Librarians and Shelf-Studying Print Collections

The following are answers to the question: do you shelf-study the print reference collection? Reference librarians at North American public and academic libraries were asked to answer this question as part of a study of librarian reading habits.


Occasionally changes to often when new books come in.

I do shelf study on occasion, but not on any kind of regular schedule. I did this more when I first started working at the library.

I look at the collection periodically during the weeding and collection development process. I don't make special time to look at them for familiarization.

I do this quite often but I don't know how much time.

I order all the books, so when they arrive, I look through them to see what information they contain.

No. Again, we have limited staff time to do this due to the busyness of the desk. I do have a new book shelf where new reference books are kept for a couple of weeks so all staff can see them.

Hey! I actually do this! Not very often, probably quarterly I try to find a section to look over. Sometimes I'm checking its age to know whether to upgrade, etc. too.

I do this a few times a week.

No, I am the director of a small public library and do not have time to do this.

Yes. I did a lot of this when I first began working as a reference librarian, and still do from time to time to refresh my knowledge of sources. In fact, I am stressing this as an important tool. I manage to browse the shelves about once every two weeks to look over the titles.

Yes, a couple of hours a week.

Yes, but not nearly as often as I should. No time.

Occasionally, maybe once a month.

The reference librarians and I do this on a regular basis. I do it several times a month and she several times a week.

Yes, I do shelf study both during working hours and on my own time. I have my own little card file of questions that come up all the time.

I do this occasionally, maybe once a month. As new editions or new works are added to the reference collection, we all review the book first. Also, as I have reference questions come up or hear of reference questions from other librarians, I sometimes try to research them further to see if I could have done a better job.

Yes, as I order and catalogue, I have plenty of opportunity to do so and do take the time to do so.

When our new books and magazines arrive.

On occasion, but very rare. There are not enough hours in the day.

If the library purchases a new reference source (online, print, CD-ROM,), I'll usually peruse it over an hour on the desk. How you remember the content and the extent to which it is useful, is questionable. In other words, the law of diminishing returns is at work here.

Yes, done daily, throughout the day.

I personally renew all material that has been ordered and designated as reference material when they are added to the collection. So I have been involved in self-study for quite a number of years and feel it is essential in order to know your collection.

Yes, I look at all new texts each week and see what subject headings of the other items on that shelf. I compare new reference texts with the old for changes and deletions.

When shelving books and reading shelves.

I occasionally browse the shelves and look at various materials, but not on a regular basis.

Who has the time?

I do shelf-study at least once a month. I will find myself doing this particularly if I am weeding books. I look to see if the information contained in the books are current and helpful. This makes me more aware of what we do have and where to find it faster for our patrons.

Yes, I sporadically review certain reference books. Such as, style manuals, annual event books, etc.

Yes, I engage in shelf-studies. Maybe once a week or so.

Yes, two to three hours a week.

I shelf study when it is slow on the desk. I grab a few books and look at them. We also put all new reference books in a special section behind the desk so that the librarians can preview them as they are added to the collection. I shelf studied a lot more in my first two years than I do now.

This behavior occurs as part of our orientation of new employees. It is not done on a regular basis thereafter.

Yes, quite frequently when new reference books are purchased and whenever a reference book catches my eye when I am returning books to the area.

The entire reference staff does this particularly for new titles.

Yes we all have assigned shelves each week that we are to read/weed/straighten/dust, etc. We do this when we have time off of the desk or there are too many of us at the desk or it is a slow time and we want to busy ourselves. I particularly like to do this before we open so I am not disturbed. We all look through the books and usually one of us will find something interesting that they want to share with the others about a book they have found on the shelves. We each spend about one to one and a half hours a week doing this.

About once a week I review a reference source for content as part of the acquisitions/weeding process.

Yes, I browse daily. Perhaps one hour per day.

Rarely. We do, however, check out all new reference books that come in before they go out to the shelves.

I think shelf-study is very important in learning about a library's reference collection. To date, I spend probably no more than an hour a week on this and that is woefully inadequate.

I try to look through new reference books as we get them to become familiar with the contents as best I can. Also, when I am helping someone with a particular book, I will leaf through it to see what is included in it so I might remember the next time.

Yes, I do this a couple of times a week.

Whenever a new reference title is added to the collection, I will take 5-10 minutes in reviewing that addition.

Yes, I engage and encourage shelf studying but not on a regular basis. More often it is to suggest likely sources for specific searches. One main awareness is reached by a yearly presentation of best reference sources presented at the annual library conference.

Yes, I have done this in the past, but not on a regular basis currently as I've gotten more aware of the collection. We only have about 300-500 volumes in the reference collection.

There is not a lot of time for this, but certainly it is necessary to familiarize ourselves with new materials.

I also do acquisitions, and so I am able to see the books when they come in and study them. When there are books of particular interest, I take them to the staff meeting and show them to staff and tell them that they might want this book because of this or if a person comes and asks you that - this is the book that will have the answer to that question. As for staff, each staff person is assigned a special section of the library to shelf books. After a while, I make them change sections. The reasoning is so that they can become acquainted with more than just one section of the library. I shelf study every week.

I do this on an informal basis. It isn't a regularly scheduled activity except when new materials are received. Often, I study reference books that I've used recently to answer a question to renew my knowledge or to be prepared for future questions.

We examine each reference book when it arrives. They are left at the reference desk until all of the librarians have checked the book.

Yes, I do during working hours for about thirty minutes weekly. We have a special shelf at the reference desk for new reference books so we can examine them. I also look at older sources in the stacks. As a young librarian at Brooklyn Public Library, we were trained to do this at least ten minutes daily, so it's an ingrained habit with me and has proved invaluable.

I do this but not on a regular basis. More often than not, I'm attracted by a title as I search the shelves for something else.

Yes, but infrequently.

At least annually with review of materials for replacement needs.

At least once a year, when I am weeding or shelf-reading that part of the collection. At other times, if I have time to browse. I encourage my staff to do the same.

Yes, we all do that with new reference books as they come up from processing. We also have "Show and Tell" at our weekly reference meetings. During that time, a librarian highlights a particular useful book or reference source that we might not all be aware of.

I do this whenever new reference material comes in. I also consult the reference shelf to answer my own personal reference questions that often relate to current events. I answer my own questions at least weekly. We tend to get new reference materials on a quarterly basis and if it is a resource I'm not familiar with I usually spend at least 15 to 20 minutes going through it.

I do this very often. I view it as prepping myself. I think of questions people have had in the past and how this book might help. I am studying for a test that might come my way.

I do so whenever I can in my off-desk time. It is important to be familiar with a reference collection; otherwise, the staff has no clue to what is in the books. I alert the staff by creating a bibliography every year of new reference acquisitions and tell them to take the time to look at the books.

Yes, I do shelf study. I have done so most especially during the last few years in my position as local history and genealogy manager. I am expected to be on top of local, state, and national history, as well as the processes of genealogy. I don't simply look at books, I read them. I take them home. I read the novels and poetry of local authors, as well because I am expected to have done so. If I didn't take the initiative I wouldn't know how to do my job.

No, but require staff members to do so, especially new people.

I often go back to a source after I have helped a patron find information in it. This is especially true if it is the first time I have used the source or if it has been a while since I used it. I always go through each book before putting it on the shelf for the first time. Otherwise, I do not shelf study. It is a good idea but realistically, I don't usually have time to do this.

Only when new books come in unless I am looking for a particular subject and find it easier to browse for the answer.

I do shelf study for maybe fifteen minutes a week. It is invaluable. Books are costly. You cannot use them if you don't know what is in them. It saves you time to be familiar with the source. Reference books are really cool, too.

We do read the reference shelves occasionally, but time constraints prevent us from doing this very frequently. When it is done, we often find treasures that have been overlooked or forgotten. But, no, we do not systematically do shelf-studying.

It is a wonderful idea in theory, but I am so far behind in my real job that I have absolutely no time to do such a thing. I do however, glance through many of the new books when I catalog them.

When I began as a reference librarian, I spent a lot of time in shelf study. I spend less time now, perhaps once a month I browse a section of the reference stacks for interesting titles. We do put all of our new reference titles out at the reference desk for several days to allow all the staff to familiarize themselves with current titles.

Yes, I shelf read constantly. All new reference titles come to the reference desk for extensive staff review. Shelf reading is still a valid technique for reference training and awareness of scope of materials at hand.

We very seldom have time to do this sort of thing. With only one full time and two part-time staff there are times when only one of us is in the library and shelf study just doesn't work into our schedule. We do well to keep our patrons' questions answered and circulation handled.

I do this as the new reference books come in and are readied for the shelves. When new books are added to the collection and shelved, I sometimes have the time to look at older titles, but this isn't done on a regular basis. I do encourage staff that are being trained to work the reference desk so they can become familiar with the materials. Also, each summer, we have practicum students who are taken through the collection to familiarize them with what we have and how the materials may be useful in their libraries. This helps keep older titles in mind.

We do this occasionally. I do it regularly with newly purchased materials.

I usually do this seriously twice a year. We are always in need of shelf space and I review titles for replacement or discard. At that time, I look over many titles I haven't had the opportunity to use in recent history. Shelf study is also done when I find myself in a more whimsical way with a little time on my hands.

I do this every time I work at the desk. Since I'm the reference acquisitions librarian, I'm working closely with the collection in every section.

As part of the training of the new reference librarians, they are supposed to do shelf study, too. Other staff members, as mentioned, look at the new reference books kept at the desk. Also, librarians are encouraged to bring to the reference meetings and share with their colleagues any reference books they've found especially helpful in answering some unusual questions.

When we get new materials.

New reference books are shelved at the information services desk for a short period after their acquisition. Staff are expected to peruse them during slow periods. I look at an average of one per week.

Yes, I do engage in shelf study. We have a shelf designated for new reference books; books are left on this shelf for about one month, and staff are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these books during that time period. Also, I try to review older but difficult-to-use sources as time allows, so that if a patron needs assistance in using them, I can provide it. An example of a less-than-user-friendly book would be Land Values Blue Book of Chicago, which is arranged by school district rather than by township or municipality.

We all shelf study and take some of the books home to read. We all take books off the shelf and see what is in them while we are shelving. Most popular baby names was yesterday's question. I knew just where to find it.

I arrange ready reference workshops for my own staff that realizes this objective in a limited manner. We also try and look at ready reference websites.

We are expected to, especially if the book is new. I do this on no particular schedule, a couple of times per week.

Usually it is when we get new books in. I browse through some of them, especially the reference books. I guess it would be about once a week that I do this.

As often as we can. When new reference books arrive, they remain unshelved until all on the desk have looked through them. We are given a typed list of the new reference material along with the shelf number. Naturally, if one of us finds something interesting in a particular book, we share it with the others. We discuss the pros and cons of materials with one another.

All members of the reference staff view new reference books before they are shelved. We also share with each other where we found the answer to a difficult question.

When books are moved to the shelves after processing, they are made available to the staff to peruse. I will periodically pull a reference to look through if I haven't used it in a while. This is in no way scheduled but is more haphazard than rigidly enforced.

Yes, staff are encouraged to do this during slow periods.

Yes, I occasionally. I also do this ordering for the branch so I need to be alert to the reference needs of our patrons. This involves the need to keep updated reference materials in hopefully the best format and in the best sources for our community.

Sure, that's a good idea too: be familiar with the resources you have. I try to look over new material before it goes out, and old material as I weed or reshelf books. There isn't time for more.

Yes, when we dust shelves, we look into some books.

I try to look at least one source each shift, so that would be about five times per week.

Whenever we receive new reference titles, I look at them. The rest of the collection, maybe once per month.

As a group, the reference librarians present new and of interest reference books in our bi-monthly meetings. I also engage in shelf studying occasionally when I feel I'm lacking in knowledge of a certain part of our reference collection.

Yes, I weed the collection and so, this in conjunction with weeding makes me shelf study. Also, new books are kept at the reference desk so all can look through them.

Yes, new reference books are displayed at the reference desk for all librarians to review. During slow times, I may review a particular area or a difficult reference work as a refresher. I try to look at any new books every day. I may look at a particular part of the collection once a week or so. I try to look through most new government deliveries once or twice a week.

Yes, I use the down time at the desk to familiarize myself with specialized reference tools that are used less frequently but cover areas outside my general knowledge. I do this probably not more than an hour a week.

Occasionally, I will look through the reference books to get acquainted with them.

I did this when I first started working on reference desks, but I generally only do it now if I am really bored.

Whenever there may be a few minutes, I shelf study. I encourage other staff to read the directions for use often found in reference books whenever they have an opportunity, so that reference is at least semi-familiar to them at a later date.

I examine the new books as they come in.

Only rarely. When we have new reference sources, they are left on the desk for all of the staff to review. My shelf-studying is generally spontaneous and is generated by another that gets me to something unfamiliar that I would then review.

After working here 11 years, I already know what's on the shelf, especially since I ordered most of the materials. New reference librarians are encouraged to shelf study. When new items are sent from Tech Processing, we leave them on the desk for a few days to let everyone study them.

We do not actively shelf-study. We usually flip through books when entering records in the computer. Someone usually can recall a volume that has the information requested.

Yes, when each new book comes in, it is looked at for content. Also, at the end of each day, I spend 15-30 minutes on general cleaning and shelf study.

Yes, I have found this very helpful. I don't get to study like I would like to, but I check through these reference books periodically.

New reference works are placed on a special shelf for two weeks and reference staff is expected to examine them. We recently went through the entire reference collection with reach reference person covering a section and recommending keep, update, or discard each work in their assigned area. It took a couple of months. We reshelve the reference works from the previous day every morning. It gives us a good idea of what people are using.

This is done on work time. We keep a cart of new reference titles in telephone reference for librarians to browse. We also have monthly meetings where new reference titles are sometimes covered.

Shelf study is an excellent habit. When there is a lull at the reference desk, we are encouraged to use the time productively, and with reference sources galore close at hand, shelf study is the logical use of this time. I personally like to maintain a cache of reference interests, usually in the form of reference questions that have been worked upon with varying degrees of success. When time permits, it is often instructive to return to the question and see what other resources can be discovered. This can give relevance to my shelf study, as I can pore over reference books looking for information I may have overlooked.

I am in charge of the reference section in my branch library. When we receive a new reference book, I examine it carefully and when I place it on the shelf, I review what other reference books are on the same subject and look at them. When I answer a reference question that was difficult to find, I often go back to the book after the patron has left to look through it to try to familiarize myself with its contents. I do this two or three times a week.

The current reference leader has every staff member going over one shelf of reference materials per day, if time permits.

We used to do that by having the reference librarians shelve all new reference materials, and by putting reference shelves in order. We got too busy to do that and it is cheaper to hire a page to shelve.

I look at new reference books as they arrive. I do some shelf-studying, but not enough.

We engage in something like this every time we receive new reference books. Our supervisor requires us to look over the new sources and study them for future use. However, in our situation, we simply do not have the time for that type of casual browsing along with our other duties. Generally while at the reference desk we are doing other work that often has little to do with reference.

Yes, however, most of my shelf-study is of new material as it is added to the collection. I have a shelf for new reference titles for all reference service staff to study before they are placed in the reference shelves.

I shelf study several of our reference books a week.

Yes, but very sporadically. Sometimes I do it after I've answered a question with a particular source and wondered what else could have helped.

I engage in shelf study only as part of the weeding process. It's one of the reasons that weeding a collection is such an interesting process. You come across a lot of sources you didn't know you had or that have information you didn't suspect was there. But none of the working reference librarians I know have the kind of unclaimed time that would permit them to browse in the way described. Our days are full of duties and deadlines.

No, I haven't done that since I started. I did when I began working here because my previous experience had been with LC rather than Dewey, and I needed to familiarize myself with Dewey numbers. Instead of shelf-studying, we get to see all of the new books before they are routed into the collection. They sit on a cart a day for all of the librarians to browse through before they are shelved. That has helped us stay current with the collection.

Yes, but not often anymore, except for new books. I might do this once every two weeks. I'm the Head of the department and I've been here for 13 years. I know and remember almost every reference book we have.

I used to do this regularly, almost daily. Now I do it sporadically.

Self study is an ongoing process although sometimes it slows down due to staff shortages since there very little time to do it. I encourage this practice but only when time is available to staff. This is a similar problem facing many other libraries.

Yes, every few weeks.

I shelf study whenever I get the chance, especially as new reference books come in. I work one night per week and usually this is a good time to do this.

Yes, a couple of times a week.

Yes, as new books come in I examine them. It is important to be aware that the book may serve a service other than that for which it was intended.

Yes, I do. Several hours a week is spent in reviewing reference books for further use. By the same token, I also study the online databases we get.

I do it sometimes when I have some downtime or if I'm at lunch. I focus mainly on children's but I do go to the big reference room and look there also. I do it probably two or three times a month.

Yes, infrequently though.

Yes, approximately thirty minutes a week I spend either looking at reference sources I haven't used in awhile or the new sources that come through the reference office before going to the shelves in the public areas.

When I've had a slow night of reference (seldom) I do that, but not on a regular basis. I normally do this when a new item is added to the collection.

I believe shelf study is done on an ongoing basis as part of the reference job.

Yes, I engage in shelf study of reference collection in both print and electronic. This occurs about five times a month or about once a week.

Reference staff is always encouraged to review the reference collection. It is usually done on our off desk time, but we sometimes take some time to look through sources during slow times on the reference desk. Also, we have a shelf available for staff to preview new reference sources that have arrived in the library. Since about half of our reference staff are in charge of ordering reference collection titles, it is to our advantage to have a good understanding of what the source includes before purchasing it.

We just don't have time to do it.

This is definitely done with new materials, which sit on our workroom shelves for a few days so that staff will examine them. At staff meetings individuals will also report on new or obscure titles in their collections and the merits of those titles. Staff also review the reference shelves prior to a tour to re-familiarize themselves with the content, and during slow periods the quick ref items are examined.

Yes, every time our department receives new reference books, approximately once a month.

Shelf study is done during working hours. I engage in shelf study for approximately two hours a week.

Yes, when we are not too busy. Twice a month perhaps.

I do a shelf study at least once a week, if not twice. We are one of the four major libraries in Edmonton, and having a current and useable reference collection is vital. Being on top of the new reference material is always a challenge.

I encourage all my staff to do this and do it regularly myself since we are limited for training time formally. I usually ask a question of the tool that has been difficult in the past and pursue the answer with the tool being checked. Often will compare tools with similar information to see which is the best source for certain information. This is done as soon as something new turns up in our collection, in other words, a lot. It is as much a part of my life as having a well-stocked kitchen.

Yes, perhaps a couple of times a week for maybe fifteen minutes to a half an hour.

Once a week. I also do the weeding. And we are all encouraged to do regular shelf reading. A recent reference improvement initiative in Ohio provided a manual and workshop which some of the staff attended. The manual is at desk and we tried to encourage staff to look at it and to make note of alternatives available in our collection. Anything interesting is generally shared.

Yes, ongoing! It is part of the job and we call it examination of new books.

When new resources come in.

We engage in shelf study when the new reference books come up each week from the technical processing department.

I look at new books weekly or as often as they come into the department. We are encouraged to keep current with new print sources as well as online sources. When I see a book that does not look familiar to me, I either look at it right then or make a mental note to look at it in the near future, which I do.

Yes about once per week, though I'd like to do it more. I make a point to check out at least one new reference book or online database /website which I have never used before.

I do engage in shelf study, usually on company time. For a suburban library, we have a large reference collection and the only way to keep up with it is to study it -- shelf study. Ideally, I'll spend any moment that I'm on the reference desk and not actively answering a reference question doing shelf study. This amounts to about an hour or so each week.

I engage in shelf study every time I work the reference desk, which is at least twice a week.

We do shelf reading daily in this department, of both the circulating and reference collections. As part of that activity, we are expected to browse the books we are unfamiliar with. That would definitely serve to help us shelf study our collection.

Yes, about four hours over two week period. I put new titles on display at reference desk so that everyone can look at them. I read the new introduction to the new edition of the Merck manual to see what had been added.

Yes, but not as nearly as often as I should. Perhaps once every other week.

I do this and I continually urge my staff to do so. Results are mixed. To be fair, we generally don't have a lot of free time.

This is done on a regular basis. I catalog all material and weed for both library branches. I browse and check shelves. Whenever I provide reference information for which I had no prior knowledge, in answer to a patron's question, I generally try to allow time to become familiar with the subject for future reference questions.

Yes. We do it for collection development and bring interesting facts about books to reference meetings.

No, but it is something I would like to do.

Yes, we do. Each staff member had a section of the reference section to browse and review, then had to share highlights of their exploration with the entire staff at a meeting. This was a one-time project, each staff member probably spent 5-10 hours on this, but the project is not ongoing.

I do this a lot. But the way I do it is more casual. I take time to look at books that are being reshelved. I have a pretty good memory and spend time on the table of contents, index and then browse through the chapters and illustrations.

Most of the shelf studying I do is with new reference books and in my areas of expertise such as genealogy and anthropology. This is one of my favorite things to do and I never have enough time to do it.

Yes, about once every month.

Yes. In the beginning of my career, I did it daily. Currently, when new materials are added or updated.

I scan new books for this purpose as they are received. I rarely have time to go back to the shelves to look at older materials for this reason.

I should, but rarely do. Not enough time.

Only once in a great while. I seem to be busy enough at the desk helping people in person, over the phone, via email or working on reference questions.

I do not engage in shelf-studying. As our reference collection is rather small, I have had ample time to become familiar with most of our holdings.

I engaged in "shelf-study" immediately after library school when I had little experience.

Yes, I do self study when I am at the reference desk. I review the new materials there.

Yes, I do this but not very often as time is a real concern. I wouldn't do this more than once a month at most.

Yes, as time permits. I look through all the new reference books as they come in, and encourage my staff to do this too, by placing the newest books on a shelf behind the Information Services desk for a couple of weeks before they are shelved on the regular shelves.

Yes, I engage in shelf study. Every week I see the new books, including Reference, that emerge from Technical Services. I often stop to study a new or interesting title.

No, we do not engage in any shelf-studying activity.

Yes, I do this occasionally, when time permits. And I always look through new reference books before they are shelved. Once or twice a month I pull a few reference books to do a "show and tell" at a regular staff meeting, to help make other staff members aware of sources that might be useful.

I do this process when I catalog the books. Sometimes, if I am looking for something it will refresh me on what books we have and what information is in them.

Yes, I engage in this with each new reference book we purchase.

No. When training new staff, we try to point out some of the more commonly used reference materials.

No, I look over new reference titles that I buy before I put them out on the shelf to see how I might make use of them.

In the past and in workshops, etc.

Yes, it is the responsibility of all reference employees to familiarize themselves with the reference books.

Yes, weekly for one hour.

Yes, I shelf-study. In fact in doing the inventory, I'm weeding books, and finding out exactly what I have on the shelf. I've handled every book, every one of the 20,000.

Yes I do engage in shelf-study. I catalog all new reference materials, so I do this on a weekly basis.

I try to look at all the new reference books at they arrive. I've been here at this position for over 18 years so I'm very familiar with the print collection. I also look at our online sources on a monthly basis to check to see if there have been any changes. I will do a search on a question I've had in the last few weeks. I usually spend at least 30-45 minutes a week on this ongoing activity.

I do this when I catalog materials. If there is some curious organization of the information, I bring this to the attention of my assistant and volunteers who work with patrons.

No, if you can find a job in a busy public library that gives you that kind of time, good luck!

Yes. I try to take some time every week. We have a very small collection. Perhaps one hour a week.

No I don't. But new employees are required to do this as part of ongoing orientation and training for the first few months that they are here. Otherwise, our practice of putting new reference books at the reference desk before they are shelved also serves this purpose.

I do occasionally review reference materials, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it "shelf study." Most of my shelf study is of new reference materials as they are being placed on reference.

I do from time to time take aside a reference book or even one that circulates and page through it to ascertain if it is going to have prime reference potential. I usually peruse my sources upon receiving them before I shelve them. This may involve a total of 15 to 35 minutes twice or three times a month. More often than not, though I might spend 20 to 40 minutes a week browsing the circulating shelves. Since I have a very good memory for details within a book this practice serves me well when answering subsequent reference questions.

We read the shelves monthly to insure that books are in the proper order. While doing this I often browse through interesting looking books. Also, since I am involved in the purchase of reference books, I read the reviews and then once the books come in, I examine them before shelving them.

I try to look at all new books as they are put on the shelf. I also look at at least two books a week to familiarize myself with the contents.

I participate in shelf-study as time permits. I generally try to do this as new reference books are added to the collection so that I can familiarize myself with these titles at this time.

I probably do more shelf-study than anything. At least 2 or 3 times a week for 1/2 hr or so. Especially when anything new has been acquired.

Yes, probably about three times a week.

Generally, when a new reference book is added to the collection, it is put on the reference desk for just that purpose. It is an occasional activity.

New reference materials are always left at the reference desk for a few days so staff can look them over. New staff spends several hours shelf-studying. I study books when I notice them on the shelf and have forgotten about them, when I am deciding what books to add to the collection or when I am weeding.

No, I don't have the time.

Unfortunately, time does not always allow for this.

Usually only when new books come in.

I do this once in a while, maybe 3 to 5 times a month, when I have time.

Interesting books always invite perusal. This is encouraged when new reference materials are ready to go on the floor. They are held at the reference desk for 24 hours so staff can look at those that interest them.

It is hard to find time to do this type of studying. I also catalog the adult books for our library so I look at the books as I catalog them.

All reference staff are encouraged to do this, again, on a "when there isn't anything else to do" basis.

Once a week or so. We have a cart of new reference books by the desk so we can see what's new. Depends on how busy the desk gets. I've worked in this library over 15 years so now I just look at the new materials.

Yes. As an archivist, I spent much more time because I needed to be an authority on one specific subject. As a reference librarian, I read things occasionally, but not routinely. Soon, the library plans to have us take responsibility for a specific area of study, and I anticipate doing more shelf study, then.

Yes, I try and do this several times a week.

Of course I do. And I not only encourage the staff to do this but I highlight new references sources at staff meetings every month. I do this with every new book that comes in as well as reviewing the sources periodically. So I'd say it is a weekly activity.

Upon arrival of a new (to the library) reference source every reference librarian spends 2-3 hours browsing through it to gain information that could potentially assist the reference person in answering a reference questions in the future. Every new reference librarian spends several weeks to "shelf-study" reference collection. 3-4 times a year reference librarians go to the workshops to get familiar with the new sources of reference center, where they send second level reference requests.

Yes, this is something I do frequently. I'm an avid learner and will read on almost any topic. This is something I do every day I work. It may be in books that I'm checking in or while I'm shelving other books. I am able to go to the particular field of the patron's interest by knowing what's on my shelves and where it's located.

Yes. I do so when shelving books or I will come in early and read a new medical acquisition just to see what it covers.

I try to make a point to browse through reference books. I also look at new processed books at the reference desk. Ref books are processed once a week.

Yes, on an occasional basis, only on my own time. Maybe once every month or so: in such a small library, there isn't much ground to cover.

I do engage in reviewing ref. works I have not had the occasion to use in some time or new works which might come into the collection (1 hr/wk).

Yes, one has to engage in shelf study on the job. How else do you know when materials are out of date or even new to the shelf, placed there on your day off? Often you take inventory to see what is missing? Also, if a book is new, you need to know the content for reference purposes.

Yes, wonderful way to keep up with new reference books. Our key reference librarian often leaves at reference desk new reference books that she wants all of us to know about. I probably spend about half an hour a week doing this.

No regular schedule. All of us shelf read and do some shelf study in the course of that. And whenever new books or loose-leaf services are added to the Ref collection, the new items are placed on a shelf with a sheet so each staff member can check off after having examined the material.

Regularly in whatever free time is available. Generally a couple of times a week.

Once a year.

All new reference materials are placed on a special shelf for several days before being shelved in the reference stacks. This is to provide staff time to look over these new materials and gain an overview of the type and extent of content within these materials. In addition, weeding or shifting to accommodate new materials offer the opportunity to examine materials that are unfamiliar.

Yes, it is very helpful to do this, and I do it every few weeks or so. I usually select a subject area and re-familiarize myself with the materials there.

Anytime a new reference book is purchased and is ready to be placed on the shelves. All professional librarians are required to look at the new title. At least once a month, the other reference librarian and myself will try to do shelf reading in which we look at the books in the reference section.

Yes, I do. And, if we get any new reference resources, they are left out until the entire reference staff has had a chance to look at them. I engage in shelf-study about every two weeks or so.

Prior to new reference materials being placed on the shelves, the staff is encouraged to browse the new titles to become aware of the information that they provide. The staff is also required to attend quarterly reference workshops. In preparation for the event, each staff member is asked to review one to three titles and then present the information to other staff members at the workshop. This form of book discussion helps create an awareness of materials and encourage staff interaction.

Daily, by all staff members.

As I am a new reference librarian, I find that shelf-study is a major topic on my list of things to do. I try weekly to peruse the shelves and am attempting to make an index card file for the sources I feel I will have to rely on regularly. The time used is considered a positive use for my job.

Only in the summer (slower) months.

I don't do this regularly at all I am sorry to say. I do however browse through many of the books as they are received in the technical services department from our various book jobbers/vendors. I will take note of specific titles in the hopes of remembering that we have that source should a reference question arise. All new reference titles are brought to the reference desk prior to being shelved in the reference room and reference staff are expected to familiarize themselves with these new titles before they themselves shelve the books.

Absolutely! I don't do it nearly as often as I would like, but I probably do it at least once a week. We also get to view new reference material before it is shelved. In addition, the reference librarians are all involved in the collection development of the reference collection.

We do this as new reference works come into the library before they actually go to the shelves. So, we do this on a regular ongoing basis.

I have always done that. I never buy anything new without spending time with it, and strongly encourage staff to do so.

Yes, although after, eight years in this department, I do not do it as frequently as in the past. However, as new reference books arrive, they are placed on a book truck so that each of the librarians may familiarize him/herself with the contents, format, etc.

No, we're usually too busy.

Yes, one hour/month but I also catalog all adult books.

As I mentioned, I do work reference in another library on the weekend. I tend to shelf study there. I check out their reference collection and really check out their newest additions to see what they contain, how well the information is conveyed, how easy it is to use and if I would indeed have a use for it in my own collection. The library I work in on weekends has a much bigger book budget, so I am able to peruse books I know I could never possibly purchase for Charlton. But I do enjoy "shelf-study" just to give me a general idea of the books I have available when someone asks a question.

Yes, as time allows or when new titles are added.

I do a study when the books I purchased are being catalogued (by me). However, I have encouraged my staff to do a shelf study and as far as I know, they have declined to do it.

I do this at times but not often, perhaps 5 or 6 times a year for a limited amount of time.

Reference books are studied thoroughly when received.

Yes, but not quite in the way you mention. New reference books are placed behind the reference desk and are reviewed by staff when there is free time at desk.

We would like to work that into our staff meetings. We thought about taking turns assigning a reference book to a staff member to evaluate and describe. This information would be presented to the rest of the staff.

Shelf study is encouraged as new titles are added to the reference collection. These items remain at the desk several days for staff review before being shelved. New staff are urged to examine standard titles as well, which are new to them. Staff, especially new hires, use their shelving and shelf reading time to examine titles for future use.

Reference staff is assigned specific areas of the reference and related circulating nonfiction to study each month.

We look at the new books as they come in and try to acquaint ourselves with them, but there is no time to shelf-study.

Yes, we do engage in shelf study. There is no set time. It is done as time permits.

I do this regularly because when I am in the reference area and answer a specific question, I almost always find myself lingering and picking up a book to the left or right of the one I just used to answer a question. I leaf through it to see how it covers a topic (the same or some other), what layout or format it uses, how current it is (does it need replacing?), whether it is suited to traditional user of the reference area or a specialty group, and what surprise does it have in it?

Yes. I examine all new reference items completely as they arrive and take new reference staff on extensive shelf tours. I review the shelves myself, as time allows, but not on a preset or regular basis.

As with new periodicals, periodical and newspaper issues, videos, web site, as a reference librarian I always want to see each new book (reference and circulating) and have a chance to try to remember how it uniquely or more usefully represents its particular subject area. During reference searches, I often come upon parts of the collection I've not used before; after the search is done I will test the newly uncovered reference area with other questions I have received in the past. Often I will take the book(s) back to the Info Desk to examine them further or copy intros to read in my spare time.

I keep newly received materials on a special bookcase so that the other staff members and I can look at new reference books as time allows. I probably review at least one book each day.

Weekly. We have a "new book cart" that the staff looks at before the books go out to the shelf. I make sure that it is my job to shelve the new reference books, this allows me to handle them and look at the index etc. before they go to the shelf.

Whenever new reference books come in, they are routed to my desk before they are put on the shelf. One or two times a year I weed the reference collection and I usually look at books at that time.

We do this with new reference books that come in to the collection, as well as looking over all new non-fiction before it is put on display for circulation.

I mainly do this when new books come in. I take time to learn what information they contain. This way I know what we have and keep up with our reference collection. It's something I do pretty much on a daily basis.

Yes, whenever we get new reference books or whenever I'm weeding.

I barely have time for anything and am lucky enough to get to see new books before they go on the shelf. That is it!

We engage in shelf reading, which is to make sure the books are in order. Personally, when I am shelf-reading, I find myself flipping through various books to see what they contain. This library though has no official policy of shelf study.

I rarely shelf-study what is already in the reference collection. I do this at least 75% of the time for the new reference materials that come in. This increases my awareness of what resources we have and gives me a general gist of how to use the new resource. For areas I am personally responsible for collection development and maintenance I shelf study it on a continual basis. The areas I'm responsible for are business materials in all Dewey call number sections and the 300-600 sections of the Dewey catalog.

As a new reference librarian at this library (2 1/2 months) I have done a lot of this. We also get all new books - nonfiction, fiction, and reference - on a cart at the reference desk before they are shelved so we can look through them and familiarize ourselves with these items. The first library job I ever had was in reference (academic). My supervisor taught us to shelf read the collection and that was one of the best things I ever learned.

Since I catalog books, also, I am able to "shelf-study" without going to the shelf sometimes. It is easy for me to remember what books that we have recently gotten in as well as how to use them as they often go through my hands before they get on the shelf. However, I do "shelf-study" when I want to beef up an area for collection development reasons. I come across many books on topics that I did not know that we had. I try and keep them in mind. I do think it is important to "shelf-study" especially in the area of reference. We have North Carolina statutes or laws that are difficult to find unless one knows how to access the index and the numerous volumes. By looking over the statutes, one can keep in mind how to utilize this resource.

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