Please see the Collection Strategy Implementation page for background and context to the FAQs below.

1. De-duplication of books

Q: Does the Library treat different editions of books as duplicates?

A: No – the definition of ‘duplicate’ as it applies to our collection management means identical copies of the same edition, although there may be occasional decisions made by senior staff where there are multiple editions with no discernible usage at all taking up significant space on the shelves and these come to our attention through the duplicates work.

Q: How does the Library measure usage of stock to decide that multiple copies are no longer required?

A:  Duplicates work has a formula to work to which looks at the date labels of all copies (and editions) over a set period of time. It allows for the full loan period and some renewals.


2. Removal of print holdings where digitised versions or free access to other print copies are available

Q: Does the Library check holdings in other libraries when it is considering withdrawing stock, or carrying out other collection management work?

A: Yes, the staff check for holdings of other print copies, in libraries that members can access. The emphasis on any work on withdrawing stock is on minimising loss of access to content, and the process is carried out very carefully.

Q: How does the Library measure usage of stock and decide that something is of ‘lower use’?

A: Circulation statistics (issues and returns) are a key way to decide if something has seen lower-use, but such data is used as a starting point only to identify likely low-use material for further consideration. Many more checks are done at the shelf to assess usage and importance of items to the collection, and how they complement other holdings. There are, however, a numbers of areas of the collection where the lack of loans is not necessarily an indication that the title is not being used.  Examples are bound volumes of periodicals or large art titles.  In order to capture as much of this usage as possible the Library registers ‘in-house’ use, by scanning items left by members for reshelving.  This data is recorded on the item’s record and can be used to assess whether an item is being consulted in the Library rather than borrowed and taken home. 

Q: With regard to relying on online versions of material, such as journals, what does the Library mean by ‘robust and stable sources’?

A: There are a number of subscriptions to online content that are considered as core to our content provision as the purchase of new material; JSTOR is a particular example for journal archives and British History Online is invaluable for state papers and other historical documents although it is still a work in progress re the digitising of these primary documents. We retain print copies of non-digitised material. We also subscribe to a number of commercial or academic suppliers of digitised material for current content. There is also a wealth of what we regard as ‘stable’ sources which are external and freely available, such as Gallica at the Bibliotheque Nationale, a number of German university sites offering digitised materials as well as which provides verbatim reports of the proceedings in both Houses.  Material that is out of copyright may often be found on the Internet Archive project as well as other more specialist sites.


3. Off-site storage

Q: Is it economical to hold low-use material off-site?

A: Off-site storage is not cheap, but is a preferable alternative, if funds can be found, to extensive withdrawal of stock involving significant loss of content, or a reduction in the purchase of new material. The Library has to consider the pros and cons of what to move to off-site store very carefully, and decide whether The London Library is the right institution, and is acting responsibly with regard to its limited funds, in storing material that may be accessible through other institutions such as local university libraries like the LSE and the British Library.

Questions we consider include whether a title is:

  • Held onsite at other libraries in London
  • Available through inter-library loan
  • Available online
  • Out of scope of the Library’s collection, for instance not fitting within, or complementing, the Library’s collection strengths

Q: What will be the turn-around time for requests for material from off-site store?

A: We are still investigating the best options for our storage provider, and also engaging with HE libraries over any potential collaborative stores which may also make additional content available to members. The service provision is an important part of our considerations, but we would hope to work with a provider who can supply material within a 48-72 hour window or possibly even post titles directly to the requestor.


4. Withdrawn stock

Q: What happens to withdrawn stock?

A: Stock that is in good enough condition to offer to others is passed to the trade from whom we obtain good prices. Some members have asked whether books can be offered for sale to members, and this is under consideration although the logistics of managing this are considerable. Long runs of series publications that are available online are very difficult to move on to the trade as there is very little interest in these due to their size and weight and accessibility online. Every effort is made to offer these to other libraries and the trade but they will be disposed of if none of these avenues proves fruitful. Disposal has become standard practise in university libraries as markets will have been flooded early on when the move from print to digital started.

Q: What is the timescale for the completion of the cataloguing of all outstanding stock?

A: There is a project underway to assess how this can be accelerated to facilitate better discovery for members and those outside the Library, as well as to make it easier to move stock to off-site store and have it retrievable. Subject to fundraising, the hope is that this project could be completed within 2-3 years, making an additional c.45,000 items findable through the on-line catalogue.