Zotero is my superhero

It’s not really a secret that I love Zotero. It is incredibly useful for organizing research, whether you’re writing a paper or not. I put papers I want to read in it (along with a note that I haven’t read it yet), I use it for writing reflections on things I’ve read and their possible use in my library, I’ve used it for keeping track of photos that I’ve put in blog posts, and recently I started using it for collection development.

Now, I had a great collection development class. I worked hard, and my team and I put together a huge document full of analysis and recommendations for the Donald Hall Collection, which supports the U-M Screen Arts and Cultures Department. We had many guest speakers from all kinds of different libraries come to class and talk about their processes for collection development and managing budgets. And yet, our process for collection development here is still different from any of the processes we encountered in class.

Basically, our collection development was done by our library director, with the exception of the small (and relatively new) fiction collection, which is managed by me. It worked fine, and if any of us happened to run across something that looked interesting, we would pass it along to him. Done and done.

Only one tiny problem – our director is on sabbatical this semester, leaving two new librarians and one librarian experienced in many things that do not include collection development in a dark closet.

We divided subjects along rough lines, looked at circulation data and search queries logged by the catalog, made notes and observations, and headed to our respective offices to each wonder in private how the heck we were going to find the books.

So far, LibGuides from other libraries, Amazon searches, and searching other library catalogs seems to be the best way for me to locate books to support my assigned departments of culinary, hospitality, and recreation. After a bit of trial and error involving a very messy Google Doc, we’ve found the best way for us to save and share information is through Zotero. Amazon and most library catalogs work perfectly with Zotero. One click and all the important information is sucked into Zotero where I don’t have to worry about it. I create folders to represent each month. At the end of the month, select all the items in the folder. Right click and choose “Generate Report from Selected Items.”  A new window opens with all the available bibliographic data which can then be saved and emailed or printed.

zotero work around

This not only makes collection development easy for the librarians, but it also helps out the technician who does our ordering. This way she always knows exactly which edition we mean, and there are very few questions or worries about choosing the correct book, which has been a problem in the past.

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