Syllabus: Fundamentals of Collection Assessment


Introduce the fundamental aspects of collection assessment in libraries. The course is designed for those who are responsible for or interested in collection assessment. The course introduces key concepts in collection assessment including:

  • the definition of collection assessment
  • techniques and tools
  • assessment of print and electronic collections
  • project design and management

The course is comprised of five modules presented as a web-based, online course, including self-paced modules with chat and forum discussions that permit interaction with instructors and classmates. As a requirement of the course, participants will submit a description of a collection assessment project of their choice utilizing what they have learned in the course. Required weekly assignments will build upon concepts presented in modules and aid in completion of the final project.


Instructors lead students through the course with content presented online, supplemental reading material is available via links on the course web site, online chat sessions and discussion forums with other course participants and the instructors. Participants will be required to complete a course project per provided guidelines. Brief assignments related to this project will also be required for weeks one through five.

Students report spending an average of 2-4 hours per week on the Fundamentals of Collection Assessment course. This includes their time spent on readings, quizzes, discussion posts, and offline work.


Week 1: What Is Collection Assessment?

An introduction to topics to be discussed in subsequent weeks.

Chat Session Topics:

  • Examples of collection assessment projects in various types of libraries
  • Overview of and Q&A about the course project.

Assignment 1. Submit a brief description (no more than one page) of your proposed collection assessment project. Include the type of library and institutional environment, the intended audience, and the purpose of the project.

Forum Topic 1. Based on the audience(s) you have identified for your project, discuss how your project design has been or might be impacted by the intended audience(s).

Week 2: Techniques & Tools

Chat Session Topic:

  • Advantages and disadvantages of various collection assessment methods and tools.

Assignment 2. Submit a brief summary (one page) of the technique(s) and/or tools you are considering for your collection assessment project. Compare and contrast these techniques and tools with some you decided not to use.

Forum Topic 2. Management has informed you that the library’s print reference collection needs to be reduced by one-half to accommodate new computer workstations and study tables. Please discuss the strategies you would employ to assess the reference collection (and any other impacted collections) for retention, storage, or conversion to another format.

Week 3: Assessment of Print Resources- Purpose, Methods, Tools

Chat Session Topic:

  • Discuss various aspects of print materials collection assessment (possible reasons to conduct the assessment, advantages and disadvantages of methods presented, who may be involved)

Assignment 3. If your project is to assess a print collection, submit a description (one page) of the technique(s) you plan to use, addressing advantages and disadvantages of the technique(s). If your project does not involve assessment of a print collection, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of at least two techniques used for assessing print collections.

Forum Discussion 3. Identify an example of a print monograph collection assessment project in a public library or community college library. Be prepared to describe key elements of the project—purpose, audience, methodology and tools utilized, and results.

Week 4: Assessment of Electronic Resources – Purpose, Methods, Tools

Chat Session Topic:

  • What are some challenges and special issues related to the assessment of electronic resource collections.

Assignment 4. If your project is to assess an electronic collection, submit a description (one page) of the technique(s) you plan to use, addressing advantages and disadvantages of the technique(s). If your project does not involve the assessment of electronic resources, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of at least two techniques used for assessing electronic resource collections.

Forum Discussion 4. Your library has an extensive electronic resources collection which includes electronic journals, full-text databases and electronic books. You have been asked to assess this collection. Discuss how you would use overlap analysis and other collection assessment methods to complete this task.

Week 5: Design and Implementation of a Collection Assessment Project

Chat Session Topic:

  • Discuss five essential elements of a successful collection assessment project or effort; have all five been included in projects with which you are familiar?

Assignment 5. Submit a one-page outline that describes at least five steps critical to the design and implementation of your collection assessment project. Include a timeline to illustrate key phases of the project.

Forum Discussion 5. Due to budget cuts, you have been asked to reduce up to $200,000 of your collections budget. Using your own library’s circumstances (or one of your choice, if you aren’t working in a library) describe which collections or which portion of your library’s collection you would target and why? Which methods would you use to assess the collection and make the budget cuts?

Week 6: No Module

Complete and submit course project.

Chat Session Topic:

  • Questions and discussion about participants’ course projects before the submission due date.

Forum Discussion 6. Find one or two collection assessment reports or analyses. Describe the main findings of these reports and critique the assessment project. Which strategies were employed in the assessment? In your opinion, was the assessment project successful? What worked? What did not work?

Course project is due two days after Week 6 chat session.

Week 7: Conclusion

Chat session and Forum Discussion 7 will both cover:

  • Brief discussion of future trends in collection assessment—new tools; how might assessment activities change as the role of librarians changes; what would be on your wish-list to facilitate assessment in your library?
  • Discuss and share completed student collection assessment projects; share successes and pitfalls as project development progressed.