Sunday, July 7, 2013

Seeking new answers...

Now that I'm nearing completion of the shortest statistics course ever (4 sessions over 10 weeks), I've started looking around for new questions to answer.  Luckily, I have a number of librarians and students who are also interested and desire the research experience.  Here's my new research agenda:
  • Gifts: since I'm tangently responsible for selection of gifts (the library student worker who evaluates and selects items from donations), I wanted to address this function.
    • Do our gift monographs "fill the holes" in our collections?  Do they cover areas that we desire to collect but otherwise don't?  This is actually a paradoxical question, because if we believe a particular subject is relevant to our users, then we should be purchasing resources; conversely, if we think a subject is not relevant, then should we even be adding gifts?  After all, even gifts cost the library resources for processing and storing.
    • Are gift monographs used as frequently as purchased monographs (adjusting for subject, age of book, time in collection, and accessibility)?  I have only found a couple of studies that looked at circulation, but I found the methodologies to be weak.  I hope to build in a little more rigor, while also still providing an opportunity for one of the library students to present and publish.
  • Demand-Driven Acquisitions (DDA): I'm deeply involved in our DDA program at UNT Libraries, which I believe has been fairly successful.  But there are some nagging questions:
    • Has demand-driven acquisitions (DDA) resulted in relatively fewer university press titles being purchased by UNT Libraries?
    • Is overall usage (circulation of print combined with ebook usage) of university press titles decreasing?
  • Remote storage: We are in the process of moving a large number of print books to our new warehouse facility for remote storage.  This isn't as remote as many academic libraries - just about a mile away from the main library, and users can request and receive any item within a working day.  But it does raise some interesting questions, including:
    • Will the removal of our print books to remote storage will have an impact on overall book circulation.  Technically there should not be a big impact, because the titles moved had not been used in what, 10 years?  But I think that the removal itself could increase the decline of circulation of print titles.
  • Googling vs. traditional research:  This is actually a question that a peer of mine has, and I volunteered to help out with methodology & analysis.  
    • "Has the quality of theses/dissertation references declined with the advent of Google and institutional repositories?"  There is plenty of evidence that Google is often the resource of first resort for nearly everybody, but is it leading doctoral students (and their faculty mentors) to accept lower quality resources?  Of course, the hard part will be objectively measuring quality of references, but this should only add to the challenge.
Other irons that are still in the fire include:
  • What are the effects of our Discovery system (Summon) on vendor-supplied usage stats?  Changes in the ProQuest platform have affected their usage stats, so I've been a little stymied in this quest.
  • Do bibliographic enhancements to catalog records (like tables of contents & additional keywords) increase the chances of an ebook being used?  This information could be used to support our purchase of enhanced MARC records.
This is a rather ambitious agenda, which can only be made possible by the collaboration with others.  Is there anybody who would like to join in?  I see presentations and publications from all of these, and collaboration with other librarians in other libraries, regions or specialties will only add to the universality of the results.

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