Editor’s Note: This article is based off a presentation by the authors at the ExLibris Southcentral Users Group 2022 Conference.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a newly hired health sciences librarian began working at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). During a quick library visit in the fall of 2020, the new librarian took a few moments to browse the print nursing collection, and it was immediately apparent that the collection needed weeding. A virtual water cooler conversation between the health sciences librarian and the application integration librarian led to a collaboration that put in place a plan for in-the-stacks weeding. The partnership’s result was a CM-In-The-Stacks application developed by UTA Libraries librarians.
UTA is a Carnegie R1 research institution located between Dallas and Fort Worth with a full-time equivalent student population of more than 40,000. Nursing students comprise the largest enrollment group with over 14,000 students; of this number, more than 10,000 are exclusively online students dispersed across the United States. With such a large number of online learners, there were questions as to the utility of the print collection, especially a print collection with many out-of-date monographs on assessment and treatment, NCLEX study guides, and other exam preparation resources. Outside of switching to a demand-driven acquisition model about 10 years ago, UTA Libraries had no formally established collection management strategy. The health sciences librarian’s first task was to develop a weeding guideline for the health sciences collection.
The health sciences librarian created a weeding guideline  after reviewing published guidelines from health science institutions, Medical Library Association recommendations, and scholarly literature. The guideline contains some defined parameters regarding the removal of materials, such as if an item has not circulated in the prior 10 years, is an out-of-date exam preparation material, or is in poor physical condition. The overarching principle of the weeding guideline is to use professional judgment. This includes making decisions about items that may be kept even with low or no circulation. Generally, these categories include nursing theory, local or regional interest, historical nursing or medicine, and local or faculty authors. Deciding what to keep can be more difficult than a deselection decision, which is one reason this plan includes a physical review of each item. A physical review allows for condition, quality, and content assessments that are difficult to do with a purely data-based deselection process. Like most academic libraries, space usage is a consideration, which begs the question of whether an item needs space with our main collection or could be placed into off-site storage.
Once the weeding criteria were approved, basic CM-In-The-Stacks application requirements were developed by the health sciences librarian and the application integration librarian: 1) the ability to make collection development decisions in the stacks; 2) return necessary item data to match to the weeding criteria; and 3) send a decision of Keep, Review, or Withdraw back to the item’s internal data fields. UTA Libraries currently uses Ex Libris’ Alma as its library services platform, which allows for local application development using item data APIs. The application integration librarian used this API feature to develop a simple application interface consisting of an entry box for the item's barcode, a space to return relevant item and circulation data, and an entry box for the decision . The application can be installed on a laptop and used in conjunction with a barcode scanner for mobility in the stacks. The application integration librarian also created low-tech barcoded index cards for each decision; Keep, Review, or Withdraw.
During the in-the-stacks weeding, the health sciences librarian scans the item barcode into the app, which uses the API to return item data points like Title, Author, Last Loan Date, Date of Publication, and Total Number of Loans. After the health sciences librarian physically reviews the item and compares the weeding criteria to the returned item data, a decision card is scanned into the app, which triggers the API to save the decision in that item’s data notes field.
Post-app steps include: 1) items marked for review by the health sciences librarian are checked for the existence of newer editions, if an item is held at other institutions, or if an item should be marked for local off-site storage; and 2) items marked for deselection receive a final review by the director of access and discovery. Following that review, technical services team members suppress entries in the online catalog and remove the physical items from the stacks.
Due to external time constraints, this project has been slow-going, but 1,051 items have been examined thus far with 758 withdrawn from the collection -- a 72% withdrawal rate. Additionally, another 103 items are awaiting review by the health sciences librarian, and the remaining 190 items have been retained in the collection. Our pilot project has been such a success that future plans include training student workers for item scanning as well as expanding app use to other non-health science subject areas in UTA Libraries.
UTA Libraries’ Guidelines for deselection of the Library of Congress (LC) Class R - Medicine Monograph, 2022, Collection, http://hdl.handle.net/10106/31003
A cross-department collaboration to curate a current collection, presentation by UTA Libraries’ Nursing Liaison Librarian, 2022, http://hdl.handle.net/10106/31005
DCT Featured Article – March 14, 2023