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Deselection: Frequently Asked Questions

Information about deselection and assessment of library collection


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Lev Rickards

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens to books that are deselected?

The University Library partners with Discover Books, a socially-conscious bookseller that donates or sells deselected library books. Proceeds from sales are returned to Santa Clara University, which donates the money to the non-profit Friends of African Village Libraries

2. How do you decide which books to deselect?

We are taking a multi-pronged approach that takes into account:

  • Data, including how long the book has been in the collection, usage statistics, and whether other academic libraries in the LINK+ network hold a copy of the exact same edition of the book
  • Good practices recommended in the literature
  • Feedback from faculty

3. Are you relying on an algorithm to determine what gets deselected?

We are incorporating database queries and analytics into the criteria for deselection, but these are not the only determinants. And we are actively looking at the results to see how to adjust our criteria for different subject areas.

4. Are you only using usage statistics?

No. Usage is just one of a number of criteria that are incorporated into determining whether a given book should be deselected. We also consider the age of the book and whether it is available from other libraries in the LINK+ network. If a book has never circulated, but no other library in the LINK+ network holds a copy, we will keep it.

5. Are you applying the same criteria to every part of the library?

No. Conscious that different disciplines use library resources differently, we are working with departments to determine whether a given call number range should be evaluated using more or less conservative criteria. We recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, and we are reaching out to departments to incorporate faculty voices into the process.

6. Are you deselecting any titles from Special Collections?

No. The Special Collections are explicitly excluded from this effort. In addition, anything in the main collection that has the words “Santa Clara” or “Jesuit” anywhere in the bibliographic records will be excluded from deselection. In such cases, the deselection assessment can also help us flag material that should be transferred to Special Collections.

7. How can you guarantee that deselected books will be available in the future?

We will only deselect a book if we can demonstrate that it is already available from a certain number of academic libraries in the LINK+ network. In addition, the book can be requested from a much wider number of institutions through traditional interlibrary loan. And beyond these avenues, individual titles can be purchased in the future if they prove to be critical for an emerging area of scholarship. Areas of research change over time, and it is understandable that we may need to purchase some titles in the future as once-vital research topics become newly relevant.

8. What happens if every library pursues deselection? Won’t we lose access to print monographs that form a record of scholarship?

Academic libraries take seriously their role as custodians of the scholarly record. With that said, different libraries have different missions. Some university libraries are able to serve as the repository of record for a given area of scholarship. Libraries at smaller institutions often choose to instead tailor their collections to the current needs of teaching and research. Programs for the shared management of print monographs (often called “shared print programs”) are emerging as one way to address the need to preserve print monographs. Within California, the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC) and the University of California system have both embarked on shared print programs of this kind. Santa Clara benefits from the ability to borrow titles from both of these networks. Shared print programs also exist in other regions of the United States, as well as nationally through HathiTrust and the Print Archive Network (PAN).

Rick Lugg (2012) defines the goals of shared print programs as:

  • Reducing the overall number of low-use surplus copies
  • Minimizing the number of low-use copies taking up space in open stacks
  • Assuring that deselected content is securely archived in both print and digital form
  • Coordinating deselection regionally and nationally to assure sufficient copies are retained
  • Assuring that deselected content remains accessible to users

9. How will faculty be involved in making deselection decisions?

As we move through the proposed timeline for deselection, we will work with individual departments and programs to review the criteria used for different call number ranges. If we have not gotten in touch yet, and you would like to share thoughts about the process, please contact Lev Rickards, the Associate University Librarian for Collections and Scholarly Communication.

10. Will departments be given the opportunity to review what is being deselected?

To complete the collection assessment efficiently, we are taking an extremely conservative and data-driven approach to deselection. Wherever possible, we look forward to incorporating department feedback into our deselection criteria.

11. How were the criteria decided upon?

At the outset of this effort, deselection criteria were based on holdings data from across the LINK+ network of libraries, usage data at Santa Clara, and good practices from the library literature. The library literature contains a number of studies of book non-usage, but we have selected more conservative criteria than those used at similar institutions (Snyder 2014, Lugg 2012, Slote 1997). Examples include libraries that deselect after 8 years, 10 years, or even 25 years of non-use (Dubicki 2008, Snyder 2014).

12. How will this effort help student research and achievement?

Keeping the collection fresh and relevant to our community helps students find resources more quickly and efficiently.

13. How is the Library striving to reflect the diversity of the campus?

We are actively seeking to represent a diversity of viewpoints in the resources we collect, both in terms of authorial voices and topics. Assessing the library collection is not only for deselection. Assessment also identifies gaps in the collection, including areas where diverse backgrounds, voices and topics are underrepresented. And in addition to acquiring more diverse titles, the University Library also hosts a number of events each year that create space for diversity on campus.