic holdings. Many books will be stored, but a large number of older textbooks, superseded monographs, ephemeral publications, dated directories and other reference materials will be discarded as well.

The current project differs from past efforts in its scale. To bring the shelving space to standards, we will remove more than 300,000 volumes in a two-year period.

A variety of mechanisms is being exercised to ensure that great care is taken in reviewing one of the university's greatest assets. The libraries' public-services librarians will ask the academic departments to identify journals they believe should not be stored according to the 1979 rule of thumb. When appropriate, bibliographic records for materials considered for withdrawal are compared to the OCLC data base to make sure that they are held by enough other libraries to guarantee access through interlibrary loan. All of the librarians involved in the review are, or have been, active as reference librarians and most are currently involved in selecting new materials in the same disciplines that they are reviewing.

The bibliographers have nearly completed work on the fifth floor of Newman Library, where the space problem is most urgent. In the next phase, serials from the rest of Newman Library and the branches will be stored, or in some cases including short runs of ceased titles, discarded. As in the past, journals whose citation counts, reputations, or use justify exceptional treatment will be exempt or will be stored according to an older cutoff date than the norm of 1979. It should be possible to complete the review of all serials by summer, at which point the shelving staff will be able to shift each floor to a more even distribution. The bibliographers will then initiate a full review of the book collections. This review will continue through 1997. The large-scale review will then be concluded as a special project, although review for storage and withdrawal will become a continuous, low-level activity.

Library users with questions about this project should feel free to contact me.

Paul Metz, principal bibliographer

1-5663, pmetz@vt.edu