Reclassification Never Felt So Good: Improving Accessibility to the Education Resource Collection at SNHU

By Brooke Gilmore and Steve Robichaud, Southern New Hampshire University

In 2009, it became clear that the Education Resource Collection (ERC) in the Shapiro Library at Southern New Hampshire University needed retooling. This self-contained collection had low circulation and was not easily understood by the School of Education’s faculty or students. Changes needed to be made.

Background

Southern New Hampshire University’s School of Education was established in 2003 when the university absorbed the education programs of the now nonoperational Notre Dame College. At this same time, the Shapiro Library acquired the entirety of Notre Dame College’s Curriculum Library Collection (now the Education Resource Collection) in order to provide necessary resource support to the School of Education students, faculty, and staff as well as meet accreditation standards.

This blanket acquisition of approximately 7,000 items included pre- and in-service teaching materials, K–12 textbooks and curriculum guides, children’s literature (fiction and non-fiction), certification test preparation guides, and curriculum kits. Due to the immediate need to provide substantial resources to support the new education programs, the Shapiro Library did not have the time or resources to conduct a thorough review of the incoming collection before putting it on the shelves.

The Education Resource Collection was (and remains) housed as a self-contained collection in the library. The collection was originally cataloged in the Library of Congress Classification System to remain consistent with the rest of the University Library’s classification scheme. The distinguishing factor between “Main Collection” education-related materials (i.e., the “L” section), and the materials housed in the ERC is research-based vs. materials of a practical nature, and titles geared towards children and young adults.

The Problem

Low circulation counts and feedback from education faculty and students suggested that both the quality and organization of ERC materials needed to be examined. We began the ERC improvement project with a large-scale deselection of dated, irrelevant, and worn-out materials. In collaboration with the School of Education faculty, the library determined that the collection of “kits” was no longer relevant to the school’s curriculum and could be discarded without replacement. Approximately 1,000 items were discarded from the collection during this evaluation.

We also discovered that the organization of the collection was confusing to users; students and faculty were unaware of the contents and purpose of the collection. Children’s literature, curriculum guides, professional teaching materials, and all other material types were shelved together via the LC system. After visiting other academic libraries with curriculum materials centers we decided that it made more sense to feature subcollections of materials within the ERC. This arrangement better reflects the organization of the school libraries our Education students will be working with in the future. In addition to separating out the children’s and young adult literature from the professional teaching materials, the library decided to reclassify those items into the Dewey Decimal Classification System.

The Process

Technical Services Librarian Steve Robichaud took a number of steps to help prepare for the reclassification project. He purchased the library a subscription to Web Dewey and began to refamiliarize himself with the Dewey Decimal System. He, along with Reference Librarian and School of Education Liaison Brooke Gilmore, visited another local college’s Education Resource Collection and spoke with their library’s Technical Services Department staff about how to handle workflows for different ERC materials. After this visit, it became clear that the reclassification project would require more than just Dewey. Going forward, it was decided that all children’s nonfiction would be reclassed using Dewey Decimal Classification. However, all juvenile and young adult fiction would be reclassed with a simple classification system consisting of the author’s full last name and first initial followed by the first word of the item’s title. With this distinction being made, it was decided that Robichaud would take care of reclassing the nonfiction materials using Dewey while two other Technical Services staff members would assist with reclassing the fiction collections.

To help the staff with their part in the project, the Technical Services Librarian created clear documentation on juvenile and young adult call number creation and went over the process a number of times to help ensure staff was comfortable with the process. Staff were self-directed from the beginning of the project, using their own discretion to work on the reclassification when time allowed. Time was set aside at each biweekly Technical Services meeting to discuss the project’s progress and any issues that came up. An open door policy also allowed for answers to questions as they would arise. Due to the diligence and hard work of the two Technical Services staff, the juvenile and young adult fiction collections were completed within 10 months, with approximately 2,500 titles being reclassed and relabeled. The children’s nonfiction collection, being reclassed by one individual using the more formal classification, is still being worked on. Approximately 700 nonfiction titles have been reclassed from the former Library of Congress Classification to Dewey, with roughly 500 more titles remaining. As would be expected, all new materials for these collections are provided with either Dewey classification or the simplified author, title classification.

Results

Since the reorganization and reclassification of ERC materials, visibility and use of the collection has increased. The separation of professional literature from children’s and young adult literature allows students to use the collection as they would a school or public library and mimics the experience they will have using libraries upon graduation. The library purchased new shelving specifically for picture books which helps highlight a collection many users did not know we offered before this project. Additionally, we added shelf labels to the professional materials section so that students can easily browse titles by topics such as “educational technology” or “classroom management.”

Increased circulation statistics are also likely due in part to the deselection of dated materials and increased purchasing of new, relevant titles in all areas of the collection. The Acquisitions department expanded purchasing profiles for children’s and young adult literature and the Education liaison works closely with the School’s faculty to ensure curriculum needs are supported by the collection.

Another significant outcome of this project was the development of a collection development policy specifically for the ERC. This policy thoroughly defines the scope of the collection and provides rationale for the organization and classification of sub-collections. The policy is largely based on the best practices outlined in the “Guidelines for Curriculum Materials Center” created by the EBSS Ad Hoc Curriculum Materials Center Standards/Guidelines Committee, 2003.

Looking Ahead

Southern New Hampshire University continues to grow its education program offerings and the library continues to actively purchase materials in support of the Education Resource Collection. The University has announced plans for a new library building slated to open in September 2014. The library faculty and staff are currently brainstorming what opportunities might be available for the ERC in a new building.