Right-Sizing Your Library Collection

Deanna Lechman is a Customer Success Manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining collectionHQ in March 2023, she spent almost 20 years working in Technical Services and Collection Development for public libraries. In this blog, Deanna shares tips and data-driven techniques to consider when right-sizing your library collection.


As a former librarian, I am passionate about helping others maintain and develop collections so that every reader can find the book they’re looking for. I am also a big believer that right-sizing your library collection is one of the best ways to do it!

In my opinion, right-sizing is the key to maintaining a dynamic collection in a static space.  

We know that the ultimate goal of any librarian is to provide a balanced and flexible collection that meets the needs of their community, with shelves that reflect their readers.

Your collections will move at different rates throughout the year and therefore must have the ability to expand and shrink down. Think about children’s collections, for example. Their usage changes drastically between the summer and winter.

The question we must always ask ourselves is: “Which parts of my collection require more space – and where can I find it?”


Right-sizing is a gradual process.

As librarians, I am sure we will all agree that the most important thing about right-sizing your collection is to keep the big picture in mind.

Take working on an opening day collection, for example. I always loved the challenge of building a collection from the bottom up.

I found it so interesting to widen my viewpoint and analyze how much physical space was needed for a collection, what the priorities were within it, and how to make it all fit in a way that makes it easy for readers to find what they are searching for.

Here’s my top tip for right-sizing opening day collections: the shelves don’t have to be full at the beginning! Instead, they can be a mesh of old and new to help you get started, at which point you can begin tracking the data and make changes as you go based on user behavior.

It is also an opportunity to promote the new collections with face-outs and highlight some of the hidden gems from the existing collection.

I recommend looking at your “Dead on Arrival” statistics and pulling out items that might have been missed during the transition into the new space.

Beyond that, in my experience, right-sizing is never really finished.

A right-sized collection in 2024 is not going to look the same as a right-sized collection did in 2020, but they share the same goal: seeing a collection circulate better than it did before.


Right-sizing isn’t just about the materials themselves.

When right-sizing, as librarians, we have to balance a lot of challenges and different points of view.

There’s the actual space involved – as much as we’d love to, we can’t push the walls a little further apart! But space also includes how your shelves look.

Open, pretty shelves attract use. Overcrowded shelves full of well-loved books can make your users assume that they won’t find what they’re looking for, so removing grubby materials and collating a transfer list will inevitably be a part of the right-sizing process. Patrons feel respected when they believe the materials they are accessing are respected too.

Then, there are the budgetary constraints that limit the new materials we can buy. Every library has a different scope for what they can purchase each month, so determining which genres to prioritize and how many copies to buy of a particular book can be tricky.

And of course, there’s explaining to our users why changes are being made. If a really big shift is occurring, it’s important to have a clear narrative to share with patrons about how the new and improved collection will better reflect their interests and meet their needs. Let them know you are gathering feedback and analyzing collection use by using evidence-based tools like collectionHQ to shape the collection.

Finally, we have the opinions of internal staff too. We’ve all been guilty of feeling nostalgic for how a collection used to be, so it’s natural to struggle at first with a layout change.

When you need to consider many perspectives to do the job right, finding a tool to support you is key.

I truly believe that using data to right-size your collection is the most efficient and effective way to make sure the result meets your needs – and those of your users.


Use tools to make right-sizing easier.

Based on my experience in utilizing it within my collection management workflows, collectionHQ provides a toolbox of everything you could need when right-sizing a collection.

One of my favorite tools is the Collection Use Summary which tells you what you have on your shelves and how your materials are performing. It is an incredible resource. I used to spend hours gathering the information from my ILS and now it just takes a few minutes to run various reports and drill down to item-level reports.

I always suggest looking closely at outdated materials – particularly if non-fiction is the reason why your collection isn’t moving – to avoid redundant titles from staying in circulation.

Taking a data-driven approach to right-sizing your collection stops the work from being a guessing game. You will probably have theories about which collections are performing best, but collectionHQ helps to root them in reality.

Having faith in the data is key. I look at it as solving a puzzle. You have all the pieces at hand – collectionHQ simply helps you to fit them together and create the full picture so much faster than if you do all of the work manually.

When right-sizing your library collection has been approached effectively, you may find initially empty shelves which isn’t necessarily bad.  It means your patrons are finding what they are looking for and engaging with your collection – which gives you more space to grow.


You can learn more about utilizing collectionHQ to support right-sizing by contacting our team. Click here to request more information or to arrange a demo.

Comments are closed.