The handling of print and nonprint materials varies in every library according to its particular combination of management factors. These factors generally include the users, the library philosophy, the budget, the facilities, the physical environment, the equipment, the available staff and/or time, and the various formats of the collection. Decision making depends on the unique mix of these factors in each library.
Who uses the library? Students, members of the community, a specialized staff, a network, or some combination of these? Every library is different depending on the type of library, the size of its collection, the size of its staff, and the needs of its users. In academic libraries the users’ information needs are likely to come from formal scholarly research, instructional assignments, informal general education, and perhaps even recreation. The needs of school library users may be similar to those in academic libraries but at different scholarly levels. In public libraries the users’ information needs are apt to be more varied but usually will focus on general interest information, informal education, recreational topics, and children’s interests. Special library users may require narrowly focused but in-depth types of information on such fields as law, medicine, and business, or the users may be interested only in specific formats of information such as maps, slides, pictures, or archival materials.
The library philosophy
For whom and why (i.e., patrons and their needs) the library exists should determine the library’s goals and objectives. Goals are usually philosophical in nature and provide a general direction in which the library wishes to move. An overall goal of the library may be to create an atmosphere which stimulates learning, reading, listening, viewing, research, and exploration in an interactive environment. Objectives are more operational in nature. They are statements which relate to goals and describe what is to be done with specific resources. Objectives are measurable within time frames, and the outcomes can be specified. Specific goals might be either of the following:
Goal 1. To provide easy access to the collection.
Goal 2. To preserve the collection.
If we examine the foregoing two goals, we can see how each could provide different objectives, policies and procedures. If the first goal means that the library would provide unlimited access to the user, several objectives could follow.
Objective 1. The circulation period would be generous and all material types would circulate out of the building.
Objective 2. If certain formats require specialized equipment not readily available to most users at home, the library would provide equipment to use the media conveniently near the materials within the library, or it would make such equipment available to the user for checkout.
Objective 3. The stacks would be open to the user and all formats interfiled in a single classified subject arrangement. To accommodate such an arrangement, a processing decision might be that all materials would be packaged in uniform-sized packaging to accommodate shelving, and all formats would have complete identification labels on the packaging to provide the maximum information possible to the user when the item is taken from the shelf. Security would be a significant factor.
Objective 4. For the convenience of the user, accompanying information would always be kept packaged together with its primary parts.
If the second goal means that preservation of the collection is the primary goal of the library, several objectives could follow:
Objective 1. Circulation would be restricted to specialized clientele or to building use only. If items do not circulate outside of the library, the processing decision might be that uniform or extra protective packaging could be eliminated.
Objective 2. To reduce wear and tear from browsing and open access, materials would be housed in closed stacks and arranged by format in accession number order. If housed by format, repackaging might not be necessary because sizes within formats are often uniform.
Objective 3. Users would not be allowed to use original materials if some other arrangement could be made.
A. Sound and moving image materials would be handled by staff only and played from a central location for use in listening or viewing booths. Thus, the processing decision might be that sturdy packaging and detailed labeling would not be necessary.
B. Where copyright permits, copies of material would be available for use rather than the originals. Users might have to pay the library to make copies of pictures, slides, maps, etc.
If materials were to be used only in the library or if copies were to be circulated, a security system might not be needed.
Objective 4. Accompanying information could be housed separately as long as labels on the item indicated to the staff where it was available and as long as there was staff time for retrieval.
These two examples demonstrate how goals and objectives, as well as information about the type of library and its collections and patrons, are used to determine library policies.
Budgetary considerations may be the overriding factor in all library decisions. Money is necessary to purchase a collection of print and nonprint materials and to process them. Money is also necessary to provide adequate space, staffing, shelving, equipment, materials, preservation, replacement, and supplies. The wise use of money must be examined continually. Every decision should consider these questions: How much will it cost? Is it worth it? What are the alternatives? Is there a balance between monies for salaries, cost of materials and effective services?
The physical space and its layout can affect many of the decisions the library manager must make. Every library will probably have space problems at one time or another. The organization of space is often critical to making decisions regarding open or closed shelving, compact shelving, physical arrangement of material on the shelves, security and staffing levels.
The dilemma for many libraries is that nonprint materials were added to print collections almost as an afterthought. Space was unavailable for required equipment and staff. Therefore, nonprint materials often were not housed with print materials, and more often they were not intershelved with one another. That is, the printed version of Hamlet might not be shelved in the same room or maybe not even in the same building as the film and video versions of Hamlet. Further, the videotape version would not be shelved with the videodisc version, and the sound cassette version would not be shelved with either of the sound disc versions (analog or digital). The design of existing physical space, whether traditional or flexible, will affect the potential for change and growth in a library.
The physical environment
Other physical concerns include climate control and acoustics. The ability to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels is crucial to the preservation of library materials (especially to nonprint materials). If nonprint material is housed separately from print material, the media facility should have its own controls for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Acoustical considerations are important when using nonprint materials that have audio components. The ability to control lighting in certain areas of the library may also be critical in using certain print, film, video, and computer-based materials.
Special types of equipment are necessary for the utilization of many nonprint materials. If circulation policies require materials to be used only in the library, readily accessible equipment must be provided for the patron in the library. This decision requires sensitivity to the noise generated by equipment, users, and staff. Quiet areas, such as special or archival collections, should be avoided. At the least, sound-absorbing partitions should be placed around equipment to preserve a noise-free atmosphere. When the library allows items to be checked out of the library for use elsewhere, the library may or may not want to provide the necessary equipment. For any library equipment, maintenance must be performed on a regular basis by outside maintenance contracts.
An additional set of concerns related to equipment arises when a library can no longer repair or maintain a particular type of equipment for a specific format. Should the library retain nonprint materials for which it no longer has the equipment? Does a library have a responsibility to retain such material when it is not available elsewhere in the state or region? Answers to these questions are essential when establishing processing decisions.
The staffing level
Adequate staffing levels are a key to every library’s success. The amount of staff time allotted for providing services to patrons, for circulation activities, and for the technical service areas of acquisitions, cataloguing, and processing will influence decisions and procedures throughout the library. It is important to remember that whatever decisions are made, staff should be consulted and involved in the process. When decisions are imposed from above without staff input, they are bound to fail.
The available time
Time considerations are extremely important when it comes to making processing decisions. One must weigh how important the time elements is in terms of processing and in preparing items for the shelf once they have been received. The following questions should be considered:
- How much extra time do processing decisions add?
- Does the time spent processing materials add sufficient value to the item?
- Does the extra time make the item more usable for the patron or less likely to be stolen or damaged?
- Does the time spent processing the item preserve its useful life?
- Are there some types of items that always require rush processing?
The variety of formats included in a collection is another key factor in making processing decisions. Generally, there are special handling and storage considerations for each type of material. Not only does the packaging differ from format to format, but often similar formats come in different sizes and shapes. The determination of the physical processing needs for each particular format is a task in itself.
When one considers all of the management factors discussed so far, one begins to understand that processing decisions can be complicated. Taken together, all of these management factors should influence the kinds of decisions and policies that are established in any given library.
Library decisions and policies
In today’s Baskin-Robbins society, everything comes in at least 31
-John Naisbitt, Megatrends
Information today comes in all formats—CD-ROM discs, videotapes and videodiscs, computer disks, sound taps and sound discs, film formats, interactive multimedia, pictures, models, charts, maps, realia, and printed forms. Each of these formats requires different considerations for physical processing, yet each must be integrated into a library collection with all of the other formats for each access by the library user. What are some of the specific library decisions and policies that will have a bearing on the physical processing of all nonprint formats? The main ones include circulation, storage, preservation, and security.
How could circulation policies have an effect on physical processing decisions? All library materials must be prepared for circulation either in house or out of the building. The main consideration, of course, is whether certain kinds of nonprint materials are restricted to in-house use or whether all materials circulate beyond the library building or media center. If all materials circulate out of the building, processing decisions will generally be more uniform (i.e., all materials will need sturdy packaging, security strips or labels, date due slips, etc.).
On the other hand, if certain nonprint materials do not circulate, special provisions must be made to accommodate their use in the library building. Those that are machine dependent will have to have conveniently located equipment available for users in dedicated library space. Examples of such machine-dependent material include computer software, interactive media, sound recordings, videorecordings, motion pictures, films, filmstrips, and slides. Each format requires special equipment for its use, and in some cases various combinations of media and equipment may be necessary for use at the same time.
Some nonprint items which are rnot machine dependent may require other kinds of special library assistance. Large tables may be needed to examine original art, realia, flat pictures, and maps. The library may be expected to provide copies of some of these materials for which the user is asked to pay. If certain sound or moving image formats do not circulate, the library also may be asked to make copies of these materials when copyright provisions allow.
Instructing the user on the proper use of nonprint materials is often a function of circulation personnel. Staff must be instructed on the proper care and handling of nonprint materials and the proper operation of any required equipment. They also need to know how to troubleshoot simple equipment and software problems. Because circulation people are often responsible for handling and shelving of materials, they are in a useful position to identify preservation needs of the materials as well. It is a good idea to maintain an open line of communication between circulation personnel and those who are responsible for the physical processing of library materials.
The kind of physical packaging required for nonprint materials depends to some extent on whether the material will circulate. Circulating materials require sturdy packaging that will withstand being shoved into backpacks and that will protect the contents when the materials are returned in bookdrop-type receptacles. Various informational labeling may also be required. When nonprint material is handled only by library staff, special packaging and labeling often are not necessary. If the library has an automated circulation system, each circulating item may require some type of barcode be attached.
Every library must plan its storage options based on the needs of its users and the library’s space constraints. Many questions must be considered to arrive at the right decisions for each library. If the size of the facility allows users to browse the shelves, the collection may lend itself to intershelving formats and to classification in a single subject arrangement. On the other hand, if the size of the facility forces the collection to be closed to browsing, there may be no need to assign subject classification call numbers or to intershelve formats. In cramped quarters shelving by format and then by accession number (e.g., CD 100, CD 101) may be the answer because it uses less space than filing by classification number (which requires expansion space for each number).
Some librarians believe that a library which puts the needs of the user first would choose to intershelve all of the library’s formats (including print materials) in a single classified arrangement on open shelves. The advantage of this type of complete integration is that all materials on the same subject are together. The collection thus lends itself to browsing, and users may find materials in formats they never imagined were available. The collection thus lends itself to browsing, and users may find materials in formats they never imagined were available. . For a mo re comprehensive discussion of the advantages of intershelving the entire library collection, see Jean Weihs’s book, The Integrated Library: Encouraging Access to Multimedia Materials (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1991).
Conversely, some librarians believe that the user would rather have formats separated because the user generally wants only one or two formats and is not interested in having to sort through everything in the library to find what is wanted. The advantage of dividing the collection by format is that it allows the user who only wants videorecordings to go directly to that material type. Once there, the materials can be arranged by classification numbers or broad subject areas for browsing. Closed storage of materials arranged by format will require the patron to go to a staff person for access.
Still other librarians choose to integrate some materials such as books, periodicals, videorecordings, and sound cassettes on open shelves and separate other formats in closed storage. Another arrangement is to have dummy containers located on the open shelves or in browsing bins and racks near the checkout area. A user can peruse the packaging, but the media is stored behind the circulation desk or in some other protected area where the item itself is retrieved at the time of checkout.
Finally, some librarians assign format type accession numbers to nonprint materials for arrangement on the shelves but add classification-based retrieval in an automated catalog. This procedure is especially useful when carrying out collection assessments for nonprint materials that are physically arranged by format and accession number. In this case librarians rely on the computer to provide various complex and sophisticated approaches to retrieving items (e.g. subject, producer, format, date, language, and physical details such as VHS, Beta, 12 inches, 4 ¾ inches).
Questions include the following:
- Should nonprint materials be intershelved with books on the same subject?
- Should similar formats be housed together?
- How large are the nonprint collections and how much growth is expected?
- Could commercial compact shelving be part of the solution?
Many librarians are reporting that nonprint collections are growing proportionately faster than traditional print collections. Although librarians want to make all types of materials equally accessible, they must face the realities of finite storage space. Intershelving a large number of nonprint materials with each other as well as with books and periodicals presents an additional space problem in many libraries because of the added variations in size and shape of materials. Twelve-inch sound discs and videodiscs require shelves to be at least 15 inches apart and 13 inches deep. Compact discs and sound cassettes require only 6-inch shelves. Inter shelving all formats may prompt consideration of uniform packaging because small items may come in big boxes, bags, or no container at all. Special shelf supports such as clip-on shelf holders, shelf supports that hang from the shelf above, pamphlet boxes, and various kinds of stacking units are other storage considerations. Shelving inserts are also available to assist in storing various media formats together; they help prevent small items from getting pushed behind larger ones or larger ones from falling over when something is removed from the shelf. Dummies for unusually shaped items or for flat materials such as maps and art reproductions are another alternative.
If space is a consideration, shelving formats separately may be much more practical (e.g., folded maps in drawers or vertical files, or wall maps in bins). Shelving by format also lends itself to having the appropriate equipment nearby if users are allowed to use the nonprint materials in the library.
When libraries decide to arrange materials by classification number, space will still be a consideration. Initially each shelf should be left at least one-half to one-third empty to allow for expansion within that range of numbers. If materials are arranged by format and accession number, every shelf can be filled completely except the last shelves for expansion. Oversize shelving will probably be necessary in either case.
In some cases, a librarian or library manager may have to make decisions he or she would rather not make. Lack of physical space in a nonintegrated shelving environment might dictate the decision to have nonprint materials housed in closed shelves by for mat or even in separate facilities. In other cases, such a decision may not be based so much on space or format but more on the subject matter and convenience of the user (e.g., a separate music library which houses music books, scores and sound recordings).
Storage questions may be the most critical decisions in organizing library materials (i.e., whether all materials should be integrated on the shelves by subject classification, or divided by format, or partially integrated). The answers to these questions will directly affect the physical processing decisions. For more detailed descriptions of the storage, handling, and care of nonprint materials, refer to Jean Weih’s book, The Integrated Library.
Driessen. A Library manager’s guide to the physical processing of non-print materials. pp.4-11.