Making sense of what you have: Developing a collection assessment program

Alice Pearman


For the second half of 2022, I had the privilege of taking a six-month sabbatical to develop a collection assessment plan for the Lamson Library at Plymouth State University. Plymouth State educates an average of 3,800 undergraduate and 900 graduate students in approximately 45 major disciplines. The Lamson Library is currently staffed by five faculty librarians, five full-time staff, and several student workers.

Like most academic libraries, our materials budget has suffered from either flat or reduced funding during the past few years. Unfortunately, many of the cuts were last-minute emergencies that forced us to make decisions quickly, depending largely on cost per use data. Calculating cost per use is a valid assessment method discussed at length by Jacqueline Borin and Hua Yi. But without any other assessment, I feared the balance of subjects represented by our collection was becoming lopsided. We needed to assess our collection in other ways to determine if we were still meeting the needs of our students and faculty in their chosen disciplines.

The Complete Collections Assessment Manual: A Holistic Approach by Madeline M. Kelly was immensely helpful in getting my project started. As I read the text, cited works, and recommended readings, I concluded there is one question that must lay the foundation of all assessment efforts: “What do we have?” It is important to define parameters. I focused on formats that compose the bulk of our expenses: physical books and electronic monographs and journals. Audio-visual media, the K-12 Curriculum Collection, the K-12 book collection, government documents, and special collections were excluded.

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Copyright Alice Pearman

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