Collection analysis is the process of determining what the exact nature of a collection is. It is essential for determining the gaps and weaknesses of the collection, as well as determining what items need to be deselected. It is important as it aids the library and the library's parent organization in making crucial decisions.
Collection assessment is one of the main activities of collection analysis. Assessment involves the library in question analyzing it's own collection, usually with the goal of determining if their collection is fulfilling the mission and vision set by the library and its parent organization. There are two main types of collection assessment, collection based and user-based - both of which have quantitative and qualitative methods.
Collection-based collection assessment involves assessing the collection based on the items contained in the collection. Quantitative collection-based assessment methods include collection size and growth, adherence to collection standards, content overlap studies, ratio measures, and materials budget size and growth. Qualitative collection-based assessment methods include list checking, collection profiling, seeking expert opinions, verification studies, citation analysis, direct collection checking, collection mapping and brief tests of collection strength.
User-based collection assessment - also called use-based collection assessment - focuses on assessing the collection based on how often or well certain items are used. Quantitative methods include interlibrary loan statistics and transactions, circulation and in-house use statistics, document delivery statistics and for e-resources the number of "hits", downloads and their cost per use. Qualitative methods include user-opinion surveys, focus group, user observation and usability testing.
In general determining how successful a library's collection is is very difficult. In theory it is determined by how well the library has chosen its collection to suit its users, but in practice it is difficult to measure how effective a library is at helping its clients. Every library has different clients, all of whom have individual needs. Given that, it is difficult to compare libraries against each other or create a standard for their collections. It is also difficult to ask the library's users to explain how useful the library has been to them, as this too differs from person to person and library to library. To try to accommodate for this difficulty, libraries usually assess their collections using several of the methods discussed.
To demonstrate this, I will
use my former high school library as an example. My former high school was Philippine Science High School Main Campus (PSHS-MC). There are four distinct collections housed in the PSHS-MC library. The first, as with any school library, contains materials that support the school curriculum. These were kept away from the main collection and distributed to the students at the start of each year, with the expectation that the students would return them at the end of the year. This collection is chosen based on the curriculum, and will most likely be assessed based on the expert opinions of the different subject teachers for their respective fields. They should also adhere to international standards of textbooks suitable for high school curriculum. Another issue is the fact that these items are given to different students each academic year to take home, and are subject to wear and tear. As such the collection should also be checked directly with the goal of checking for damaged items.
The second largest collection of the library housed the research works of previous students. As PSHS is a science high school, all students are expected to perform a Science or Technology based research project before graduating, one of the requirements of that project being writing a research paper and having it printed, bound and submitted to the library to be added to the collection. Since this collection contains the legacy of the alumni it should be assessed with the goal of withdrawal in mind rather than deselection. Since this collection is unique it cannot be assessed by any general standard. Instead it should be assessed using in-house use statistics and using citation analysis with the goal of seeing how the present day students utilize the work of their predecessors.
The two smaller collections are kept in service to PSHS's goal of helping the students' holistic development. These are the fiction collection and the Filipiniana collection. These materials should be assessed via list checking, to see if the collections are keeping up with recommended bestsellers, and in-house and circulation statistics to see if the students are actually using the collection items. The former may be difficult for the Filipiniana collection, as there are likely fewer notable lists of Filipiniana items.