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Filling the Gaps: Retrospective Ordering
by Daille Pettit

In the past two years, JMU Libraries has embarked on a retrospective ordering project to acquire important titles that are not in the collection.  Years of lean budgets led to gaps in the collections, particularly for books published the 1990s. Since most book vendors and publishers are geared toward promoting recently published titles, getting information on which older titles are recognized as important or seminal works can be a challenge.


box of books being unpackedIn 2004, the Library’s Collection Development Committee acquired a tool to assist in determining what noteworthy titles were lacking from our library collections:  the ACAS, or Automated Collection Assessment and Analysis Services, provided by OCLC, a non-profit corporation that offers many library services.  For example, OCLC’s worldwide catalog forms the basis of WorldCat, the research database.  ACAS’s analysis of JMU Libraries’ holdings examined the age and content of our collections and also compared our holdings to two retrospective lists of recommended titles:  Choice “Outstanding Academic Titles” and Books for College Libraries.  


Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, published by the American Libraries Association, annually reviews more than 6,500 significant current books and electronic resources of interest to those in higher education. Its annual Outstanding Academic Titles is a selective list of about ten percent of those scholarly titles reviewed during the year. Books for College Libraries is a highly respected core bibliography for undergraduate libraries organized by subject matter; it was published by the Association of College and Research Libraries.


Book Cover Thumbnail 2The ACAS tapes provided by OCLC were loaded into our library system in the spring of 2004 and used to make comparisons to our collection.  Two different kinds of reports were produced by the list comparison – 1) lists of recommended titles that we do not own but that we should acquire if possible, and 2) books that we own that we should keep.  The first type of report can be used as a recommended title list for filling gaps in the collection.Book Cover Thumbnail 1 


The Libraries” Collection Development Committee is also overseeing an ongoing weeding project, and the second type of report provided assistance in that area.  Librarians can use the list to make sure that books being considered for weeding weren’t part of a list of recommended titles.


Why are we weeding? The reasons are many:  at the time the project started, Carrier Library’s stacks were at about 98 percent capacity; some areas of the stacks were at 100 percent.  The focus of many subject areas, particularly in the sciences and technology, is on current materials rather than historical collections.   And lastly, approximately 25 percent of Carrier Library’s collection will be moved to the new library on East Campus when it is completed around 2008.  It makes sense to weed outdated material in preparation for the move.  Liaison librarians work with faculty in their departments to verify which titles are acceptable for weeding.  This is a long-term project, with librarians and technical Services staff still involved in the process.


books on truckThe retrospective purchasing project is also ongoing.  In fiscal year 2004-2005, we ordered 536 retro titles, received 454, and spent $26,448.  An equivalent amount of money has been allocated this fiscal year for the project in the general collection development funds.  It has been quite a challenge for the Acquisitions unit to order these titles because many are out of print.  The staff is to be commended for their hard work on this project.


Here you will find a list of some representative titles randomly selected from a list of books that we have received and are on the shelf and arranged by subject heading.  These titles represent a wide range of subject matters and publication dates.

If you have questions, or want to suggest a possible purchase, please contact Daille Pettit at pettitdg@jmu.edu.

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