Optimizing Collection Management: Insights from Academic Library Experts

Exciting things are happening at collectionHQ! We are preparing to release our latest software,  cHQacademic: an all-in-one collection management tool that helps academic libraries create and maintain collections that inspire learning.

We want the tool to be as useful as possible, so we decided to involve librarians before our official launch at the end of June to collect feedback and help shape the future direction of cHQacademic.

Recently, two of our early adopter customers sat down with us to discuss their challenges with collection management, why they chose cHQacademic for their institution, and their experience with the tool so far.

For this interview, we spoke to Dr. Susan Mythen from Florida State College in Jacksonville, FL, and Alicia Pearson, from Siena College in Loudonville, NY.

Susan has been a librarian since 2007. She joined Florida State College at Jacksonville in 2014 and has been a part of the leadership team since 2017.

Alicia received her Masters in Information Sciences in 2019 and has worked at Siena College since January 2022.


Hi Susan and Alicia! Thank you so much for joining us today. To begin, can you tell us a little about your library and the campus community that it serves?

Susan: Florida State College is one of 28 open-access institutions in Florida and is, in fact, the only one of its kind in Jacksonville. We have 37,000 students in total – 13,000 of whom are full-time – and seven campuses, each with its own library.

Alicia: And we’re on the other end of the scale! Siena College is a small private liberal arts school in upstate New York. We were founded 87 years ago and have a total of 3,000 undergraduates. Because our student body is small, we have a single campus and one library.


Two very different experiences! What challenges have you had when it comes to managing your collections effectively?

Susan: Our collection currently totals around 125,000 volumes across our campuses. We have found collection management across branches challenging; we want to offer the same level of service in each library, but we’re mindful of not spending unnecessary money duplicating items. As a result, there’s a lot of transferring materials between branches, which can be difficult to keep track of.

Alicia: We have a pretty old collection, which reflects the age of our campus. And despite our smaller size, our collection totals around 250,000 volumes. Over the years, there hasn’t been a consistently applied approach to categorizing our materials. Eventually, we found ourselves in a transition period; we needed to be more proactive in our management as we were struggling with migration and pulling actionable information from our collections.

Additionally, as a predominantly Caucasian campus, we want to branch out to improve our material diversity.


How did you learn about cHQacademic?

Susan: Our campus set a clear goal of looking more deeply at our collection to make it as broad and inclusive as possible. My entire department has undertaken lots of collection management training in the past, but it’s so complex and time-consuming to do it all manually!

I had been following Baker & Taylor on social media for a while because I was interested in the tools they offered for collection management in public libraries. When you launched cHQacademic, it was an immediate “Yes” to get involved!

Alicia: A new director joined our department around two years ago with extensive collection experience, and she had previously used Baker & Taylor software to build a new collection.

We were specifically searching for a tool that would give us a snapshot of our collection inclusivity with clear visuals that we could present to stakeholders. We had recently undergone a system migration and could not access such a snapshot. As soon as we learned about cHQacademic, we were excited to see how it could help us.


What motivated you to join the cHQacademic early adopter program?

Susan: We were searching for a tool to get us involved in conversations with stakeholders and shape the future of our collection. We thought the features of cHQacademic could help us do that.

Alicia: My director wanted to get involved with the pilot of cHQacademic because she loved the idea that the tool could provide the visual snapshot of our collection that we were missing. As a result, she jumped at the opportunity to participate in the early conversations about what the tool could look like and how it could be helpful to librarians.

As an early-career librarian, I recognized that cHQacademic offered invaluable professional development opportunities and the chance to harness the power of data to assist with problem-solving within our collection.

Susan: I think cHQacademic also offered such a fresh perspective over the traditional methods of management we are all used to. I previously exported reports from an ILS, which was easy, but migrations had been very frustrating and weren’t user-friendly at all.

I love how visual cHQacademic is and I know other librarians find it easy to navigate too.

Alicia: I can echo all of this. With our older systems, we could pull some reports and gain statistics for annual reports, but none of the data was effective for planning. With cHQacademic, we can access all the information we need to find evidence that shapes our future direction.


What do you hope to achieve with the tool?

Susan: There are so many intricacies with collection management. We hope the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of cHQacademic’s analysis will make collection management an easy part of a librarian’s routine.

Alicia: We hope that cHQacademic helps us with planning. Our experience so far is that it gives us the information we need to see not just where the collection is now, but also where we want it to go. We also hope that the visual aspect provides explanations and builds enthusiasm for not just the tool, but our collection itself.

Susan: I love how granular you can get with the data. It’s helping us to weed our materials based on usage and areas of weakness to create a more fresh, nimble, and attractive collection.

Alicia: Absolutely! Every librarian I know is committed to data-driven decision-making; so far, we believe that cHQacademic is the tool we need to provide both the big picture and the finer details.


Which tools within cHQacademic have you used most so far?

Susan: I have been using the Dead Items reporting a lot. We do our collection inventory in the summer, and this is when we tend to notice where we are over and understocked. It is so easy for me to pull, review, and disseminate this information with others now.

From the budget perspective, having a tool that helps us make better decisions about what we buy and keep is incredibly useful, as it prevents us from wasting money on buying, shipping, processing, and shelving unnecessary items. Anything that stops us from making bad collection decisions is a huge win!

Alicia: For us, cHQacademic is assisting with our goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive collection. Also, the ability to sort materials by call number has been great. It helps us to break down our collection by area based on trends in the curriculum so that we never lose sight of the big picture; having the right level of resources to serve every student.


And finally, what would you say to other librarians who are considering utilizing cHQacademic for collection management within their institution?

Susan: I believe cHQacademic offers the most streamlined collection management opportunity out there. So many people assume there isn’t a tool for academic collection management. I’m recommending cHQacademic to other librarians all the time!

Alicia: I couldn’t agree more. Many librarians feel overwhelmed approaching academic collection management. We can pride ourselves on making things hard! cHQacademic proves that collection management doesn’t have to be a manual or laborious process – and will sometimes show you that your collection problems aren’t as bad as you think.

Susan and I work for very different institutions, of different sizes and with different needs. The fact that cHQacademic has been so useful for us both shows how great a resource it is for all academic libraries.


Thank you so much for your time! We appreciate your feedback and are delighted that you have found cHQacademic useful so far. We can’t wait to see how your collection management progresses!

To discover how cHQacademic can be used to support ongoing collection improvements at your library, please get in touch to arrange a free demo.

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