by Devona Pendergrass
Spring–The time of year when young men’s thoughts turn to fancy and school librarians thoughts turn to the dreaded end of the year inventory. Inventory is defined as the on-going process of comparing your library holdings to the actual items in the library.
Doing a thorough inventory will allow the library and staff many benefits. Some examples are:
Weeding–during inventory you will find old, musty, broken, stinky, dirty and disgusting items that need discarded.
Clean and organize–you will invariably find shelves that have trash or dust and shelves that need to be reorganized according to your system.
Shelf lists–Now is the time to fix your shelf list errors you find in your OPAC.
Lost–You will discover items that are lost from the collection as well as items that are in the wrong place. Items will be attached to patrons even though they are on the shelf and you will find records that are just plain wrong. Sometimes we even find items that we have declared lost but they are actually on the shelf.
Mislabeled–Items will turn up that are mislabeled and some missing items will magically reappear. You will discover items that are just plain wrong!
All of us have reasons for not doing inventory such as: I have to close the library, inventory happens at the end of the year when I am so busy or my collection is large and I will never finish. With today’s automated systems you can do inventory while the library is open and you can do one collection at a time. My library is always open and we do inventory every year. Sometimes I do fiction in the fall and non-fiction in the spring.
Doing inventory is the best way to make sure that your catalog accurately reflects your library holdings which in turn reduces patron frustrations. When I transferred to my current position one of the best things I did was inventory. I learned my collection, began the arduous task of weeding a collection that had not been inventoried or weeded in decades. The inventory process gave me insight into both my budget needs as well as a place to start planning for updated materials.
The bottom line is that a regular inventory helps control waste, both time and money. A solid inventoried collection, with correct information and data, show that you are vigilant with the public assets and that you are monitoring and facilitating the holdings. Best of all you and your library will look smart, clean, professional and robust.