January 18, 2008

Comparing Collections....

One of the best sessions I attended in Charleston was presented by three librarians from Charleston College, Michael Phillips, Robert Neville, and Marth Stackel. The session: How Different Are You? Analyzing/Comparing Your Collection with Others: WorldCat Techniques in the Expert Mode. To be honest, I'd never thought of using the Expert Search in WorldCat - that blank box can be scary. Not only did they use it, but they used it to compare their collections in various subject areas with other similar or "goal" institutions.

As noted in previous postings, MPOW was evaluating collection analysis tools (Library Dynamics and WorldCat Collection Analysis). My concern with the expenditure was that we hadn't defined how we were going to use said product once we got it. So, I loved this session. Using the Expert Search mode will help me to get my feet wet and determine exactly how I would want to use such a tool.

After returning from the conference, I wasn't sure where to start with my new found knowledge. Then, opportunity presented itself. We received funding from our county to house a second county law library (in addition to the one at the court house). That funding is being withdrawn (everyone has budget issues). So, our directive was to evaluate what we have versus what we need to support our programs and our faculty and staff. It was decided to evaluate the legal collection as whole once our collection development policy for this area was defined. One of the things we decided to do was compare our legal holdings with those of peer institutions in the state. I narrowed the subject area to LC range KF and identified a couple of peer instituitons with Criminal Justice programs (there are other areas, but I started with this one). I followed the basic formula from the examples given in the Charleston Conference session as these parameters fit my needs, though I will be exploring the other limiters available. The one thing that doesn't seem to work for me is limiting by a year range. If I use or (i.e. 2007 OR 2008), that works, but not 2007-2008. However, once the results are listed, I am able to go in a limit the results further by date, which lets me enter a date range or pick from a date list. The date list also shows the number of titles that match the query for each year, which I like. I found that if I compare to more than two schools, it appears to handle date range differently, but I can't be sure. I've done a couple of different versions of my query and have gotten some strange results, but I'm chalking that up to operator error.

Overall, I'm happy with the search results. I would recommend writing out the query in advance (as the presenters also recommended) due to the time out feature in WorldCat. I'd also recommend creating a personal WorldCat account to save the searches. The one thing you can't do (which WorldCat Collection Analysis does do) is export to Excel. As a matter of fact, the export is tied to a text file (very messy and not delimited) or EndNotes or RefWorks. Basically, citation exporting. I did export to RefWorks and then exported from RefWorks to Excel. Kind of clunky. I also discovered that you must pay attention to what you're exporting in both programs and that RefWorks exports a lot.

If you've been thinking about comparing your collection to others, but haven't yet purchased a collection analysis tool, I heartily recommend giving this a go.