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Stocktaking a library collection

Stocktaking a library collection will:

  • identify items that are missing from the collection and locate items currently marked missing
  • ensure that items are stored in the correct collection and assist with the detection of catalogue errors
  • provide accurate data on the collection for purposes of accountability and provide loss rates in specific areas
  • ensure that the catalogue accurately reflects the actual items in the collection
  • assist with collection development and budget planning
  • assist with the evaluation of current security and circulation procedures
  • in conjunction with weeding at the time of stocktake, remove items that are out-of-date, damaged or rarely used.

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Stocktake policy

A library policy should be in place to outline the cycle of stocktakes. Some libraries stocktake the entire collection yearly, but others will stocktake the most used collections yearly and the remaining collections every two years. Regular stocktakes result in more accurate catalogue data.

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Staff time

Consideration should be given to the staff time required to carry out shelf checking, scanning, processing of reports and undertaking follow-up work and for attending to items identified as requiring repair or weeding.

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  • List all collections in the library such as class sets, special collections, fiction, junior fiction, non-lending collections etc and identify the collections for inclusion in the stocktake.
  • Plan the order of the stocktake and inform the library users that availability of the collection/s may be restricted or not available during the stocktake.
  • If possible, restrict access to the collection or close the collection being worked on as this will prevent items being moved prior to the completion of the collection.
  • Large collections may need to be split into smaller, more manageable sections. Depending on the library operating system, sections can be based on branch, collection, classification or a combination of all three.
  • Using the catalogue reporting system, record the number of missing or lost items prior to the stocktake so that the statistics can be used for comparison on completion of the stocktake.
  • It is not necessary to retrieve items that are currently on loan.

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Shelf check

Prior to the stocktake, items should be shelved in the correct location and a shelf check be undertaken. This will reduce errors resulting from incorrect shelving. The shelf check will also provide the opportunity to remove items requiring repairs, relabelling or consideration for weeding.

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Ideally, prior to the stocktake the collection should be weeded. Weeding can take place concurrently with the stocktake.

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  • It may be necessary to process a small section as a trial to test software, equipment and procedures.
  • Working systematically, scan each section and process reports for the sections.
  • Work through the reports and deal with the appropriate resource. For example, search for miss-scanned items and missing items. Scan the items if located.
  • Finalise the stocktake and print reports.

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Post stocktake

Use the printed reports to compile statistical records to assist with the creation of a written report indicating the outcome of the stocktake. The report can indicate the areas of loss and strengths of the collection for ongoing library development.

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Last reviewed
18 December 2012
Last updated
18 December 2012