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Deselection: Overview

Information about deselection and assessment of library collection


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Lev Rickards


Deselection is the process of identifying books that no longer fit within the collection scope of the University Library. Deselection plays a vital role in ensuring the value and utility of the collection. Over time, every library collection attracts a number of titles which are outdated and no longer respond to the core teaching and research needs of the university. These surplus titles take up valuable shelving real estate, clog up search results in the catalog, and distract from titles that are more relevant to current coursework and research topics. Though the Santa Clara University Library has engaged in some targeted deselection projects over the years, we have not conducted a comprehensive review of the entire collection. We are pursuing deselection at this time in an effort to increase the number of relevant search results that faculty and students find when they perform searches in OSCAR and to control the long term costs of maintaining our stacks inventory. Clearing out the backlog of unused material will also put us in a better position to make smaller, more targeted collection review activities a part of our day-to-day operations.

This project is being undertaken in the context of changes and improvement in librarianship both within and across institutions of higher education. Improvements to interlibrary loan programs and resource sharing agreements like LINK+ mean books held off-site can be accessed much more quickly, reducing the need to own a physical copy of every title. We are committed to providing access to the books you need through numerous avenues, including on-shelf availability, e-books, LINK+, and traditional inter-library loan. An emphasis on access, rather than solely on traditional physical ownership, gives us the freedom to deselect copies of outdated books.

In the past, it was sometimes assumed that library collections with more books were automatically more valuable. Today we have a more nuanced understanding, conscious that the usefulness of a book depends greatly on the needs of current students and faculty. Evaluating the collection to ensure that books are relevant and useful is part of an ongoing effort to assess our collections, programs, and services so that the library provides a high level of service to the Santa Clara University community. The same data and methodologies used to identify titles for deselection are also helping us identify subject areas where our own collection is underperforming. Just as we are deselecting books that are less needed by students and faculty, we can use available data to assist in refreshing the collection to improve how we meet information needs on campus. Reviewing the collection in this way is not just about removing unused titles, but about understanding what we need to add in order to respond to changing needs.