Case Study: Tulsa City-County Library – Smart Selection


Smart Selection

The many adventures of Wild West Sheriff Walt Longmire, as created by author Craig Allen Johnson, are in particular demand at some of Tulsa City-County Library’s 24 branches. The challenge for library staff is to make enough copies – and no more – available at locations that serve communities, each with their own character. In fact, collection management at today’s public libraries can be a bit like the Wild West. Libraries are into new territory where collection spending has to be as targeted and efficient as possible. Meanwhile, the landscape keeps changing, as new materials become available and patron tastes change from month-to-month, year to year.

Amanda Owens, Materials Selector at TCCL, takes the utmost care in her role at the Library: “I want to send certain genres and specific titles to locations with the highest demand. For example, I send zero new Westerns to some locations because the demand doesn’t justify the purchase and customers at those locations can request them from other ones. Recently, I ordered a couple of Craig Johnson books on CD because there were holds on them and all the copies were missing or overdue.”

“We get  most of the quantitative data we need from Decision Center and combine it with knowledge of the communities, feedback from branch staff and ongoing discussions between all stakeholders.”

–Amanda Owens, Materials Selector
Tulsa City-County Library (OK)

Strategic Decisions

Staff at TCCL are working with a smaller budget than in previous years and are constantly looking for ways to make smarter and more strategic purchasing decisions.  As a user and development partner for Decision Center, Innovative’s collection management tool, staff at TCCL have the strategy to succeed in this environment.  For effective collection development, simple reporting or ‘circ numbers’ may not be enough to make service and budgeting as good as they can be. Libraries need to track demand through time, get items into patron hands more quickly; and optimize what they collect, and where, to make service and budgeting more effective.

With Decision Center, library staff can implement their strategy of buying fewer copies initially and then add copies for titles in high demand. Decision Center goes beyond a snapshot of ‘inventory’ and shows how customer needs meet library budget through time. “Our goals with the branch profiles we create  with Decision Center are to reduce wasteful spending on items that will not perform well, maximize use of the existing collection and make smarter, more strategic purchasing decisions in the future.”

Applicable to Buying

Collection management data provided by library technology needs to be “directly applicable to buying,” says Owens, rather than a generic system or branch circulation number. “From traditional reports we see that a certain location has a high demand for Western books. But maybe a couple of years down the road, the demand for the Western genre has declined significantly,” she says. “If we don’t take the time to look at the reports we would continue buying lots of Western books for a given location indefinitely. I think this is a good example of the intelligent reporting Decision center gives us.”

By Popular Demand

Decision Center gives new insight into the traditional aim to get popular titles into the hands of users as quickly as possible. TCCL staff use the Popular Authors display in Decision Center, which provides a ranking of the most popular authors at a specific location in recent months. Popular Titles also gives staff a purchase recommendation based on the performance of that author’s previous titles. This allows staff to tailor purchasing decisions more precisely than ever before.

Owens says: “We get  most of the quantitative data we need from Decision Center and combine it with knowledge of the communities, feedback from branch staff and ongoing discussions between all stakeholders. Decision Center provides the statistical foundation and recommendations, and the staff fill in the rest.”