UT Libraries Reviewing Physical Collections to Meet Campus Needs

The University of Tennessee Libraries will begin a thorough review of its print collection this spring. Permanently removing from the collection those items that rarely circulate, that are duplicated, outdated, or that are widely available elsewhere allows the UT Libraries to better serve users’ needs. Some important but lesser-used books will relocate to the Library Storage Annex when it opens next year.

The collaborative process will take place with input from the campus community. Lists of books that are candidates for de-selection will be available online in Library of Congress call number order. The campus community will have four to six weeks to review the lists and provide feedback. The Libraries will move forward based on that feedback.

Removing outdated and rarely used texts from its collection allows the UT Libraries to accommodate the increasing need for space for study, research, and other innovative activity and collaborations; respond to the growth of online programs; and prepare for the move of lesser-used materials to the new Library Storage Annex.

The reviews will include collections at Hodges, Pendergrass, and DeVine libraries, as well as collections at existing storage spaces. The books being de-selected will account for a small percentage of the Libraries’ roughly four million print and electronic book collection.

“We will still have millions of print books and e-books,” said Holly Mercer, senior associate dean of UT Libraries. “We want to make sure our physical collection is actually serving the needs of our constituents.”

The UT Libraries is using an analytics tool to compare its collection with other southeastern research libraries, Big 10 academic libraries, and libraries with which it has resource sharing agreements. This ensures that whatever books are removed would still be available to constituents through interlibrary loans. Similarly, UT Libraries is a resource for other libraries through this cooperative arrangement.

Criteria for de-selection include: whether the books are rarely circulated or are outdated; whether the books are readily available from other libraries; that they are not books the UT Libraries has agreed to hold in perpetuity; that the Libraries owns another copy (including e-books); or that they are available in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

“If we have one of the only copies in Tennessee or in the country, we’re keeping it,” Mercer said. “If we have a book that has never circulated in 25 years or is an outdated manual, we are probably going to decide to remove it.”

Once the books are removed, some will be sent to Better World Books, which will sell them and use proceeds to support libraries and literacy, Mercer said. State law limits how UT can dispose of state property.

Any books not sent to Better World Books will be sent to UT Recycling.

Removing the books from the library stacks will provide more room for users to browse available materials. Currently, some areas are packed so tightly that it makes looking for books difficult, so the review will allow better distribution of volumes.

The project will not prevent the Libraries from acquiring new materials, Mercer said. The Libraries will continue to purchase and add thousands of new books to its print collections annually. It also will continue purchasing electronic books to serve students in the university’s online programs. Ultimately, this will result in increased access to needed information, fewer books sitting unused on our shelves, and a more efficient use of our valuable physical spaces.

Mercer noted that the same criteria will not be applied to all books and disciplines, adding that all UT students, faculty, and staff will have access to any materials they need.

“There are certain disciplines that are more book-intensive than others,” she said. “We will continue collecting in those areas and in the format that matters in their discipline.”

After reviewing the lists relevant to their disciplines, members of the UT community should forward their feedback to Libraries Senior Associate Dean Holly Mercer at hollymercer@utk.edu.

Visit the Libraries website for related FAQs.