In this webinar for ASERL, Madeline Kelly of George Mason University Libraries discusses how ongoing and systematic collection assessment is essential to building, managing, and justifying strong and balanced library collections. Unfortunately, full-scale collection assessment is too often understood as something labor-intensive and exacting — an involved process that must result in incontrovertible answers. In reality, no assessment tool is perfect, no answer incontrovertible. Instead, this presentation proposes an alternative “holistic” approach to collection assessment that incorporates a variety of methods into a single, flexible assessment portfolio. The results of each tool, flawed on their own, accumulate into a more reliable sketch of the collection. Applied on a subject-by-subject basis, the portfolio of tools can be adapted to meet the peculiarities of the moment: assessments can be goal-oriented or exploratory, in-depth or brief, collaborative or centralized. Most importantly, a portfolio-based assessment program can be implemented by a team as small as one, making collection assessment feasible for libraries short on staff, time, and statistical expertise.
This ‘good enough’ holistic approach is in place at George Mason University, where nine subject assessments have been completed (including three during a one-year pilot program) and another handful are underway.