THE COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT PLANNING PROCESS
by Amy E. Fordham


Collection Development: A General Overview

The term "collection development" refers to the process of systematically building library collections to serve study, teaching, research, recreational, and other needs of library users. The process includes selection and deselection of current and retrospective materials, the planning of strategies for continuing acquisition, and evaluation of collections to determine how well they serve user needs. Overall, collection development encompasses many library operations ranging from the selection of individual titles for purchase to the withdrawal of expendable materials.

An impressive number of publications on collection development have been produced within the last twenty years. Between 1980 and 1989 alone, no fewer than nine new (or newly edited) book-length studies on the nature of the method of collection development were published in the United States. While each of these books approaches the subject from a slightly different perspective, most provide information on the standard topics: selection and de-selection, policy, budgeting, collection evaluation, and, in some cases, acquisitions, cooperation, preservation, and historical bibliography. In the past twenty-five years, three specialty journals relating to collection development have been founded: Collection Building, Collection Management, and Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory.

There tends to be varying theories on what collection development actually encompasses. However, if there is one thread that connects most North American publications on collection development theory, it is probably the insistence that collection development should be distinguished from acquisitions and from selection. The "Edelman Triad" clearly expresses the distinctions:

The first level is collection development, which, although it can be interpreted as a

passive term when it describes collection growth, should in fact be seen in the active sense…Collection development is a planning function…From the collection development plan flows the budget allocation in broad terms.

The second level is selection, which is a direct function of collection development. It is the decision-making process concerned with implementing the goals stated earlier…

The third level of this hierarchy is acquisition. The acquisition process implements in turn the selection decisions. It is the process that actually gets the material into the library…

(Edelman 1979)

The separation of acquisitions from collection development occurred in the 1980s with the realization that collection development must be service-oriented rather than collection-oriented and at least as focused upon the information needs of the library's clientele as upon the method of collecting materials.

Thus, while the overall collection development process may be viewed as a continuous process encompassing community analysis, policies, selection, acquisition, weeding, and evaluation, the focus here will be on the policy framework devised to assist in the collection development process. The reader will note that additional aspects will inevitably be included.

Current Issues in Collection Development Planning

Before entering into a discussion of the policy framework, it is important to recognize the issues currently affecting the collection development planning process. The first is the debate over quality versus demand. The special library is usually created for the specific purpose of providing accurate and current information for a particular set of patrons and, therefore, must contain materials considered to be of quality and be able to access them in sometimes demanding circumstances. Inaccurate information in a special library may cause havoc for the supporting institution. The second issue involves concern over the information explosion. The amount of research and number of researchers is increasing, and the amount of published material is increasing, thereby challenging libraries in their desire to provide access to this increased wealth of information. Meanwhile, libraries have also been trying to contend with the rising cost of the materials in conjunction with the decreasing space in their physical facilities. Additionally, the impact of technology has created problems in accessing information. Not only are libraries trying to purchase relevant and appropriate print materials, they are now also trying to provide information in alternate formats. While the digitization of information is not a particularly new issue, it does present a challenge to libraries with limited budgets. The final issue involves interlibrary cooperation. With improvements in technology, libraries have the ability to participate in electronic networks which enables them to conveniently share material at little cost.

The Value of a Collection Development Policy

Collection development policy statements are necessary planning documents. Although the value of collection policies is not universally accepted, the prevailing view among library professionals is that a collection development policy statement is a necessary tool leading to consistent, informed decisions. The ideal collection policy is a living document, reviewed and revised regularly, that "organizes and guides the processes of acquiring and providing access to materials and information sources, integrating these into coherent collections, managing their growth and maintenance, and making decisions about preservation, withdrawal, and cancellation (Gorman and Miller 1997)." Overall, policies facilitate consistency and communication between libraries and are information tools for working with the library's community.

A written collection development policy statement is intended "…to clarify objectives and to facilitate coordination and cooperation, both within a library or library system and among cooperating libraries…If it is well done, it should serve as a day-to-day working tool that provides the necessary guidelines for carrying out the majority of tasks within the area of collection building (Gardner 1981)." As Gardner conveys, a collection development policy serves a broad range of functions, and in fact he continues by presenting a dozen reasons why a policy statement should be devised. In his view such a document is valuable for the following reasons. The policy:

  1. Forces staff to think through library goals and commit themselves to these goals, helps them to identify long- and short- range needs of users and to establish priorities for allocating funds.
  2. Helps assure that the library will commit itself to serving all parts of the community, both present and future.
  3. Helps set standards for the selection and weeding of materials.
  4. Informs users, administrators, and other libraries of collection scope and facilitates coordination of collection development among institutions.
  5. Helps minimize personal bias by selectors and to highlight imbalances in selection criteria.
  6. Serves as an in-service training tool for new staff.
  7. Helps assure continuity in collections of any size and provides a pattern and framework to ease transition from one librarian to the next.
  8. Provides a means of staff self-evaluation, or for evaluation by outsiders.
  9. Helps demonstrate that the library is running a business-like operation.
  10. Provides information to assist in budget allocations.
  11. Contributes to operational efficiency in terms of routine decisions.
  12. Serves as a tool of complaint handling with regard to inclusions or exclusions.
While it is argued that Gardner makes excessive claims for collection development policies, this list does embody some of the more important arguments that indicate the overall value of a written collection policy. Essentially, Gardner argues that a policy is a planning document. Users change, needs change, and resource availability changes. A policy can draw awareness to these changes by acting as a collection of baseline data for current operations and, ideally, as a starting point for future development. As a formal, written statement of intent, the collection development policy statement describes the scope and purpose of a library's collections, and the programs and constituencies they serve. At its most practical level, the policy guides those who routinely manage and use a library's collections.

In addition to the all-encompassing planning and communication aspects, it is important to recognize the ways in which collection development policy statements can protect libraries against illegal, unethical, or unreasonable pressures. Protection of intellectual freedom and the prevention of censorship may be achieved by including the Library Bill of Rights and other intellectual freedom statements or by preparing a statement tailored to the local community. A collection policy protects the library from pressures to acquire or provide access to inappropriate and irrelevant materials. Also, carefully written guidelines can protect the library in the appropriate handling of gifts. This helps the library avoid the burden of unwanted, inappropriate, and undisposable items. By defining policy and procedures for accepting or declining, appraising, accessioning, acknowledging, and processing gifts, both the library and the potential donor are protected legally and practically. In addition, as budget allocations decrease, the cost of materials increases, and formats proliferate, libraries need protection as they prepare to cancel serials and weed materials from the collection. Making clear the operating principles under which these decisions are made protects the library from charges of bias and irresponsible behavior. A policy should define the process through which materials are identified for withdrawal, cancellation, and replacement, and by whom.

An additional note to keep in mind is that a key purpose of a written policy statement is to define both the stability and flexibility in the collection building process. A policy should grow and develop along with the collection, and, while the policy forms a basic framework for projected growth, it must always be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that it continues to provide an acceptable pattern for effective collection building.

Formulating a Collection Development Policy

Many useful suggestions have been offered for writing an effective collection development policy. The American Library Association in particular provides an excellent standard reference document, Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements (1996). The ALA guide identifies essential elements for a written collection development policy and establishes a standard terminology and structure for use in the preparation of such a policy. Although not equally applicable to all libraries, the ALA guidelines were formulated to serve libraries of all kinds of sizes. By drafting individual policies, libraries can "produce tools that enable selectors to work toward defined goals and thus to use funds wisely in shaping strong collections, to inform staff and users concerning the scope and nature of existing resources and plans for continual development of collections, and to provide information that will help to provide objective evidence for use in the budgetary allocation process (Gabriel 1995)."

A BASIC OUTLINE:

Following is a comprehensive, straightforward, easy-to-use collection development policy outline devised by Bushing, Davis, and Powell for WLN's Using the Conspectus Method: A Collection Assessment Handbook (1997):

NOTE: As with the ALA guidelines, this outline has been designed for use within all library types. Individual libraries will need to alter the elements and organizational format to fit individual library needs.

  1. INTRODUCTION
  1. Mission statement: This may include the mission of the parent organization as well as that of the library. A vision statement may also be included along with long- and short-term goals and any relevant objectives related to information resources.
  2. Audiences and purposes of the policy: The purpose should discuss library management, planning, accountability, and consistency. To whom is the policy addressed? Staff? Board? Users? Community officials and politicians? Administration? All of these? Be specific about the primary audience as well as identifying other possible readers of the policy.
  3. Community and user groups defined: What are the characteristics of the library's user community? What are the educational levels? Use demographic and other factual and statistical information to define the library's community or institution. Which groups do or do not use the library? For what purposes do they use the library? What are their occupations or disciplines of interest?
  4. Description of the types of programs or patron's needs: What educational, recreational, social, or research needs must be met by the library? Are there programs or distinct requirements for special needs populations?
  5. Brief general description of the collections and information resources: In general, provide a description of the collections: their size, primary formats, languages, and reading or information level. At what rate are they growing or are they being maintained at a stable size?
  6. Cooperative or collaborative collection development issues: Make a statement with regard to other libraries and access to remotely held information resources in electronic, print, or other formats. Do interlibrary loan, Internet access, or patron direct access to other collections have an effect upon the collection management of the library? If the library participates in specific collaborative activities, interlibrary loan services or other consortial arrangements, these should be addressed here.
  1. GENERAL PRIORITIES, LIMITATIONS, AND ACQUISITION POLICIES
This section determines how the collection will be developed based upon general principles, responsibilities and rationales for the character of the information resources.
  1. Chronological and retrospective coverage: Chronological coverage means information about a topic through time. Retrospective holdings means physically acquiring and maintaining older materials about a topic. What is the library's policy regarding chronological coverage of a topic or collecting retrospective holdings?
  2. Duplication, nonprint formats and special considerations: Does the library acquire duplicate materials? If so, what is the reason? Under what circumstances does the library acquire an exact duplicate or additional copy of an item? What formats does the library have? What formats does the library wish to collect and maintain? What formats does the library intend to phase out or not collect at this time? Does the library prefer paper to hardbound books? Hardbound to paper? If so, when and why? Does the library acquire textbooks? Why or why not? Are there special issues regarding electronic formats that need to be addressed? Are there materials that the library chooses not to include in the local collection or to access remotely? What and why?
  3. Funding considerations: A brief explanation of the sources of funding and the identification of specially used funds should be supplied here. If there are special funding sources such as grant dollars to purchase particular types of expensive research materials or interest on endowment or trust funds for a particular purpose, the identification of these sources helps to explain collection decisions that might otherwise appear to be incongruent with the general policies.
  4. Selection responsibilities and processes: Who has the legal or ultimate responsibility for the contents of the library and access to remotely located materials and files? Who has practical responsibility for the various segments, formats, or divisions of the collection contents or access to other resources? What criteria are used for these materials or resources? For some formats or types of access, a list of format-specific criteria may be included. What general processes or procedures are involved? Also, some libraries may wish to provide information or criteria about the vendors to be used for acquisition.
  5. Gifts, exchanges, or other special source materials: Clearly state the gift and exchange policy of the library. Consider whether the value added to the library's resources justifies the costs associated with the gifts.
  6. Collection maintenance: preservation, conservation, and deselection (weeding): In this section, the intended actions toward care of the physical condition of materials, archiving, and preserving content are stated. Binding, repair and intent for housing and replacement are also included.
  7. Censorship and intellectual freedom: All libraries need a policy regarding censorship and intellectual freedom. Appropriate national or international statements in support of the policy should be included here along with an outline of the procedures, forms, and timelines to be followed when complaints or censorship situations arise.
  1. FORMAT OR SPECIAL COLLECTION PROFILES
This section of the policy should be based on information gathered from a collection assessment. It should be updated as needed based upon progress toward or away from collection goals.
  1. Description of the collection: What subjects or disciplines are included? How might the boundaries of this format or special collection be described? Include the size or extent of the collection. When appropriate, list the formats included in this collection segment and any language information that might further describe it.
  2. Purpose and management of the collection: Define the purpose or reason for this particular collection or format and the way in which it fits into the general policies of the library. What patron group does it serve? Is it a collection to be maintained with a high degree of currency or is it to have historical and retrospective materials? Who is responsible for the management of this collection? What criteria or special requirements might govern decisions for this collection or format?
  3. Collection goals: Describe the goals for this format or collection. How does the librarian hope to change the collection? Within what time frame? How will the librarian judge when the goal has been reached?
  1. SUBJECT PROFILES
This section of the policy is also based upon collection assessment information. The information may be presented in a set of conspectus reports or in a narrative manner. This section needs periodic updating to reflect progress towards goals or goals revision due to changing circumstances. The following assessment information should be provided for each division, category and subject assessed by the library:
  1. Division, category, and subject: This will include the classification number range as well as the terms to describe a particular segment (if organized in a conspectus manner).
  2. Data about the segment (division, category, or subject): This should include segment size (how many items -- books, videos, journals, etc.), languages represented, formats of materials, age of resources, chronological periods covered, geographical coverage, condition of the material and specific selection responsibility.
  3. Current collection level: Based on the collection levels (Exhaustive, Research, Working, and Browsing); also a corresponding conspectus code that identifies the character and extent of the existing collection. (NOTE: Collection levels are discussed below.)
  4. Acquisition commitment: Using the conspectus method, a code identifies the character and extent of the library's efforts to build and maintain this segment of the collection.
  5. Collection goal: A conspectus code identifies the ideal goal that the library envisions for this segment of the collection.
  6. Preservation commitment: A conspectus code identifies the intended preservation action for collection maintenance.
NOTE: Codes are available in Using the Conspectus Method: A Collection Assessment Handbook. (The complete citation is available in the Bibliography.)

E. POLICY IMPLEMENTATION, EVALUATION, AND REVISION

  1. State specifically who will review and update the policy and when it is to be done.
  2. The last item on the policy should be the official record of implementation.
THE CONSPECTUS APPROACH:

The conspectus approach involves a hierarchical structure, similar in structure and concept to the main library classification schemes used in the United States. (i.e. Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, and the National Library of Medicine). The RLG Conspectus and the WLN Conspectus have similar structures that include divisions, categories, and subjects, but only the WLN Conspectus, a revision of the RLG structure, has separate category lines allowing for comparison across types of libraries and classification schemes at different levels. A detailed analysis is available in Using the Conspectus Method: A Collection Assessment Handbook (as discussed above) and in Qualitative Collection Analysis: The Conspectus Methodology. (The complete citations are listed in the Bibliography.)

THE NARRATIVE APPROACH:

For libraries that prefer to organize their policy statements in a narrative style, organized by subject descriptor or by type of collection, the statement usually includes several paragraphs expressing the collection goals and then specific guidelines for the subject fields. The ALA guidelines suggest particular in-depth categories of information to include for each subject (Anderson 1996).

COLLECTION LEVELS:

In addition, a collection level may be assessed. Commonly used levels are described as follows (Mount 1995):

Exhaustive level: This pertains to a collection in which literally every item of a

serious nature on a given topic is sought. It could, of course, be limited to certain languages or certain time periods. Needless to say, such an option is not likely to exist in special libraries.

Research level: This would be a collection with enough material to support independent research on the topic. Normally books, journals, special materials, and reference tools would be on hand in considerable depth.

Working level: This would consist of selected works on a subject, including books and a few key journals, that would cover current activities and major developments in a field.

Browsing level: This would apply to material in which only a few individuals had any interest and which would be used chiefly for refresher or updating purposes.

AN OPTIONAL OUTLINE DESIGN: Additionally, Gorman and Howes in Collection Development for Libraries (1989) provide a useful framework for devising a collection development policy, which includes aspects already discussed. The following figure represents their plan:

I. General Policy Statement

  1. Introduction -- establishes policy framework and scope
  2. Statement of Philosophy -- purpose of institution and library, overview of needs and priorities
  3. Objectives of the Library -- user groups, programs, and requirements, general subject boundaries, inclusions and exclusions generally, cooperative agreements
II. Statement of Collection Levels
  1. Classified Subject Analysis -- standard classification scheme, code of density (extent of existing collections), intensity (current collecting activity) and policy levels (the desired level for future collecting)
B. Index -- subjects and other access points

Collection Development Policy Examples

Numerous policy examples are available in the majority of sources utilized for the writing of this chapter. Complete citations are available in the Bibliography listing.

Selection Criteria

In addition to establishing collection policy guidelines, the selector should also consider the following criteria when making purchasing decisions about specific items (Brazil 1990):

  1. Purpose and scope: The selector needs to establish the purpose for which the material was issued and to determine the level of coverage.
  2. Subject content: How well is the subject covered? Are staff and outside professional reviews favorable? This is probably the most important consideration. The contents must match the fields of interest of the library's sponsor.
  3. Comparison/Duplication of other works : How does this item compare with materials already in the collection? Does it add new information or does it supplement or duplicate existing information?
  4. Level and Audience for which material is written: Is the book popular in tone, or is it technical or scholarly? What is the reading level?
  5. Authority of Author: What is known about the author? Is the author qualified to write on the subject?
  6. Publisher: What is known about the publisher? What type of material is generally issued by the publisher? Is it a popular or scholarly organization? If an association or network published an item, what is known about the association/network and its objectives?
  7. Timeliness: Is the information up-to-date? Does the author include recent developments or current thinking about the topic? If the work is a new edition, has the previous edition been rewritten or updated?
  8. Cost: Cost will influence whether the selector acquires the book in paper or hardcover editions and whether a popular title is acquired in quantity. It may also influence whether particularly expensive items will be rejected.
  9. Format: Each type of material must be considered in terms of quality for its format in such matters as binding, illustrations, quality of paper, size of type, or audio or visual reproduction.
  10. Bibliographic Control: In the case of serials, an important consideration is determining which indexing services cover them and whether these services are print, on-line, or CD-ROM.
  11. Demand or User Need: Has the subject been requested? Will the material fill a stated user need? How much money can be allotted to this interest or need?
Additional Selection Considerations

Because the selection process in a special library tends to be elementary, the following should be considered to assure that the basic collection meets adequate research needs (Osburn and Atkinson 1991, v.2):

  1. Subject-specific bibliographic sources may be utilized.
  2. Journals such as Library Journal provide references to popular materials that are needed to provide a balanced collection.
  3. Trade and industry periodicals usually have a regular literature or book review feature. These are essential for helping the librarian determine the target audience for a college textbook or a major introduction to a new technology.
  4. Spend time scanning the "new library acquisition" lists from other libraries within the subject specialty.
  5. Library colleagues are the "silent partners" in building a good collection.
  6. Newsletters are invaluable to help identify technical reports from research institutes and trade/industry associations.
  7. The most demanding, most appreciative collaborators are the library's own patrons. Promoting an environment that encourages their involvement in building "their" collection is a necessity and demonstrates to senior management that the special library staff are valued partners in the corporation's research effort.
  8. Acquiring documents generated by the corporation itself can be a very difficult task. The librarian needs to have the full cooperation of all departments to be sure that at least one copy of each major report or study is sent to the library. The librarian must convince senior management that this material must reside in the library, where it can be consulted, on an open or restricted basis, by company employees or outside consultants.
Factors Affecting Collection Development in Special Libraries

The following are factors that affect special libraries in particular as presented in Osburn and Atkinson's Collection Management: A New Treatise, v. 2:

  1. Number of employees to be served, including full-time company employees, consultants and outside users, and where these individuals work.
  2. Service levels required by the various groups: The special library must decide how current and how comprehensive the collection must be to satisfy the research needs of its clients; there needs to be a determination of the collecting level required in any particular subject (i.e. Exhaustive, Research, Working, or Browsing).
  3. Degree of need for current, time-sensitive information.
  4. Acceptable turnaround time for patrons' requests
  5. Charging back to departments/clients for services rendered.
  6. Emphasis on journals for current information needs.
  7. Supplementing the collection with on-line information resources.
  8. Participation in multitype library networks, such as interlibrary loan.
  9. Physical working space.
  10. Need for end users to access information when library staff is not present.
Conclusion

Overall, the collection development planning process, highlighted by the invaluable collection policy statement, provides a means by which the library selects and manages its collection of information resources. These guidelines are, in effect, a contract between the library and its community, supplying a framework within which complex decisions are made with consistency and reason. While a special librarian's collecting is most often governed by practical concerns more so than on collection development theory or criteria, the general consensus deems collection policies useful as librarians aim to describe their collections in terms of depth and extent of coverage, types of materials collected, exchange agreements, and the many other special considerations that special librarians tend to encounter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, Joanne S., ed. Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd ed.  Collection Management and Development Guides, no. 7. Chicago: American Library Association, 1996.

Bonk, Wallace J. and Rose Mary Magrill. Building Library Collections, 5th ed. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1979.

Brazil, Mary Jo. Building Library Collections on Aging: A Selection Guide and Core List.  Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1990.

Bushing, Mary, Burns Davis, and Nancy Powell. Using the Conspectus Method: A Collection Assessment Handbook. Lacey, WA: WLN, 1997.

Cassell, Marianne K. and Grace W. Greene. Collection Development in the Small Library, Small Libraries Publications, no. 17. Chicago: American Library Association, 1991.

Curley, Arthur and Dorothy Broderick. Building Library Collections, 6th ed. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1985.

Edelman, Hendrik. "Selection Methodology in Academic Libraries." Library Resources & Technical Services 23 (Winter 1979): 34. Quoted in Osburn, Charles B. and Ross Atkinson, eds. Collection Management: A New Treatise, vol. 1. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, Inc., 1991.

Evans, G. Edward. Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 3rd ed.  Library Science Text Series. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1995.

Gabriel, Michael R. Collection Development and Collection Evaluation: A Sourcebook.  Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1995.

Gardner, Richard K. Library Collections: Their Origin, Selection and Development. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981. Quoted in Gorman, G.E. and B.R.

Howes. Collection Development for Libraries. Topics in Library and Information Studies. London; New York: Bowker-Saur, 1989.

Gorman, G.E. and B.R. Howes. Collection Development for Libraries. Topics in Library and Information Studies. London; New York: Bowker-Saur, 1989.

Gorman, G.E. and Ruth H. Miller. Collection Management for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Librarians. The Greenwood Library Management Collection.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Katz, William A. Collection Development: The Selection of Materials for Libraries.  New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980.

Kovacs, Beatrice. The Decision-Making Process for Library Collections: Case Studies in Four Types of Libraries, Contributions in Librarianship and Information Science, ed. Paul Wasserman, no. 65. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Magrill, Rose Mary and John Corbin. Acquisitions Management and Collection Development in Libraries, 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.

Mount, Ellis. Special Libraries and Information Centers: An Introductory Text, 3rd ed.  Washington, DC: Special Libraries Association, 1995.

Organization of Collection Development. Systems and Procedures Exchange Center, Kit 207. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, April 1995.

Osburn, Charles B. and Ross Atkinson, eds. Collection Management: A New Treatise, vols. 1-2. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, Inc., 1991.

Perkins, David L, ed. Guidelines for Collection Development. Chicago: American Library Association, 1979.

Sellen, Betty-Carol and Arthur Curley, eds. The Collection Building Reader. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1992.

Qualitative Collection Analysis: The Conspectus Methodology. Systems and Procedures Exchange Center, Kit 151. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, February 1989.

Wortman, William A. Collection Management: Background and Principles. Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.


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