collection mapWhat is collection mapping?

Collection mapping is the process of examining the quantity and quality of your collection and identifying its strengths and weaknesses. A number of authors have written about the process. The outcome of the process can serve as a guide during the collection development process. A collection map is a visual representation that graphically displays the breath and depth of the library collection. In other words, a collection map provides a quick picture of the collection.

There are three basic assumptions about collections that relate to collection mapping.

  1. The collection should have breadth. There should be something for everyone.
  2. It should have depth based on the needs of your students and teachers.
  3. The collection should be well understood in order to be effectively developed and used.

Collection maps are used for many collection-related projects. These include:

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What is a base collection and core collection?

Collection mapping involves examining your collection and comparing it with some standard. For example, there are standards for what a base collection in a school library media center should look like.

A base collection is an arbitrary standard denoting the number of works recommended for a minimal level collection. In other words, this is the "must have" part of the collection. Sometimes the word core collection is also used.

A core collection is a base collection that is often associated with specific titles. For example, there may be a core collection of reference books that all middle schools should have. Of course there are local needs to should go beyond the base collection.

Base collections are often used to initially startup a new collection or replace materials in a school that was destroyed by fire or flood. You build your base collection by examining the unique needs and interests of the teachers and students at your school. For example, a rural school may have a need for farming materials that would not be of interest in an urban school. A private Catholic school would have a much larger regional section than a public school. A vocational school collection would differ from a college prep orientation.

There are many concerns about how base and core collections are selected. Do people in ivory towers put the lists together? Are school library media specialists involved? Are new technologies considered? This varies with the developer of the base collection.

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What should be in the collection?

Balanced collections are difficult to develop. Do you buy one book for each videotape you buy to keep formats even? Do you purchase a pro-choice book for every anti-abortion item you purchase? How do you balance quality with demand? Sports magazines, romance novels, and graphic novels are the most popular items in many libraries so it's important that students have access to these materials. However there is still room for classics and award-winning books.

Increasingly teachers must have a voice in collection development. The collection must meet the demands of the curriculum.

Selection bias is also a concern. If you love picture books, you may buy more than you need. if you don't like sports, you may skip some of the best fitness selections.

Today's collections are moving from balanced collection which offer a little of everything to focused collection that provide the level of depth to meet the demands of rigorous standards.

Knowing your weaknesses is the key to keeping them in check. Examine your own selection bias. Are there certain types of books you are more likely to buy because they are personal favorites? What are you likely to overlook?

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What's the procedure for collection mapping?

Many people have developed procedures for collection mapping. There is not a correct or incorrect procedure. However keep in mind that each school is unique and many schools are placing emphasis in particular areas related to their curriculum.

eye means readRead Collection Mapping (Access requires Login) (Mar/Apr 2002) by D. Harbour; Book Report, 20(5), 6.

Also read Collection Mapping from Library Admin wikispaces.

More information can by found at:

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How are results analyzed?

Once you've created your collection map, you need to analyze the results. The following list provides suggestions:

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What's a mini-map or emphasis map?

Once you complete the large map, you should have a pretty good idea about the quantity aspect of your collection. Now you need to explore deeper into the quality aspect. Identify those areas on your collection map that were seen as strengths and weaknesses. Look at the quality aspect to see if these are truly strong and weak areas. It may be that an area of strength simply needs to be weeded. When weeded, the area may no longer be a strength. On the other hand, another area that is identified as a strength area may really contain lots of good materials.

Mini-maps or emphasis maps are used to examine a specific area of your collection in-depth. There are a number of approaches to mini-maps. One option is to create a small version of your bigger map and do some counting. For example, you might divide the 500s into general subjects related to your curriculum such as astronomy, math, and geology. You'd look at the numbers in each area, then consider the quality of each item. It may be that your 500s are considered strong. However when you conduct a mini-map, you may find that only the 599s are strong. The other areas may need weeded or new materials selected.

The collection map process is only one of many approaches. For example, you may be particularly interested in looking at the media materials in a specific content area. or, you may want to create your own mapping system.

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Check Your Understanding

Describe a situation where a collection map would be an effective tool for decision making.

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Make It Real

Assist in mapping a collection of materials in order to identify strengths and weaknesses in the collection.

Conduct a "mini-map" project to identify specific needs within an area such as the need for up-to-date materials, materials on specific topics, multiple copies of items, or specific material types.

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Read More About It

Credaro, Amanda (2001). Collection Evaluation in School Libraries
An academic research paper placed online by the author.

Collection Assessment & Mapping from the Arizona State Library

Loertsher, David (1996). Collection Mapping in the LRC (Birief online excerpt from the book). Hi Willow Research and Publishing.
The concept of collection mapping was first published by the author in 1986 under the title Computerized Collection Development for School Library Media Centers.

Felker, Janice; Loertsher, David; and Woolls, Blanche (2000). Building a School Library Collection Plan: A Beginning Handbook.

Loertscher, David and Wimberly, Laura (2010). Collection Development Using the Collection Mapping Technique: A Guide for Librarians. Hi Willow Research & Publishing.

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