One of the exercises in the Revisiting the Reference Collection class was to track use of the collection for a week. I wrote down every title that appeared on the reference re-shelve truck for six non-consecutive days. In addition to the expected use of Bibles, dictionaries, paranormal and drug books, I saw unexpectedly high use of the auto books: illustrated guides to historic cars and drivers. Because such a small part of the collection was used on the days I checked, it would be worth running the survey for a month or longer to get a more complete idea of what is useful to our community.
A factor not covered during the class is that Central is the back-up for the other 27 branches in the county and for other partner libraries in other counties. Factoring this in would definitely affect what we keep and what we lose from the reference collection.
Now I need to summarize my thoughts and insights and share with the branch manager and reference staff. I got the clear impression that the instructor’s agenda was to let most of the reference collection circulate and keep only a small (20 titles) core collections in reference. I certainly agree that we have much in the reference collection that could circulate, and we have more that is old and should be withdrawn. Our public, like the constituents of other libraries, is finding more info online – indeed, many governmental organizations are ONLY publishing online now, so there is nothing to shelve. In order for us to remain relevant, we need to spend our very limited resources on materials and services that are useful to our public TODAY, and not try to maintain a library that supports the nostalgia of staff.