Library staff are accountable for all items managed by the library. An inventory or stocktake is an important part of library management. It means that library staff can:

  • Identify missing resources.
  • Keep the database updated and maintain an accurate record of all library resources.
  • Ensure the library catalogue provides reliable results for searchers.
  • Assess the effectiveness of current circulation and security procedures.
  • Make sure items are issued and returned.
  • Provide accurate statistics of losses. This may launch a request for a security system or staffing review.
  • Identify items that should be weeded, repaired or relocated.
  • Identify items with cataloguing record errors.

Inventories should be part of the library’s yearly cycle. If held regularly, they will produce useful comparative statistics. The whole library can be inventoried every one or two years, or specific collections can be done in alternate years. Department of Education auditors recommend yearly inventories.

Planning an inventory

  • Talk with school administrators and choose the best time of the year. Ensure adequate staff are available. Holidays and pupil-free days are ideal.
  • Should you close the library? The process will be quicker and more accurate without constant interruptions or items constantly moved. TALIS Network libraries don’t need to close.
  • Assess Workplace Health and Safety implications. Furniture may need to be moved. Boxes and computer cables may be trip hazards.
  • Ensure that school staff are aware that an inventory will be held, the timeframes and the impact on library access.
  • Make a plan. Identify collections to inventory and an order for the work. Don’t forget collections stored outside the library.
  • Tidy your shelves. Automated libraries should shelve items in the correct collection, though not necessarily in strict shelf order. Manual libraries should have items in strict call number order.
  • Weed before the inventory to avoid double-handling.
  • Staffing – at least two or more staff will ensure the process goes more quickly and is more accurate.
  • Loans – you may or may not need to retrieve loans. TALIS Network libraries don’t need to retrieve loans but manual libraries will.
  • Clear your mending box and shelve items on display.
  • Decide whether you will take the items to the computer, or take the computer to the shelves.
  • Identify the equipment you will need and ensure it is operational.
  • Set up labelled boxes for items that require follow-up eg repairs, checkins, relocations, editing, weeding.
  • Practise the process and ensure staff are confident before starting.

The process

The inventory process will be dependent on your library management system. TALIS Network libraries have specific inventory instructions on the TALIS Support Website. Manual libraries need to check the items on the shelves against a shelf list.

In any inventory you need to work systematically within a collection: section by section, shelf by shelf. This will ensure items are not missed.

Finalising and follow-up

  • Generate lists of missing items.
  • Double-check the shelves so items aren’t missed.
  • Try and identify other areas where the items might be – in the workroom, classroom, staffrooms.
  • If items are located, inventory them.
  • Once a final list of missing items has been created, either delete the items from the database or make them missing. This keeps your library catalogue up to date. Many libraries don’t immediately delete items and instead make them Missing. This retains the items in the database, which is useful if they are found.
  • Action the boxes of items that you identified that need to be checked in, edited, deleted or repaired.
  • Share the list of missing items with your school administrators. The list may show trends or issues that require a change to library operations and/or staffing, or perhaps a budget increase.
  • Keep your results to compare with past and future inventories.
  • Replace some missing resources if appropriate.

Tips from Tasmanian school library staff

  • Ensure you have enough designated time, e.g. the week before school starts.
  • Make a plan before you start – select the collections and break each up into manageable sections. Finish each home location before you start the next.
  • Seek extra help from staff who are methodical and will follow instructions
  • Prioritise collections that are used the most, e.g. fiction, picture books, non-fiction, graphic novels.
  • Follow the same process each year.
  • Keep a record of what you have done, including the start date of each collection.
  • Weed at the same time.
  • Ensure barcodes are positioned for easy access and are consistently located, e.g. on the front cover. This means you don’t have to spend time looking for barcodes.
  • TALIS network libraries:
    • Use a laptop on a trolley to scan items directly into WorkFlows.
    • Make sure you run and action the necessary reports. Missing items should be marked as missing or deleted from the system.

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Page updated 19/10/2021

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