Number crunching in European Collections

In the early hours of Sunday morning each week, members of the European Collections and Cataloguing team get an email telling them how many new records have been added to the catalogue in the last seven days. The breakdown which the system gives us is either by language, or in some cases by language grouping. The figures fluctuate considerably from week to week, of course, depending on what other things people have been doing, but our aim is to achieve a reasonable level of consistency over the course of the library year, which runs from August 1st to July 31st. August and early autumn see the work of adding up these and other statistics to produce figures for the full year.

The ECC cataloguing totals for 2014/15 were gratifyingly higher than in the previous year. We processed 26,067 new titles, as opposed to 21,393 in 2013/14. The chart below shows the number of titles processed in our languages in 2014/15 against the annual average for the whole previous five-year period (2009/10-2013/14).


Of course we strive to make that we achieve a good balance between acquisitions intake and cataloguing output. In 2014/15 we bought the following numbers of items, with the five-year average for 2009/10 to 2013/14 following in parentheses – French 4420 (3967), German 3465 (4549), Spanish and Catalan 3194 (3151), Italian 2849 (2396), Russian and other Slavonic languages 2237 (1626), Portuguese 1012 (680), Dutch 274 (278), Scandinavian 169 (117) and Greek 118 (78). Each book that we buy is given a language code and a two letter code giving broad subject classification. There are 26 such codes that we can choose from. This additional information allows us to see, at the end of the year, the overall subject spend in each language. The 2014/15 year saw, for example, over 50% of the French budget spent on literature and philology (28%), history (19%) and fine arts and architecture (7%).

When glancing quickly at the annual processing and acquisitions statistics above, you might be puzzled that we catalogued more items than we purchased in 2014/15. There are two reasons for this. In some European languages we have backlogs of material awaiting cataloguing, which are gradually being eroded. In addition, these figures take no account of the donations which the Library receives every year, sometimes as individual items and sometimes as large specialist collections. Large donated collections, whilst very welcome and considerably enhancing the Library’s holdings, impose considerable strains on our processing activities. In 2014/15, for example, donated items accounted for another 844 Spanish items acquired, 480 in German and 227 in French. The good news is that the backlogs of European language material awaiting cataloguing are considerably smaller than they were a few years ago. We are not there yet, but total elimination of the backlogs is getting nearer.

David Lowe

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