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Harvard College Library-Report of Nancy M. Cline

Collection Management


I have touched upon the challenges we faced this past year in building our collections and our renewed focus on providing services and outreach so that faculty, students, and other researchers can more effectively use the collections. Another element is the work that goes on behind the scenes—the ways in which we manage our collections—maintaining library stacks, deciding what materials are stored at HD, interlibrary lending and borrowing, cataloging, reserves, etc. In addition to the ongoing work, we experienced the impact of very large special projects, such as the Smart Barcoding Project and the Harvard–Google Project.

FY 2006 marked the beginning of a new way in which circulation loan and renewal statistics were measured across HCL in order to reflect a more accurate representation of active patron use. Across the entire Library, circulation activity (loans) fell very slightly by about 1% in FY 2006; however, requests for material that is already in use have increased fairly dramatically. Cabot Science Library’s general circulation charges, which have remained stable since FY 2001, were up slightly in FY 2006. However, Cabot, as well as Tozzer, experienced a decline in reserve reading, partly due to the decrease in use of coursepacks in favor of links to course web sites and electronic versions of course readings. The position of manager of HCL collections logistics was created in FY 2006 to address the need for data and the systematic and unified analysis of the use of HCL resources and services. This has enabled the Library the opportunity to coordinate and share data across HCL, such as circulation statistics by patron categories, HD usage, serial counts for each HCL unit, etc. In addition, an extensive database created in support of the JSTOR Dark Archive Project is being used to identify materials across HCL that can be donated to the archive or otherwise removed from the collection to attain additional space for new acquisitions and to reduce duplication in serial acquisitions and holdings and storage costs.

The number of HD requests increased nearly 6% in FY 2006, and that is above the nearly 16% spike experienced last year. This increase can be attributed to the ease with which a patron can request material and the success in retrieving material. With space at a premium in all of our libraries and the realignment of space and facilities being planned for Fine Arts, Littauer, and Lamont that necessitate moving items to HD, a successful retrieval program is paramount.

FY 2006 was a productive year for Widener Interlibrary Loan. Filled lending requests increased by 12% over FY 2005. The number of items loaned that were held at the Harvard Depository continued to be high—54% of all items lent. Nearly 9% of the requests filled were for other Harvard libraries, including requests for material for reserves. ILL units across HCL worked together to create standard policies. The Interlibrary Loan system, ILLiad, was upgraded and expanded to a multi-site system to include both Harvard–Yenching and Widener ILL.

Widener’s Phillips Reading Room is now in its fifth year of use and has been quite successful. Use statistics are strictly an average of head counts taken each hour. The 54-seat capacity room averages 13 patrons per hour for consultation of non-circulating materials or for private study. In addition, a self-service, flatbed scanner was installed in the room.

Widener shelf reading occurred at a pace not seen in recent years. From June 2005 to July 2006, 2.27 million books, or 95% of the Widener–Pusey stacks, were shelf read at a rate of 28 shelves per hour. Over 27,000 books were found to be out of order, proving that this was time well spent, as it will ultimately result in greater ease for our users in finding the materials they need.

Across HCL, experienced staff in our various technical services units are continually looking for ways to improve performance (to reduce backlogs, streamline cataloging activities, and provide access to previously uncataloged or undercataloged collections) and to get more materials on the shelves for our users by exploring the use of vendor records, pushing more Z39.50 interfaces, and developing better procedures. Backlogs continue to decline.

FY 2006 was a productive year for HCL Technical Services—cataloging activity surpassed 100,000 titles for the year and far exceeded levels of activity in previous post-Aleph years, with the exception of FY 2005, where there were additional project staff devoted to the reduction of the backlog. Order and receipt levels fell very slightly this year, and the overall backlog totals fell slightly as well. Despite continuing functionality issues in Aleph, progress was made with several technical services productivity initiatives; although they have proven to be time-consuming now, they will have significant payoffs in the future. Highlights of the year included:

  • implementation of Aleph 17 and OCLC Connexion;
  • in conjunction with OIS, successful design, testing, and implementation of the first vendor loads (from Yankee) to go directly into the main bibliographic database and simultaneously create bibliographic, order, and item records;
  • initial receipt of full cataloging records, including LC authority work subject headings and LC classification from Casalini;
  • initial cataloging on receipt in French and Italian Division; and
  • beginning of the Widener/HD Aleph Reconciliation Project.

Harvard–Yenching Library’s technical services staff completed a number of special projects. Of particular note was the analytic cataloging project of Chinese “big sets,” which was launched in 2003 at the request of faculty members and was completed this year. The Harvard–Yenching Library holds 2,289 Chinese big sets, each with hundreds of individual titles embedded in the sets; an intensive effort was launched to catalog each of these titles. This project is significant because, in addition to providing bibliographic services to our library users here at Harvard, these online bibliographic records were added to the OCLC national utility. Other East Asian collections from around the world can benefit from our efforts by copying these bibliographic records from OCLC into their local online systems and thus improve their public-services capabilities. Also, in cooperation with the Office for Information Systems (OIS), 2,442 Chinese monographic records and 1,389 Chinese serial records still in the Wade-Giles Romanization system were converted to Pinyin during the year, completing efforts to convert all of Harvard–Yenching Library’s Chinese bibliographic records in HOLLIS from Wade-Giles to Pinyin.

Another major accomplishment in the arena of making collections more easily accessible was the successful completion of the reorganization of the book stacks in Harvard–Yenching’s Rare Books Room. All of the rare book collections are now shelved in one call number sequence by language. Rare books that need conservation and preservation work were also identified through this reorganization project. Protective bookcases have been ordered for some volumes, while others will be mended in the next fiscal year by conservators in the University Library’s Weissman Preservation Center.

The Fine Arts Library’s collection management activities for the year have focused heavily on rehousing and preparing collections for its upcoming move. Considerable effort has also been made to develop new workflows following the move of some processing staff to 625 Mass. Ave. Temporary staff, hired for an 18-month project to move materials to HD, have pulled, processed, and stored 8,455 of the 24,000 volumes targeted. The groundwork has been laid for a major effort to create cataloging records for over 100 photograph collections, followed by the rehousing and storage of the majority of them. Fine Arts Library has rehoused over 1,000 pamphlets, repaired or rebound 2,000 items (more than twice the most recent number), and surveyed the portfolio stacks in preparation to launch a major boxing project there. Space requirements of all photographic special collections and all slide backlogs related to the Middle East/Islamic world have been documented, and Asian holdings are being evaluated to identify materials that should be cataloged individually and added to VIA.

The planned relocation of the SSP units in Littauer has resulted in the weeding of duplicate materials. Also, SSP Collection Management staff have focused on the ongoing transfer of materials to the Harvard Depository. Similarly, during FY 2006 Cabot Science Library staff continued to weed, shift, and send materials to HD to make room for the integration of the Kummel collections.