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Journal Review and Discard Project 2018: Review Process

Collection Review Process

Our initial focus was to identify and remove titles that were replicated and available in a stable digital format; for example contained in JSTOR or Project Muse.  However, this did not yield the amount of space we needed to free up so we reviewed remaining titles in the context of additional criteria:

  • Titles available in digital format from vendors
  • Titles that have ceased publication and are no longer active subscriptions
  • Titles with low usage
  • Titles no longer relevant to existing curriculum

Humanities Considerations: Bound Journals & Print Books

Collection Development Principles for the Humanities

Students and scholars in the humanities require access to a wide and diverse spectrum of library materials, published over a range of time, in both print and digital formats. Format decisions are based on appropriateness for content and intended uses. 

Key considerations include the following:

  • Access to print publications of the past often remains important:  details such as the texture of paper, quality of printing, types of bindings, size, and even smell play important roles in interpretation.  Depending on the type of work being done, digital facsimiles may be entirely acceptable or even preferable so long as a sufficiently representative set of print publications remains accessible.
  • The publication of a new edition or new translation of a work does not supersede previous editions or translations. Indeed, scholars may need to examine editions published over a range of time as part of their interpretive work.  
  • Specialized editions are important especially in the fine and performing arts.  In music, for example, it is important to collect variant editions of scores, such as study scores, miniature scores, urtexts, vocal scores, parts for specific instruments, different arrangements, etc.  In both music and theater, it likewise is important to collect recordings of different performances of the same work.
  • Humanities publications do not become obsolete; what changes is the way scholars work with them and the types of questions they ask of them. Given current American copyright law and the cost of digitized collections, often the only way to maintain access to post-1922 publications is via print copies on the shelves in libraries.  Indeed, the majority of 20th-century American print publications remains unavailable in digital format.
  • Usage of print library materials in the humanities is more unpredictable.  A book or journal may be untouched for years, yet suddenly become vital to a new mode or method of inquiry, or current events may invite a new look at older materials. Thus the range of time for usage statistics, when used to make decisions about weeding, must be more generous than is the case in the sciences or social sciences.
  • Decisions on purchase or deselection of materials also aim to cultivate a diverse collection, including representation of works by or about underrepresented or historically oppressed voices.

In practice, these considerations currently require Collins Library to maintain a larger print collection in support of the humanities than it does for the sciences and the social sciences.  Any switch to digital facsimiles must look closely at the stability of the platforms and the anticipated uses of the materials. 


Guiding Principles

Collection review is an ongoing process in any academic library.  We continuously evaluate collections in response to changes in the curriculum, formats, scholarly content, and the needs of the campus community. However, the process this summer was accelerated due to the impact of the construction project as well as concerns about the longevity of some of our compact shelving.

De-selection of library materials is an integral and ongoing part of a library’s collection management and development processes. Materials that are worn or damaged, duplicate copies, materials which contain outdated or inaccurate information, superseded editions of specific titles, materials no longer of interest, or in-demand, or materials that are readily available in digital format are candidates for withdrawal.

Decisions concerning the de-selection or replacement of a title are made by the appropriate subject liaison librarian taking into consideration the demand for the item, the existing resources in the subject area, and the importance of the title to the literature of the discipline.

The library uses a variety of means to dispose of surplus materials. These include sharing with other libraries, redistributing via vendors that specialize in selling discarded library materials, offering to the staff senate book sale, reusing in artist endeavors for classes or for the Makerspace, recycling and discarding to the trash when there are no other options.

Science Considerations

When making collection decisions about print periodicals in the sciences, Collins librarians looked at a number of factors. Journals whose content is available electronically to the Puget Sound community, either through paid subscription or through relevant disciplinary archives such as PubMed Central or the Biodiversity Heritage Library, were first to be considered for deaccession. Extra consideration for retention was given to journals which support the work of students in our liberal arts curriculum, rather than those supporting fields which are not directly part of the teaching and learning at Puget Sound (e.g engineering, agriculture). Finally, given that scholarship in the sciences tends toward usage of more recently published research, the currency of the material was weighed as an important, though not necessarily deciding, factor.

Social Sciences Considerations

Increasingly over the years departments in the Social Sciences have indicated a preference for moving to electronic access to journal literature in their disciplines.  Because of this, many of the print journals remaining in the libraries collection do not encompass current issues of a publication, and often were bits and pieces of a journals publication run.

When reviewing the periodicals collection we first looked for duplicate electronic access, then at the relevance of the content to the current curriculum, and finally at the currency of the material and use patterns.  Some print titles were retained to support courses taught on the history of a discipline where electronic access did not go back as far as the print holdings, and some periodicals were retained because they contain unique historical information and will serve as primary sources.

The School of Business & Leadership curriculum emphasizes contemporary periodical publications that are largely available electronically. Journals unavailable electronically were reviewed in consultation with B&L faculty members. In consultation with the Department of Economics, the faculty members expressed that curricular needs were met sufficiently through our electronic subscriptions and interlibrary loan services, however some historical periodicals were retained as primary resources.