Library Philosophy and Practice 2012
Reaccessioning and Stocktaking Exercise: Experiences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Library, Kumasi, Ghana
In May, 2006, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Library submitted a project proposal titled "Automation of the KNUST Library system toward effective science and technology research" to the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF) to solicit funding to undertake a library automation project. The idea to automate its services, resources and operations is part of the re-engineering processes by the KNUST Library to provide the platform to offer efficient and effective e-service to its ever growing users. In November, 2006, the project contract was awarded to Nala Consultancy Services for work to commence. Currently the automation process, according to the systems librarian, is about ninety percent complete.
With the completion of the automation network it was imperative to feed it with the necessary data to make it operational. Starting from 11th May, 2009 to August, 2009, the Library embarked on a seventy day massive exercise of stocktaking, relabeling, bar coding and accessioning of the library resources to generate the requisite data.
Stocktaking or stock inventory is done for various reasons. According to New South Wales Department of Education and Training (2000) and Braxton (2004) stock is taken, among other reasons, to assess, control and evaluate the resources; track purchases, losses and disposals; to provide information on weaknesses in the collection that need redressing; measure the collection numbers, age and ratio: student; examine each resource and determine its future based on age, relevance, currency and condition, which may include repair, replacement, disposal or cleaning, to ensure that attractive, up-to-date resources are available to users; and prioritize future purchases and begin sourcing these.
Reporting on the stocktake project of the Whitireia Community Polytechnic, New Zealand, Parker (2007) expounds on the aim, preparation and planning, method, results and problems of the project. She ends with a nine-point recommendation. The highlights of the project are that it was aimed at identifying the amount of loss since 2000 (the last stocktake) and to match shelves with the catalogue. Stocktake was done mainly electronically and during the quiet Christmas period. A missing rate of 3%, items without records, records with no items, items shelved incorrectly, incorrectly entered items, some new items not found were some of the identified problems. She recommends the continuation of the four year cycle stocktaking, "although high-use and high loss areas could be sooner"
Accession is a unique sequential number given to each new book, magazine subscription, or recording as it is entered in the catalog of a library. If an item is removed from the collection, its number is usually not reused for new items (Wikipedia, 2010). An accession number is unique to each material and normally used to ascertain the volume of library stock at any given time.
Drawing from her previous bar coding project experience, Laudau (2001) advises libraries and librarians that "bar coding a library is an intricate process that requires foresight and planning". She observes that some of the issues to consider in addressing the subject matter are setting out procedures, placement of the bar codes, utilizing volunteers and selecting equipment". Laudau further stipulates that two major reasons may inform bar coding. These are to establish an automated checkout system and to having inventory control of collection.
The accessioning and stock taking exercise in the KNUST Library, as the project was dubbed, was primarily meant to generate accession records from which accession register and subsequently Online Public Access Cataloguing (OPAC) were to be developed.
Objectives of the Study
This paper is aimed at providing a documentation and examination of the issues, challenges, experiences and lessons from the re-accessioning and stocktaking exercise in the Main Library and also to serve as a guide or working or reference document to the Main Library, college libraries in KNUST (who are yet to embark on similar exercise) and other academic libraries in Ghana which have not yet been automated.
The authors served as supervisors in the re-accessioning and stocktaking exercise. They also, as part of their normal schedule, supervise shelving activities. This put them in a strategic position to be acquainted, through participatory observation, frequent interactions and peer consultations, with the accessioning, shelving and their related issues. Beyond this, data was also obtained by interviewing the coordinator of the exercise, systems librarian and staff at the data entry section. The last set of data was accessed from the administrative record books of the co-ordinator.
Data obtained, which was mainly qualitative, were analysed on the basis of evaluative research.
The KNUST Library System
Established in 1951, the KNUST Library started with the collection of books which had formed the Library of the Teacher Training College at Achimota, Accra. (Alemna and Cobblah, 2004). The college was moved from Achimota to Kumasi and this Library formed the core of the present university library. With a total of 4000 volumes, the stocks were centred on education, fine arts and religion. After independence the government converted the then Kumasi College of Technology into a purely technological institution. According to the KNUST Library Manual (2009), the library moved to its current premises in 1961 from a prefabricated structure.
Currently, the total library collections, including the six college libraries and the research centres, stands at about 298,164 (KNUST, 2009). The collections cover the disciplines such as agriculture, science, health and medicine, social sciences, arts, engineering, planning and architecture.
The library has six departments – Acquisitions, Cataloguing, Lending, Reference and Research, Electronic Information and Serials.
Scope of the Exercise
The need to embark on the re-accessioning and stocktaking exercise was synonymous with the automation of the library services. This is because the exercise was meant to create the requisite data to be fed into the automated system. The re-accessioning and stock taking exercise entails the following activities-
re-accessioning all library resources (books, serials etc) by capturing their bibliographic information – author, title, publisher, date and place of publication, ISSBN, number of pages and call numbers.
documenting the library materials by assigning them new accession numbers – ie. a-thirteen-digit barcode. This was meant to replace the old accession numbers in the books.
developing a new accession register to replace the old one. The new register is intended to include more comprehensive information about the book - such as date of accession, author, barcode, title, imprint and ISBN. There was huge gap of accession numbers which were unassigned. The new accession register is meant to rectify all problems associated with the old register.
reclassifying books which have wrong class numbers.
entering the records captured into the automated system.
developing an OPAC using the accession records as the primary data.
establishing the real volume of stock of library books and other resources. The actual volume of library stock had been in dispute because of the irregularities in the accession register.
ROLE OF MEMBERS OF THE IMPLEMENTATION TEAM
The planning team, which later metamorphosed into the implementation team, included the Librarian, Deputy Librarian, Co-ordinator, Systems Librarian and Library Administrator. The Librarian played an overall supervisory role. She received progress reports from the co-ordinator and provided direction to the course of the work; the Deputy Librarian deputised for the librarian. He was part of the working team and served as the immediate contact person in the course of work; the Coordinator was responsible for coordinating all activities including preparing work schedules, assigned work to staff, received and distributed logistics, kept records on the exercise, and sent progress report to the Librarian. He also received, recorded and kept completed accession cards; the Systems Librarian provided assistance to the working staff especially in re-accessioning and distribution of barcodes; and finally the Administrator kept the materials/logistics for the work and supplied them when they are needed.
ACTIVITIES INVOLVED IN THE RE-ACCESSIONING AND STOCKTAKING EXERCISE.
The decision to embark on re-accessioning and stocktaking was a management decision but the real implementation involved the entire library staff. It was therefore imperative to convey this management decision to staff and sensitise them in order create awareness and also to stimulate interest. The re-accession and stocktaking exercise became a regular agendum of staff meetings, which always brought together the entirety of staff members in the library system. The University Librarian took time to create awareness and answer questions relating to the impending project. Staff members were made to understand the important role they were to play in making the exercise a successful one.
2. Preparatory and Planning Stage
The planning of the exercise was mainly done by a team of five people involving the University Librarian (Head), the systems librarian, library administrator and an experienced senior staff, who was later to become the coordinator. Planning activities included examining how the exercise was to be conducted, organised, coordinated and managed, assessment of the volume of work involved, setting of timelines/targets and schedule, work allocation, determination and acquisition of logistics and materials. These issues were later thoroughly discussed at the senior/senior members staff meetings for fine-tuning. The outcomes, of these discussions, as listed below, formed the basis for the actual implementation.
The approach adapted to the shelving of books was to concentrate and finish the work section by section. The schedule of work, with dates, is summarised in the table 1 below.
Each junior staff was allocated a quantity of books between a certain range of class numbers (e.g. QE-QK, SB 111.1 – TA 440 etc). He/she was required to fetch all other books belonging to his/her domain, take out those that are wrongly shelved and shelve them appropriately at their respective locations.
Table 1: Schedule for shelving of books
The supervisors, aided by their assistants, inspected the work book by book on the shelf to find out whether they are correctly located or shelved. When an error is found the attention of the staff in question is drawn to it. Sometimes a recurring error is an indication of ignorance especially with class numbers. Such a situation demands some tutoring. Since the whole exercise was time bound, supervisors also were to monitor the progress of work to ensure meeting the schedule. For each person's shelf allocation, inspection was done repeatedly for about two to three times before clearance was given for the next allocation. This was done for reasons of quality assurance.
Once the shelving was over the next stage was to start with the re-accessioning exercise. This aspect of the work was preceded by an orientation. The content of the orientation was mainly lessons on what bibliographic information was required to be captured especially when authorship of the books were varied given the specific cases of personal or corporate author, conference documents, multiple authorship etc. A manual each was distributed to staff members. The chief cataloguer, assisted by the systems librarian, took time to explain the contents of the manual after which questions were asked and responses given to them. This took about one hour.
5. Allocation of work
Orientation was followed by allocation of work. Each junior staff was allocated a quantity of books, between 800 – 1000, and corresponding number of bar codes. A supervisor (senior member), assisted by a senior staff, supervised between 4 and 5 junior staff.
6. Re-accessioning and barcoding of books
Re-accessioning commenced on 25th May, 2009. In similar fashion as with the shelving, each junior staff was allocated a quantity of books within a class range. Meanwhile, materials/logistics such as pens, catalogue cards, rubber bands, correction fluid and rolls of barcodes and packaging boxes purposely acquired for the exercise were made available. Table 2 shows the schedule for the re-accession.
Table 2: Schedule for Re-accessioning/Stocktaking of books
On each floor/section where re-accessioning was to be done staff mounted tables and chairs. Books were removed from the shelves and arranged on the table. Books were accessioned by title – meaning a book with multiple copies was accessioned with one card. Each book irrespective of title was assigned separate barcode, which is also stated on the pocket. The cards were left in the books but removed only after inspection by the supervisor. After these processes the books are returned to the shelf. The cycle continues till all books were processed. The vetted cards were arranged and submitted to the coordinator by the supervisor. A junior staff was given his/her next allocation of work upon clearance by the supervisor.
Initial stock was taken by literally counting books on the shelves. This was done at the time of allocation of books on shelve to staff for the subsequent accessioning and barcoding. After counting, a quantity of barcodes that commensurate with the number of books was issued to the staff. The barcodes were to be affixed on the books serially in the order as they are located on the shelves. The total stock at the end of the exercise could be derived by comparing the first barcode number to the last.
Reclassification, Painting, and Pocketing
Reclassification of some books became necessary because for some reasons some books were found to have wrong class numbers due to human error. Some books also had their call numbers and paintings peeled off. A unit comprising mostly staff from the Cataloguing Department was formed to reclassify such identified books, repaint and inscribe faded call numbers. This became a major work and the deployment of staff to that unit reduced the workforce for the re-accessioning proper.
Immediately after re-accessioning in August, 2009, a special data entry unit was set up. Three staff members from the Main Library, under the supervision of the systems librarian, were deployed to the unit to start with the data entry. Their selection was based on computer literacy and typing skills and experience that they have gained working at the Cataloguing Department. Later in March, 2010, the staff strength of the data entry unit was reinforced by four additional staff, one each from the colleges of Art and Social Sciences, Planning and Architecture, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Engineering.
Library services and work are a multi-faceted one involving and requiring variation of skills. These skills are best mastered depending upon where and how long one has worked in a particular department which provides the service in question. The re-accessioning exercise offered staff members, who had neither worked or are not members of the cataloguing and acquisitions departments, the opportunity to learn new skills in accessioning, cataloguing and classification.
Two major limitations identified with the KNUST Library accession register were that there was a huge gap of unassigned accession numbers and also it did not contain certain details such as title, name of publisher, number of copies of books etc. At the end of the exercise this anomalies were corrected.
Establishing True Stock Volume
Before the re-accessioning and stock taking exercise the real stock situation of the library had always been in dispute. It is now affirmed, at the end of the exercise, that the volume of stock in the main library is 102,068.
Identification of Weaknesses in the Collections
Certain weaknesses in the collections of the library were revealed. For example the research section which houses collections on dictionaries, encyclopaedia, almanacs, yearbooks and other general works need reinforcement. Most of the editions of these collections were superseded.
Correction of Shelving Problems
One of the challenges the library faces is mis-shelving of books. This problem is attributable to several reasons. Improper shelving has the tendency to limit information retrieval. The exercise ensured that all resources were placed at their correct locations so users can locate them easily.
Books which were noted to have been wrongly classified had to be reclassified and labelled appropriately. This also will enhance the retrieval process for both staff and users.
Socialisation among Staff
Socialisation is a major ingredient in creating conducive atmosphere to promote the progress of work. Staffs socialise in smaller units at departmental level and at meetings but the re-accessioning exercise afforded them a mass socialisation for close to 70 days. This mass togetherness afforded the staff the opportunity to socialise, share knowledge and ideas, share jokes and consulted among themselves on matters ranging from personal to professional.
Socialization undoubtedly promotes knowledge sharing, creates a relaxed but reassuring working environment as well as enhancing a high sense of belonging among staff. Handzic and Chaimungkalanont (2004), opine that there is ample anecdotal evidence that socialization has a positive effect on creativity. Nonaka (1998) observes "knowledge is created in socialization through the interaction of different views, competencies and experiences".
Data for Administrative Decision-Making
The results and data collected could be used to facilitate management decisions such as weeding, reorganizing resources, identifying areas for expansion because of their popularity, including acquiring a wider range of resources on a topic or subject, purchasing extra copies of a popular resource etc.
Problems and Challenges
The duration of the orientation was short. There was little time to assimilate the details of the accessioning. Many had to learn in the course of the exercise. The beginning of the exercise, therefore, was characterized by staff committing many elementary mistakes, which led to the destruction of many cards. Staff mostly from the Serials, Electronic Information, Lending and Reference Departments committed the most mistakes. This could be attributable to the fact that accessioning and similar activities do not form part of their regular daily routine as in the case of their counterparts in the Acquisition and Cataloguing Departments. This, notwithstanding, the situation improved with time.
Timelines/Targets and Work Schedules
This aspect of the exercise was crucial to the overall success of the exercise. Whilst the planning was thorough, the enormity of some very important aspects of the exercise appeared not to have been envisaged. For example, the spines of books are painted to create the interface for the inscription of call numbers. More than 2000 books, in this regard, had to be repainted. A whole working unit of six staff members was created to do this job. The second issue had to do with reclassification of some books because they had wrong class numbers. This affected the work schedule and targets set for the progress and completion of the work because a contingency plan had to be made to address these matters.
The re-accessioning exercise revealed certain anomalies in the call numbers of most of the books. Examples of such cases are indicated below-
Many books were found placed at wrong locations on the shelves. Experience shows that books are mis-shelved due to oversight, negligence or ignorance. It may also occur when class numbers are wrongly written or when books are incorrectly classified. Both users and staff have their various parts to play in the mis-shelving of books. A case of wrong shelving is provided below- More than 21 lending books, mainly on art and architecture, were negligently shelved in the reference column. One example of such case is NB 1115 shelved as ug/NB 1115. The difference in these two call numbers is the prefix "ug", which signifies the location of the book as a reference document. Without the prefix the book is a lending material.
Strangely, one section which was much affected by mis-shelving was Ghana Collection and UN Sections of the Reference Department. The Ghana Collection is supposed to be operated on the basis of close access, where retrieval of materials is done only by the library staff. The element of mis-shelving caused by users therefore does not arise. This goes to affirm that house-keeping practices to ensure proper shelving in this section needs to be looked at.
Large scale reclassification of books was not originally perceived at the planning stage of the exercise. This activity was an afterthought. It became unavoidable when it was realized that many books bore wrong class numbers. An arrangement had to be quickly made to detach three staff members of the Cataloguing Department to handle all cases of reclassification. For most times they had to shuttle between the department, where internet access was available, and the work station on the floors. It was a difficult work in terms of the distance.
Re-accessioning and Barcoding
It was envisaged that a maximum of 3 - 4 days was enough for each staff to complete the consignment of books allocated to him/her. This was, however, not the case as some took five days or more to complete. This slowed down the pace of the work. At a point both supervisors and their assistants had to directly engage in the accessioning to speed up the work. Carrying books to and fro the shelves had a toll on the staff because at certain point many were visibly exhausted.
With regard to barcoding a few problems were encountered. In some instances there was a mix-up in the barcodes tags, whilst some were mistakenly affixed with two barcodes and yet others did not have barcodes at all.
Supervisors had to grapple with various challenges. Mention could be made of some junior staff who consistently showed ineptitude in the accessioning exercise. For such persons supervisors spent much time to guide them and also examined their work thoroughly. Others demonstrated truancy, slowness to work, illegible handwriting etc.
Supervision also revealed instances of finding books which were accessioned but without barcodes; books not accessioned but have barcodes; and others were neither accessioned nor barcoded.
What this meant was that supervision needed to be meticulously done else the same mistakes would be repeated and the whole exercise would be of little importance.
Mutilated and Worn Out Books
Over 250 books were found worn out and mutilated – some beyond repairs, whilst others needed rehabilitation before they can be reused. Evidence of mutilated books were torn pages, cut out pictures and photographs, detached book covers, soiled and defaced books. In his work on library security and book theft in the KNUST Library, Senya (2004) cites lack of resources, poor funding, poverty, selfishness on the part of students, security lapses and photocopying as some of the factors which cause mutilation of books in the KNUST Library. Of course, the role played by old age and weather conditions cannot be discounted. There was no immediate plan to repair worn out books. If this was done it was going to stall the progress of work because it takes at least 3 months to receive them when they are sent to the KNUST Printing Press for mending (Asare-Kyire et al., 2008). Except for those books which were damaged beyond repairs, other worn-out books were duly accessioned and shelved.
Dusty Shelves and Books
Many shelves and books were found dusty. In some cases the intensity of dust suggests that no cleaning had been done in that area for a long time. Staff who worked in such areas were either choked or had their clothes soiled with dust. This has serious health implications. Provision should have been made for the supply of nose guards and hand gloves because of the dusty nature of the shelves and books.
This research established that many books in the Library were wrongly shelved either due to users actions or staff negligence. For a very long time there is no known record of weeding carried out in the Library since its inception in 1958. Many books were found to be superseded in edition and also others are out of use or become irrelevant due with the passage of time and changes in some courses/programmes taught or ran respectively in the university. A number of the collections had wrong call numbers which were the result of wrong lettering or classification. Paintings on which call numbers were written on books appeared faded. Mutilation of books was a commonplace – this was evidenced by picture cuttings, tearing of book pages, pencil and pen marks etc. Staff orientation before the reaccessioning exercise was found not to be elaborate enough. The reaccessioning, however, created room for staff socialization, team working knowledge sharing, which ended in staff skill acquisition and development and proving on and acquisition of new skills.
The following suggestions and recommendations have been made.
The duration of the orientation on accessioning should have been longer so as to afford the staff the opportunity to learn and practice well ahead of schedule. If this had been done mistakes would have avoided or minimized.
Most of the books especially in the Language, Art and General works sections were very old and their editions superseded. This calls for updating the collections in these sections as well as weeding the old materials to create more room for new ones. This will not only boost the image of the library but also provide more current information to users.
Information retrieval is largely enhanced by well organized materials. Rowley (1987) confirms this assertion by stating that proper organization of library materials permits information to be found again on a latter occasion. On the other hand poor organization makes it difficult to find something later.
Mis-shelving of books in the KNUST Library is a problem accumulated over many years. Once the problem has been rectified it has to be sustained. This problem should be tackled from various fronts. Users must be educated on the implications of wrong shelving of books. Staff must be adequately trained in the system of classification and above all regular, thorough supervision with periodic shelve inspection should be done in order not for the problem to recur. Where appropriate, sanctions could be applied to staff who do not do proper shelving.
Quality Control for Call Number Labels
It is a known fact that mistakes are part of occupational hazards, however, mistakes in whatever form they appear can be avoided or minimized. In the Cataloguing Department when books are classified they are subjected to strict vetting or approval by a superior. This routine practice could also be applied to the writing of the call numbers on the spine of the books. Lettering is done mostly by junior staff. Vetting could be assigned to their peers or better still a superior staff, for a example a senior staff in the department.
At the planning stage, a blue print is developed so as to minimize risk and to improve efficiency during the implementation stage. Experience at the implementation level of the re-accessioning exercise showed that some issues cropped up which were not envisaged at the planning stage. Some of the issues, namely reclassification and labeling of books, were so critical that they needed immediate attention. This stalled the progress of work and affected the targets and timelines originally scheduled for the work. Comprehensive planning is recommended in the future for similar exercise.
Motivation of Staff
Some supervisors were asked for refreshments by junior staff. This confirms that some refreshment for staff could have served as motivation. Small (1998), using the Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the basis of her argument, recommends motivation at the start, during, and after work. She recommends, among other factors, breakfast and lunch programmes.
Developing a Culture of Documentation and Report Writing
The re-accessioning and stocktaking exercise, in the opinion of the authors, constituted a major landmark activity in the life of the library and staff as well. Such an experience is rare and happens once in several years. An explicitly detailed documentation or report of the whole exercise would have served as a official record of history and also a reference document for posterity and other libraries in the future. This recommendation does not go only for this exercise but also for all other such activities which go on the library.
Establishing a Bindery Unit
Many books were found to be worn out to such an extent that, per the library's policy or practice, they needed to be withdrawn for rehabilitation. As stated earlier worn out books sent to the University Printing Press for binding are unduly delayed. Asare-Kyire et al., ( 2008) make a strong case for establishing a bindery in the library to avert these delays. This proposition is hereby reiterated for urgent attention.
Involvement of College Library Staff
According to the plan the re-accessioning exercise was to be started in the Main Library and then later replicated in the College Libraries. It was appropriate to have involved the staff of the college libraries in the exercise undertaken by the main library. The involvement of the college staff would have two advantages. Firstly, they would have first hand understanding of the issues, experiences, lessons and the challenges involved in the exercise and this will eventually impact the quality of work in the college libraries. Secondly, they would have provided additional hand to speed up the work, which seemed to have overwhelmed the main library staff.
Regular Intra-departmental Transfer
Regular intra-departmental transfers, where appropriate, is also recommended to enable staff learn the various services and skills involved in each of these departments. Another alternative suggestion is to engage in frequent in-service training for staff to equip them in the skills that will make them versatile. What this seeks to achieve is to diversify staff experience and roles (Rowley, 1996).
Outsourcing Data Entry
There is no doubt that the amount of data to be entered into the database is voluminous. Data entry is likely to take longer time to be completed that expected. There is a need to inject some urgency in the data entry process by engaging a professional data entry firm to do the work. According to Olorunsola (1997) data entry companies will use a shorter period to have all the data entered in the database, but this will come with some form of corrections such as typographical errors. Alternatively recruiting more staff and/or extending the working hours of the current staff will speed up the process.
Reclassification and Recataloguing
The call numbers and catalogues of the library materials need to be re-examined title by title in order to correct any existing discrepancies. Even though such an exercise may appear to be a difficult task to undertake it is worth it because it would aid information retrieval and promote library resource control, management and organization.
Improving Housekeeping Practices
Cleaning and dusting activities of the library furniture, shelves, books, carrels, ceiling, walls and floors need to be improved. Supervision and inspection of these activities require attention
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