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Database Statistics and Liaison Luncheon Slides

How much does it cost to keep a book on the shelf?

After a book is purchased, cataloged and shelved, there are still ongoing costs to maintain our collections.  One research article "On the Cost of Keeping a Book" by Paul N. Courant and Matthew Nielsen (2009), suggests it costs $4.26 per book, per year:  http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub147/pub147.pdf (hint, skip to page 91 to get to the easy-to-read storage costs estimates chart)

The cost of storage is all about real estate.  If you think about how we all wish for more smart classrooms and collaborative spaces for student research, and then think about the number of books held by the College Libraries that don't circulate and aren't useful to student research, then it becomes clearer why thoughtful collection building is so important.

Beyond physical storage, here is a list of other ongoing activities and costs or maintaining a book on the shelf, including those that get zero or low use:

  1. Different areas of the collections grow at different rates, meaning we have to regularly shift the old books to different shelves to accommodate new books. 
  2. We "shelf read" the collections every year to make sure all the books are in order, and where they are supposed to be.  To make this happen, we hire student workers to visually check the call numbers for every book on the shelf. 
  3. Have you ever tried to find a book on the shelf, but can't read the label because it has faded?  Labels fade, and the longer books sit on the shelves exposed to light, the more the labels fade.  Labels in Crumb Library are replaced as time allows (usually when the book circulates). 
  4. Database maintenance is time consuming and requires staff expertise. Database maintenance includes "authority control" where we maintain conformity in our subject headings, author names and uniform titles.
  5. Older books have condition problems, even without heavy use, and if they are still useful to our collections we will repair or rebind them. Prior to the 1980's acid-free papers were not standard in book publishing, so many of our older books are brittle and cannot be rebound.

These are just a few of the activities that contribute to the cost of maintaining our collections.  Reduce the size of the collections, and staff will have to spend less time shifting, relabeling, repairing and doing database maintenance.

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SUNY Potsdam College Libraries
44 Pierrepont Ave
Potsdam, NY 13617