„A világpiacon összesen körülbelül öt darab számítógép helyezhető el.” Thomas Watsin, IBM-elnök, 1954
Kétkedések története : pesszimista jóslatok, győztes technika / Schweitzer András. In: Heti Világgazdaság (2000. dec. 2.) p. 81-82

Collection management in Hungarian libraries

This paper was presented on the 5th BOBCATSSS Symposium in Budapest, January 1997

Keywords: stock management, cooperation, resource sharing, survey

Magyar nyelvű tartalomjegyzék / Content in Hungarian

Gyűjteményszervezés a magyar könyvtárakban

1. Mennyiségi változások a téma irodalmában
– Könyvtártípusok
– A felmerülő témakörök az egyes könyvtártípusokban

2. A gyűjteményszervezéssel kapcsolatos cikkek tartalma
– Állományminőség
– Állománymennyiség

3. Elégtelen együttműködés és forrásmegosztás
– Elégtelen gyakorlat az együttműködésben illetve a költségtudatosságban

4. Trendek az állománymenedzsmentben Magyarországon
– Nemzetközi trendek
– Mint Németországban…
– A könyvtárosok tartanak az állomány átstrukturálásától és méretének csökkentésétől
– Széttöredezett könyvtári hálózat
– Gondok a könyvtárközi kölcsönzésben és a dokumentumszolgáltatásban
– Régimódi szemlélet: hangsúly az állományon, nem a szolgáltatáson
– Passzív szemlélet: kevés a pénz
– Idejétmúlt könyvtári törvény és merev költségvetési szemlélet
– Konzervatív használók

5. Az új gondolatok és gyakorlat ösztönzői
– Példák a forrásmegosztásra
– Pénzért érték szemlélet
– Alternatív információforrások megjelenése
– Tenderezés

6. Összefoglalás

This paper demonstrates the result of a quantitative and qualitative literature search on library collections in Hungarian libraries carried out using the database of Hungarian library and information science literature (MANCI – Magyar és Nemzetközi Cikkek). The following issues are discussed:

  • The most frequent subjects in collection management
  • Content of articles on collection management
  • Inadequate number of cooperation and resource sharing activities
  • Trends and future of collection management in Hungary

The literature search focused on the period following the political transition in Hungary: so the data after 1988 of MANCI were inspected. In this paper, it is only the period between 1989 and 1996 and only the items written in Hungarian periodicals that are dealt with. A total of 310 articles was found for the purpose as a result of the quantitative search. It should be mentioned that Hungarian library and information periodicals, and even the database MANCI, is focused primarily on public libraries.


Table 1. The most frequent subjects in collection management

The table shows that in the Hungarian libraries (mostly in public libraries), the emphasis is put on the enlargement and maintenance of the collections (enlargement of library collection, preservation, advisory for enlargement of collection). Only a few articles deal with the aspects of control (like usage, evaluation and design of collection, weeding and stocktaking). Table 2 shows the frequency the occurrence of different descriptors plotted against time.


Table 2. Frequency the occurrence of different descriptors plotted against time

1. Quantitative changes in the subjects of publications

According to the data of MANCI, hardly any considerable trends can be detected in the inspected fields relating to library collections (see Table 2). There is almost no significant increase or decrease in the proportion of the different descriptors in the last 8 years, although the external circumstances have changed enormously: library budgets were cut significantly in the relevant years, several libraries were closed, competitors raised, the expectations of the users increased.

Types of libraries

The Hungarian professional periodicals of the library and information field discuss mainly issues on public libraries and take less care of other types of libraries or information services. The items deal with collection management also focus mainly on public libraries. The occurrence of the descriptors company libraries or information centers, academic and school libraries is much less frequent. Trade union libraries or church libraries are hardly ever represented. There were several items having no descriptors relating to any type of library due to the problems of indexing.


Table 3. Number of items with descriptors mentioning the type of library.

Topics in case of different types of libraries

After a further analysis of the data, it could be recognized that most of the items of the subject enlargement of library collections referred to public libraries, several times also to the academic and school libraries. The descriptor ‘conservation’ was found mostly in the articles relating to the national library and in some cases, to higher education and school libraries. The items having the descriptor ‘use of libraries’ reported on public library projects. The ‘evaluation of collection’ has equal number of quotations on public libraries, higher education libraries and, surprisingly, on church libraries.

 

2. Content of articles dealing with collection management of Hungarian libraries

Quality of collections

Most of the articles on collection management focus on books. In the inspected period of time, the interest in videotapes began to increase. The interest in rare and old books remained stable. One of the leading periodicals (Tudományos és Mûszaki Tájékoztatás) dedicated regular sections to the problems of CD-ROMs and the Internet, recently a CD-ROM discography is available in another periodical (Könyvtári Levelezõ/lap), but these developments are not directly related to library collection management.

In respect to the relevant items, the question of periodicals is interesting both in public and academic libraries. Some items referred to the measurement of document use in public libraries. In the academic libraries, mostly the quality of periodical collection was researched. These articles deal with plans and the evaluation of the current collections. They conclude that the number of core periodicals in different fields of science decreases rapidly in Hungary due to poor financing of acquisitions. During the accreditation process of universities and colleges, the level of collection was not inspected. The collections are weak: ‘The collection of Hungarian university libraries is wretchedly poor, no [Western] type of measurement can be used to its evaluation, and there is no sufficient library and information service background for purposes of education, research and PhD projects.’ This finding was published as a result of a Conspectus-type evaluation project on university libraries. This project was part of a larger programme (Textbook and Higher Education Libraries Development Programme) which did not materaialize. In spite of this, several publications were published in Hungarian periodicals on the methodology of collection management (e.g. description of Conspectus method, comparison of collections with data of BookFind, a plan to share periodical resources and delivery among medical libraries, theory and practice of the Bavarian budgeting and collection development model). The authors of these articles agree that the availability of scientific periodicals is worst in the rural region. The periodical-collections of universities with few profiles of science fields are better then those which have more profiles. In general, among the academic libraries, it is the national scientific libraries that have better collections of periodicals than the universities.

Perhaps there are effective undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses at Hungarian universities, but in the university libraries the variety and the number of copies of international core periodicals in the academic libraries are decreasing rapidly.

Size of collections

Some articles are relating to the size of library collections. One of them points out that the collection of (public) libraries is oversized, there are a lot of irrelevant documents, resulting in low efficacy. Therefore, the number of surveys measuring the efficiency of collections in the libraries seems to be insufficient. It is urgent to weed and make the libraries more comfortable and more service oriented, selecting out the irrelevant parts of the collection. Another article, while agreeing with this statement, argues that radical weeding would be dangerous. There is a threat that, leaving the irrelevant part of the stock out of consideration, owing to the low proportion that the current and relevant part has in the entire collection, the necessity of the existence of the library would be questioned by the parent bodies. The collections are hungry (underdeveloped) and fat (oversized) at the same time. The author does not suggest the radical weeding because some of the restrictive parent bodies would close the library.

The collections of small public libraries have been growing almost without interruption until 1992. Then, due to the rapid inflation of book prices, their increase became much slower. However, this slow rise does not mean that there is no growth in libraries. Since evaluation processes are lacking, the structure of the collection is corrupted. Another article gives methodological advices on the creation of a healthy collection with the help of conscious feedback from the side of the users, the monitoring of the circulation, the giving up of the direct educational function and the application of more effective selection procedures. The article also gives detailed advices on weeding.

Even school libraries suffer for the insufficient budget for acquisition. For offering a successful service, the cooperation within the local libraries would be necessary.

 

3. Inadequate number of cooperation and resource sharing activities

There are some documented cases on the cooperation and resource sharing agreements between libraries, but the possibilities do not seem to be exhausted. With the help of cooperation, the library collections can be leaned (downsized) and better fitted to the need of users. Due to their oversized collections, public libraries are becoming increasingly crammed, unfriendly and unpleasant. Though these circumstances are against the good image of libraries, librarians are afraid of cooperation and resource sharing since they believe in the library with documents that are touchable and currently present. They have bad experiences about the interlibrary loans: the system works slowly, and often, there is no feedback whether the addressee received the form. The cooperation needs trust in each other’s service.

Articles imply that there is considerable need for cooperation. The cooperation between libraries became a fashionable buzzword in the periodicals. Many articles refer to it as a theory or a technique of survival. There are far less publications on the practice of cooperation. In case any examples are mentioned, their description is not detailed enough to enable other libraries to get the methodical details out of them.

Inadequate practice of cooperation and cost consciousness

The aspect of conscious collection management was also researched with the help of the descriptors cost evaluation, cooperation, economy and effectiveness. Although these descriptors can be found in different contexts in MANCI, there were hardly any items dealing with both the collection and the cooperation or economy, and there was one item dealing with cost evaluation and one with effectiveness. This does not mean that the aspects cost evaluation, cooperation, economy and effectiveness are not present in the Hungarian library and information literature, but their presence is limited within the publications and these subjects are not yet independent discipline.

An article describes the paradox “the smaller and poorer collection a library has, the stronger it asserts that it can live without the support of others’ collection and the larger the library is, the stronger it requires the cooperation with others.” In several cases, librarians are concerned rather about the input of the library, like support of the parent body, collection of documents than about the output, like the spectrum and efficiency of services. An article on collection management of medical libraries states the following: “… there is no conception for acquisition of periodicals in the medical libraries” – perhaps this statement is true not only for the medical libraries.

 

4. Trends and future of collection management in Hungary

Both the international and national trends affect the development of collection management in Hungarian libraries. Local circumstances began to change but there are still plenty of barriers in the way of re-thinking the current practice. Nevertheless, there are opportunities also.

International trends

The question about the future of collection management is not a special problem for Hungary, libraries in other countries are facing it as well. The number of published document titles increases on the market, and so do their prices. The percentage of electronic information is rising rapidly. It is impossible to have enough capacity, time, money and space to have all the relevant documents inside the physical walls of a library. The practice of focusing on availability seems to be general. Most people want information and not documents. Libraries use alternative sources like collections of fulltext CD-ROMs, electronic journals or collection of scanned literature. The importance of document delivery services and networks, including electronic ones, has increased. The costs of acquisition are often allocated to the interlibrary loans or queries from information suppliers. There is less emphasis on the locally and physically available collections. A literature search in the database LISA (Library and Information Science Abstracts) also proved that, within the collection development, interest has been increasing in the cooperation in the recent years. The conception of non-growing libraries became popular. – Of course, most of these sentences are international commonplaces. So, let’s see the Hungarian situation.

Almost like in Germany…

Though the political and economical transition may not have been as radical as was in East Germany, the situation of library collections – mostly of academic ones – have numerous similarities. Several articles in the Hungarian periodicals refer to this fact. Therefore, some German experiences in collection development were used in the academic field.

Librarians are afraid of restructuring and reducing the collection

The speed of re-thinking earlier ideas depends on the external pressure. The re-engineering of cultural and educational sector only started recently. There are several factors that hamper the changes like scattered networks, difficulties with interlibrary lending, old-fashioned ideas like collection rather then service, the passive viewpoint about lacking subsidies, conservative users and old legislation.

Scattered network

The problem of the scattered public library network is also mentioned in the literature. (In the communist era, the network was a means of control and support of smaller libraries. Nowadays, the maintenance of the network is no longer compulsory. Furthermore, the larger libraries have no, or much less capacity to support the smaller ones.)

Problems with ILL and document delivery services

The law about the interlibrary loan is old-fashioned. For example, it obliges the donor library to cover its costs. Therefore, libraries often refuse to send out the valuable items of their collection. Some libraries begun to demand market-related prices for their interlending services, which is de jure not possible. This procedure resulted in a polemic within the libraries. Table 4 shows the frequency of the descriptors interlibrary loan and availability of documents in the literature search in MANCI.


Table 4. The frequency of the descriptors interlibrary loan and availability of documents

The interest in interlibrary loan reflected in periodicals shows that it peaked in 1993. Market-related prices were introduced in 1994. It seems that the libraries accepted this situation (or they do not lend from the libraries requiring payment). Hopefully, the new legislative background will permit the use of market-related prices in case of this service. The price of document delivery services is too high for the common libraries or users. This possibility remains an opportunity mostly for academic or company libraries.

Old-fashioned ideas: collection rather then services

Several evaluations of Hungarian libraries pointed out that there is too much emphasis on collection in comparison to service. Many librarians build a ‘comprehensive’ stock of documents which represent the whole literature of a certain field and takes no or much less care on the ‘irregular’ needs of users. This mission is based on the communist idea of libraries, where the library had a certain function of education.

Passive viewpoint: ‘lack of money’

It is commonplace in the articles that the level of collections depends mostly on the financial support of the parent body. As it can be concluded from numerous articles: more money and a well organized, centralized document supply service is required.

Many librarians can hardly believe that the good old days with enough subsidy and relatively good prestige are over. Nowadays, to maintain the interest of the users and the parent body needs much more and regular innovation (high level service based on good printed, audio-visual and electronic sources), which, in turn, may bring more money. No maintainer offers the money first.

Old-fashioned library law and rigid structure of budget

There are old bureaucratic procedures for weeding, which hamper the libraries to weed out documents. Librarians often damage unused books only since cancellation procedure is more simple in case of damaged documents.

The authority of the library manager is insufficient for budget allocations. The sums of the different columns in the annual budget are seldom transferable. It would be, for instance, almost impossible to allocate money from the budget of acquisitions to cover the expenses of online services or from the unnecessary staff to create infrastructural or educational background for networking.

Conservative users

In several cases, the old habits of users hamper the leaning of collection. In college or university libraries, the old-fashioned teachers ask for old documents instead of getting to know the new documents and learn to use the electronic equipment.

5. Factors encouraging change New thoughts and experiences

In the recent years, several national and international conferences were hold in Hungary which dealt with aspects of collection management. The specialists of the field could attend the (pre)conference ‘Collection development’ in 1994, the topics of which were cooperation, harmonization of budget allocation with the user’s needs and the evaluation of collections in public libraries. On the conference Networkshop (held in every year) also the questions of electronic documents are discussed. Other conferences were organized on interlibrary lending and on preservation.

The number of articles written by foreign authors and translated into Hungarian about methods of effective budget and resource allocation and evaluation of collections is increasing in Hungarian periodicals. (The question of language is important since the number of librarians able to read foreign literature is relatively low, even though increasing.)

Examples of resource sharing

There are some conceptions for resource sharing. Some examples have been published: several agreements are possible between libraries and there are even more informal possibilities. There are recent projects which offer subsidies only for academic libraries who have collective collection developing plan.

Value for money

For two years, it became common that students should pay tuition fee for their education. The lending from public libraries costs not a symbolic fee anymore. The time will probably come soon when users will demand better services and collections from the library and the information services than before.

Availability of alternative sources of information

Electronically stored information and databases supplied from electronic sources became commercial in the recent years. CD-ROM databases and multimedia became fashionable tools. The Hungarian Electronic Library offers an increasing number of fiction and scientific literature on the net. (Within some days you will find also this paper in the Hungarian Electronic Library (copyright!) The possibilities for schools, school libraries, public and higher education libraries to connect the Internet are being widened. These tendencies encourage the conscious use of information. There are new types of professionals evolving like Internet-librarians.

Tendering

From 1996 tendering of services above a given sum became obligatory. This resulted in some examples on collective tendering of suppliers that helps the libraries to think more cost conscious and feel encouraged to be more engaged in the resource sharing processes. With the collective actions, libraries may utilize their budget for acquisition more effectively.

6. Conclusion

The collection is the second most important source of the library and information services, coming after the knowledge and experience of colleagues. The numerous changes influencing the circumstances of the different types of libraries affect the management of their collection. Financial sources are decreasing and the Hungarian libraries are encountering considerable alterations within their collections. So far, only few changes took place aiming at increasing the efficacy of collection based library services. More effective cooperation within the libraries and information services is needed in order to raise the quality of collections through focusing on the user’s demands, cost-conscious re-thinking and leaning of collections, as well as developing value-added services based on new electronic sources of information. These innovations may increase the hope for libraries to get more subsidy from parent bodies.

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