Collection Development in Academic Libraries by Myland Desameau

Governance is necessary in the academic library setting to establish who is in charge of decision making and designation of leadership roles. Most libraries seems to function on shared governance. This applies mainly with decisions made on collection development. Authors Alire and Evans (2010) states that “it is the idea that all participants in operational activities ought to have a voice in operations. Second the decision making process tends to slow comparison to most other organizations due to the need for broad input. Third, decisions will reflect a consensus that builds up during the discussion and rarely reflect any one person’s or group position” (p.101). I think that collection development governance for academic libraries should be done collectively by the librarians and staff in making final decisions on a collection. It is extremely important that the library director or manager takes into consideration the input received from the other librarians.

Book selection services are just one of the resources used by libraries for collection development purposes. “They function as a new title pre-selection service, saving collection development staff hours of time sifting through thousands of new publishers offering to access those materials which meet their specific collection needs, resulting in far more efficient use of library staff time” (Garmon, 2002, p.259). Does it seem that most library’s use the input of the librarians in the recommendations in the selection process? The selection process is done by the librarian reviewing a variety of sources, to learn of the availability of new material. These sources include publishers and vendors brochures and catalogs, announcements from several academic library jobbers, major bibliographies and faculty and patron recommendations. The library’s selection policy may specify levels of collection intensity, which may consist of levels from minimal to research. In a typical academic school library, if one exists, the most collection development likely will take place at the instructional or research levels. Having the collection development policy address the general scope of the collection, as well as particular types of material, may prove helpful.

To support budgetary changes, it is necessary to develop institutional mission and goal statements, library mission and goal statements, and a collection development policy that reflects those statements, along with specific ways of handling it. Price escalation for serials, especially in scientific and technical fields, has forced libraries to cancel subscriptions and rely on alternative ways of recovery. Additionally, librarians have to face the issue of how they can function in an environment that is much more concerned with financial survival than with the informational and social needs. Lehman (2014) adds that “libraries are working to conserve space and money is by developing collection plans with partner libraries. These are formal agreements and programs developed and carried out by a group of libraries that see benefit in working together. Rather than focusing on local collections, libraries work together to create a fuller shared collection than any one of them could do alone” (p.173).

What I observed and understood to be a main problem is the ability to retain collections. This of course is due to budget restraints, shelving space and usability. According to Lehman (2014) “a large shared collection is more of a financial reality and the scope of the collection available is wider than any one library can house. Challenges arise from working together, including definitions of ownership, scope, and intent of the shared collection, funds available, and, if shared storage is involved, managing the workload of identifying and transferring items to a new location (p.169)”. Libraries handles the challenges of the collections by keeping only the necessary information for certain parts of the collection. With the general collections, supplements and updated pamphlets which are now nonexistent, will be discarded or eliminated as soon as the new materials arrive.
With reporters and digests, paperback advance sheets that are replaced by permanent bound volumes will be discarded as soon as the corresponding bound volume are shelved. Superseded digest volumes will be withdrawn and discarded. Replacement volumes usually contain the same information and its supplements. All casebooks copies are kept on reserve and only the most recent copies are kept in the stacks. Loose-leaf services, Encyclopedias, treatises, directories and reference works, newsletters, magazines and newspapers, are either replaced with the most current version or the latest edition is kept by the libraries. It seems also that to cancel a collection would be a difficult choice to make since the library already owns that particular resource and it’s relevant. In the article by Walters, he mentioned that a common practice in academic libraries is “cutting off purchases in mid-year to stay within budget (p.207)”. I find this to be a problem for student/patrons that are familiar with certain collections and not being able to obtain current issues or volumes at their home library. “In the extreme form, this method of budget control fosters inequity in the distribution of resources creating a disadvantage to students who write papers (207)”. It’s also easy to understand the frustrations of students when materials that should be available online through OPAC but are not.

Weeding increases reader satisfaction-with fewer volumes, it saves the patrons time and finds that the appearance of the collection improves, library staff benefits from the time saved in shelving, re-shelving and in taking inventory and lastly, weeding makes room for new technologies-computers, work stations, internet access, plus the books, documents and directories needed to support these technologies require substantial blocks of space and seem to continually be expanding. The discouraging factors of weeding range from the emphasis on numbers, as in the number of books in a library is often considered a criterion of the quality of a library and to the professional work pressures since weeding has generally been considered a professional task. The work pressures of this task doesn’t seem to leave librarians much time to perform the task of weeding, not to mention the audience’s displeasure. No one likes to see a library weed its collection and find out its getting rid of books since everyone is “going green”. And also the perception of the “sacredness” of a collection, and conflicting criteria can also be an attribution to the factors.
The management of resources for collection development can be somewhat of a challenge. The acquisitions librarian has the responsibility of auditing this budget. There are many ways to address and manage challenges in acquisition management. Issues that are typical in academic library collection development and management is having a budget that will allow them to maintain collections. Most academic libraries that have an automated system for purchasing library books and serials that are separate from the university’s accounting and purchasing system are limited to what they are able to add or keep in their collections. To support budgetary changes, it is necessary to develop institutional mission and goal statements, library mission and goal statements, and a collection development policy that reflects those statements, along with specific ways of handling it. Price escalation for serials, especially in scientific and technical fields, has forced libraries to cancel subscriptions and rely on alternative ways of recovery.
According to Wu (2005), “the mere existence of information does not guarantee actual use” (p.255). As libraries create collection development policies and practices this must be taken into account. Library collections as we knew it are also no longer just about books. Academic libraries takes advantage of the many interactive resources, microform, newsletters, newspapers, and loose-leaf service available on the web. They found many of the functionally flexible and current resources offered electronically better served their students and staff. Librarians seem to be able to do a better job using these resources.

Alire, C., & Evans, G. (2010). Academic Librarianship. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Garmon, M. (2002). Book Selection Services: One Law Library, Two Vendors. Binghamton, NY: Hawthorn Information Press, Inc.
Lehman, K. A. (2014). Collection Development and Management. Library Resources & Technical Services, 58(3), 169-177.
Walters, W. (2012). Patron-Driven Acquisition and the Educational Mission of the Academic Library. Library Resources & Technical Services, 199-213.
Wu, M. (2005). Why Print and Electronic Resources are Essential to the Academic Law Library. Law Library Journal 97(2), 233-256.


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