Selection Guidelines for Off-site Shelving


I. Background and Rationale

The Fondren Library has experienced an acute shortage of space in which to house its collections. Although some space-saving measures have been used, the library is now at a point where the existing facility cannot accommodate currently held materials and anticipated acquisitions. Therefore an off-site shelving facility, the Library Service Center, was proposed as a way to economically house important but low-use materials. In addition to relieving the crowded conditions at Fondren, the Library Service Center offers better security and preservation measures for fragile or rare items than can be achieved within the Fondren Library building. Far from being a "first step toward withdrawal/destruction," therefore, the decision to house a volume in the Library Service Center is a commitment to long term retention and preservation.

In order to select the material most appropriate for inclusion in the facility, the library is setting forth the following procedures. The procedures given below are based on standard library practices (e. g, Guide to Review of Library Collections: Preservation, Service, and Withdrawal, Chicago: American Library Association, 1991) and modified to meet our unique needs. To insure that our facility will be state-of-the-art in terms of service and shelving, we have been in contact with the managers of library off-site shelving facilities at Harvard, Brown, the University of Texas at Austin, Yale, and other universities who have successfully implemented such programs.


II. Selection of Material for Off-site Shelving

All disciplines, subjects, and formats of materials in the Fondren Library are subject to review for selection and transfer to the Library Service Center. The subject bibliographer responsible for collection development in a particular discipline is responsible for the selection of materials to be transferred to the off-site shelving facility. Each discipline may have its own requirements for the kinds of material that must be retained on-site. Subject specialists will work with their respective faculty to ensure the least disruption to their important research materials. A guiding principle is that all Library Service Center selection decisions are reversible, and materials selected for off-site shelving may be returned to the collection at Fondren Library whenever the need arises.

A. General Criteria

The overriding principles in selecting material for off-site shelving are use and value to the current curriculum and research needs of Rice University affiliates. These general criteria are applicable for all disciplines, though the specific guidelines may vary from discipline to discipline.

  1. User demand for the material, generally indicated by circulation statistics.
  2. Number of copies needed.
  3. User interest and need for superseded or revised texts.
  4. Value of variant editions.
  5. Level of interest in current or retrospective materials.
  6. Artifactual value of the material.
  7. Reference value (i.e., is this something that would normally be used in place for a short period?)
  8. Physical condition of the material (in consideration with preservation, placement, reformatting options, or possible withdrawal).
  9. Availability of the material elsewhere. (Is it available in microform? Is there a digital version?)

B. Practical Considerations

Selection and processing of material for off-site shelving are labor-intensive operations that take a considerable amount of time to complete. Initially, therefore, the librarians will strive to identify groups of low-use collections or materials for transfer.  No medium (e.g., flat files, microforms, archival boxes, etc.) is exempt from consideration. Usage will be determined by statistics from both the online circulation system and from books reshelved after use within the building.

C. Specific Procedures

Selection for off-site shelving will be an ongoing process. Consequently, these procedures will not suffice for every situation that may arise. In such instances, the professional librarians will employ their judgment, based on experience and knowledge.

Materials Suitable for Consideration for Selection and Transfer:

  1. Out-of-date materials.
  2. Print runs of serial titles which have ceased publication or been cancelled by Rice.
  3. Print runs of serial titles duplicated electronically.
  4. Print runs of serial titles: Science and technology periodicals, more than 20 years old; Social and behavioral science periodicals, more than 30 years old; Humanities (including History), more than 40 years old.
  5. Variant editions, regardless of date, unless a minimum number of copies are needed to meet user demand or they have compelling research value.
  6. Annuals and continuations of a reference nature other than the most current year, unless otherwise warranted.
  7. Monographic sets or monographic series (analyzed or not analyzed), with the provision of #2 below.
  8. Monographic titles with copyright dates consistent with those of the periodicals listed above (#4), which have not circulated within the last 6 years.
  9. Multi-volume sets that are bibliographic in nature.
  10. Microform titles duplicated in electronic format. Books with special features (e.g., maps or plates), or those whose condition may benefit from the environment and security of the Library Service Center.
  11. Rare materials not suited to the Woodson Research Center Collection but which may benefit from the environment and security of the facility.
  12. Films, audio recordings, disks, tapes, CD-ROMs, and other formats for which no playing equipment exists.

Items Not Suitable for Selection or Transfer:

  1. Cumulative indexes to specific periodical titles, regardless of where the serial is housed.
  2. Individual volumes of multi-volume sets; neither complete nor incomplete multi-volume sets shall be split between Fondren and Library Service Center.
  3. Fragile material needing extensive conservation efforts (unless or until repaired).
  4. Most current edition of reference works, directories, yearbooks, encyclopedias, etc,
  5. Materials requested by teaching faculty for retention in Fondren.
  6. Current acquisitions, regardless of date of publication.
  7. Items not represented in the online catalog.

III. Rare Books, Special Collections, and University Archives material

  1. Description and needs of stored material "Special collections libraries derive their unique identity from their collections, and the primary duties of these libraries are the safeguarding and development of and the provision of access to these essential elements of our cultural fabric. The libraries' responsibility to their collections is paramount.'" [Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards. Association of College & Research Libraries, 1994.]
    Woodson Research Center includes approximately 32,000 rare books dating back to 1400s; 400 manuscript collections (3300 cubic feet), and university archives (1800 cubic feet). Last two groups of the special collections include paper items, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, artifacts, and digital records. These collections include rare and unique items and because of their unique characteristics their storage involves the special environmental needs: heating, cooling, humidification, and dehumidification needs to be ideally maintained a constant 50ºF temperature with 30% relative humidity. Because of these environmental needs and space required to house them, the LSC as planned to be the high-efficiency shelving facility, will be a superb location to place these materials. For security and varied type of storage reasons, the same as in Fondren, the special collections area needs to be separated from the storage of other library items.
    The above collections are presently stored at the Woodson Research Center (WRC) of Fondren Library (6000 sq. ft. facility including reading room, offices, stack and vault area), with the addition of the basement Annex (1200 sq. ft) of Fondren Library; at an off-site commercial storage facility (app. 500 cu. ft. of material); and at the Rice stadium temporary storage (app. 400 cu. ft. of material).
    The main goal of storing some of these special collections at the LSC will be to free some of the space of the WRC at Fondren and bring back parts of the collections that are stored in two off-site locations. The WRC collection development policy includes future aggressive addition of large manuscript collections and further university archives development. In the next few years the university archives records will be among the fastest growing areas of our collections and increased use by WRC of the LSC should be then considered in its building plans.
  2. WRC material moving project Before beginning WRC project to move the special materials to LSC shelving off-site facility, the assumptions need to be delineated upon which the move will be based, and the following issues related to facility specifications need to be taken under consideration: material selection; tracking; physical preparation and moving of materials; operational needs for successfully retrieving items from and returning them to the facility; and minimizing use of the facility. WRC Director and staff will prepare a detailed plan for the special collections moving project as the building of the LSC progresses.
    Materials selection:
    Considering that Rice special collections are unique types of material we recommend the following parts of the collections be moved to LSC:
    1. Rare books that are newer (mostly printed after 1900) and less used editions, individually selected by WRC staff
    2. Only entire collections of manuscripts; specifically the collections that have restrictions on their use and those, where the originals are available on microforms; preferably collections consisting mostly of paper; master copies of the visual and audio collections.

Materials tracking:

  1. Rare books should be bar coded individually as other Fondren books. Designated by WRC staff, rare books will be placed in envelopes and envelopes will be bar coded appropriately. All should be stored by its size at LSC in the special collection section.
  2. Selected by WRC staff, manuscript and archival collection boxes will be bar coded and shelved at LSC by size with no regards to parent collection.
  3. WRC should maintain a database of items and collections stored at the LSC.

Physical preparation:

  1. Before the materials can be sent to LSC they must be prepared, intellectually and physically. The intellectual preparation involves developing a system that will uniquely identify each container designated for the facility (bar coding).
  2. Books will be barcoded, and the online catalog and WRC tracking databases should be used to record collection location.
  3. WRC location database master record for manuscript and archival collections should be developed containing fields for collection title, group number, accession date, series, part, and linear footage, as well as information about restrictions. The container type and bar code should provide the unique identification for each item.

Moving materials:

  1. Transfer of WRC material will be coordinated to accomodate the schedules and needs of WRC, Fondren Library, off-site vendors, and the LSC.
  2. A commercial vendor can be used for moving special collections as needed

Request/circulation of materials

  1. Special collections materials will not be available for use on the premises of the LSC. All requests for retrieval of special collections materials will be placed by WRC staff, and materials will be delivered solely to the WRC.
  2. WRC staff will contribute to development of guidelines for LSC staff to observe in handling of special collections materials.
  3. Special materials need to be transferred in appropriately designed containers.
  4. WRC will consider the delivery schedule that LSC establishes and will inform researchers about the request/return policy.