Thursday, August 6, 2009

Collection Development Policy

It is said that the library is a trinity of books, users and staff. Books are of various types and formats generally known as collection. Books are being published in increasing number every year. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) monitors both the number and type of books published per country per year. In 2005, the United Kingdom published 206,000 books, where as in the same year United States published 172,000 books. Advances in information communication technology and the emergence of electronic resources have added a new dimension of digital books and other media to ever increasing number of books worldwide. Left to themselves, librarians would like to acquire as many books as they can while the users would like to have all the books of their interest in the library with which they are associated. Unfortunately, library budgets are very much limited regardless of the type of library - academic, public, or special library. At the same time other needs such as open access computers, multi media services etc have to be met with. The best way of facing these problems appears to be to have a well written collection development policy.

What is Collection Development Policy
The American Library Association defines collection development policies (CDP) as 'documents which define the scope of a library's existing collections, plan for the continuing development of resources, identify collection strengths, and outline the relationship between selection philosophy and the institution's goals, general selection criteria, and intellectual freedom'.

Why of Collection Development Policy
The primary purpose of a written collection development policy is to lay down guidelines for selecting materials for the collection of the library. It also describes steps on weeding (deselection), retention, preservation and archiving. It helps in identifying gaps in collections and providing orientation to new staff. It can help the library users what to expect from the library and what to recommend to be added to the collection. According to Hoffmann and Wood (2005), collection development policy statement often focuses on the communication function: internally, with the users, staff, and administrators, and externally, with other libraries and institutions. Communication embraces a wide range of operations, including training, budgeting cooperative acquisitions, interaction with users, and shared services. The collection development plan is like business plan for a small business(Cassell and Futas, 1991). It is like a road map which outlines the steps to be taken to accomplish the goals of the business. Lorenzen (2009) is of the opinion that the CD Policies act as a planning tool, guide to selectors, ensures consistency and defence for challenges.

How to Write a Collection Development Policy
Collection development policy may be written either for the entire library or to a specific subject such as chemistry, economics, and philosophy etc. The policy is usually drafted by a committee where as for a specific subject it is by the subject librarian concerned. It may be worth looking at the simple course on writing a collection development policy of Idaho Commission for Libraries.

Whitehead (1989) took a practical look at writing the policy and explains how to start the process, what to write first, what to put into it, how to get one quick, what to call it, and how long it should be.

Dartmouth College Library presents useful guidelines for writing collection development policies.

Elements of Collection Development Policy
The Guide for written collection policy statements by the American Library Association explicitly describes various items of information that are to be included in the policy statement. These elements are listed below (ALA, 1996). By and large the below mentioned items are included in policy statement:
- Introduction to the policy statement
- General purpose
- Brief note about the library
- General subject boundaries
- Languages
- Geographical areas
- Types of materials collected
- Format of materials collected
- Special collections and manuscripts
- Other resources available
- Detailed subject areas
- Weeding and deselection

However, Snow (1996) is of the opinion that written collection development policies in the academic library are unnecessary as written policy represents a significant investment in its creation and maintenance. One may not agree with this opinion. With the diminishing budgets and ever increasing prices of books and non-book material, there is every need for a sound collection development policy with periodic revisions.

American Library Association. (1987). Guide for writing a bibliographer’s manual: Collection Management and Development Guide No. 1. Chicago, IL: ALA.
American Library Association.1996.Guide for written collection policy statements. (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: ALA.
Cassell, K.A., & Futas, E. (1991). Developing public library collections, policies, and procedures: a how-to-do-it manual for small and medium-sized public libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Hoffmann, F.W., & Wood, R.J. (2005). Library collection development policies: academic, public, and special libraries. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.
Lorenzen, Michael. (2009). Information Policy as Library Policy: Intellectual Freedom. Lecture#20, Spring/Summer 2009,LIS 6010 WSU/LISP.
Snow, Richard. (1996). Wasted Words: The Written Collection Development Policy and the Academic Library. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 22,191-194.


Greta Grond said...

Your note on Snow stuck out to me; I find it interesting that some would think that having a collection policy is unnecessary. With so many materials and types of materials being published, I would think having a directed policy would make acquisitions much easier and more valuable to the community.

Unknown said...

I agree that a collection policy is probably something that is important to a library in regards to weeding and other considerations. You made a great suggestion that even if you do not use a policy for an entire section, perhaps it would be necessary for a certain subject area.

Peter said...

I would have thought that *fewer* books are being published. Considering the global economy and how the McGraw-Hills and the Cengages of the world are gobbling up smaller publishers, I wonder if that will change, or has changed.

Since the materials needed for a collection go well beyond books, deciding what to acquire would seem like an impossible task without a comprehensive, living, collection development policy.

Gail said...

Very interesting post w/ good research. This post could apply to our question on the Discussion Board about self publishing. Due to the controversy surrounding self publishing, a good collection policy might circumvent some potential problems.
In this ecoonomy, many more writers are using vanity presses. Some of these books are worthy of a good "look-over" and placement in a collection. Cataloging may well end up being the biggest problem.

Orien D said...

Great blog! I find Snow’s opinion on collection development to have merit. Common thought is that all libraries, including academic, need a written collection development policy. After my library visit to the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Library in Auburn Hills, I can see how academic schools can be an exception to the written collection development policy for several reasons. This first reason is that this is a law library and so its physical collection contains resources that are rarely updated. This is because these are typically primary sources, or books, which are compact in their design and are not in circulation. A smaller portion of material is circulated, but only by the students and faculty of the school (which is fairly small in size). Also, a vast portion of their collection comes from electronic research databases like Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw. The vendors of these sites manage the databases and maintain resources accuracy with no involvement of library staff. Thus, with rarely updated physical material and a strong reliance on outside vendors, I do not believe this library truly needs a written collection development policy. Even if one is being used, it must not be very extensive.

G-man said...

Since a collection development policy is largely in the realm of theory for me I thought Snow must be overstating things when he says they are unnecessary. After all, I find it hard to disagree with creating a document whose purpose is to "lay down guidelines for selecting materials for the collection of the library" (Baddigam, 2009, Aug 6). There is nothing more fundamental than laying the groundwork for how to spend your money and where you want your library to go. However I was actually swayed by Snow's arguments since he gives me an insight into the practical realities of creating a policy.

Snow's basic point is that "guidelines for selecting" make sense only if you know "where the library is, not simply where it wants to go" (Snow, 1996, Some Gentle Reservations section). And in order to figure that out you need to "come up with current strengths and weaknesses, and with how the library's materials are used" which "is a formidable undertaking" (Snow). It is so formidable that there is no objective criteria to follow and "the library winds up where it started, with the best collection it can attain relying on all the subjective choices from all the individuals who select books, periodicals and other materials" (Snow, Approval Plans section). In short, I take his argument to mean that you do not need to spend time on a document that in practice is useless in providing guidance. Snow is saying there is no way to write down an objective statement that everyone can follow when purchasing or weeding items because it all comes down to each librarians' intuition and individual experience.

I have never actually tried to write a collection development policy so I am giving Snow the benefit of the doubt that it really is that difficult but it seems rather extreme that no consensus can be reached as to what should be included in the library's collection. Even if we want to "lay down guidelines" in his experience the collection development policy is not the place to do it. Although I would be curious to know whether Snow believes any statement of guidance is useful and practical such as in a vision or mission statement.


Baddigam, G. (2009, August 6). Collection development policy. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from

Snow, R. (1996). Wasted words: The written collection development policy and the academic library. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 22, 191-194. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from Library Literature and Information Science Full Text database.

Kate Van Auken said...

I really like the layout of your blog. It was easy to read and learn about the aspects of different collection development policies. Thank you.

L.M.Martin said...

Great Blog!! Thanks for the valuable resources on writing collection development policies. I especially enjoyed Derek Whitehead's article. It's a great introduction and overview of what is involved in the creation of collection development policies. I now have a better understanding of the topic. Thanks again.