Competency F – Collection Development

…use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital items and collections



Collection development comprises several core processes and principles inherent in the creation of a vital and energized library service. Library managers use a set of selection criteria to determine the value and need for new items as well as how they might benefit existing collections, and aid the community. Selecting items for a collection is a thoughtful, reflective process that aims to meet community needs. Rubin (2010) defines these criteria as: “authority, appropriateness, accuracy or timeliness, physical characteristics, collection fit, demand, content, and special characteristics.” (p. 372) while Disher (2007) simply explains that “all items need to be connected to each other in some way.” (p. 1) Librarians often consult popular review sources like Publisher’s Weekly for acquisition suggestions to determine a sense of popularity or demand for a new item. Ultimately, cost is a deciding factor when selections are being made, due to the budgetary constraints inherent in the library system.

While each library considers unique criteria when selecting new items to suit their respective libraries, one core element is the collection development policy. Collection development policies are widely used to clearly delineate the composition of library collections, and also lists any rules or explanations explicating decisions made as to its composition. These policies often contain and reflect library missions, goals, and vision statements to ensure alignment of collections with library policies and standards. They also describe the library’s service community as well as discuss specific procedures and priorities including the types of formats they collect. Weeding is another important element discussed in collection development policies, and is often referred to when weeding choices are challenged by patrons or other community members.


Evaluation is a necessary practice integral to the livelihood and relevance of existing collections. It is a standard procedure employed to determine how well collections match community needs.  Disher (2007) explains, “The general assumption is that use of the collection equals value.” (p. 25) While this is an arguable point – items must be checked-out to be considered “in use” – collection developers often consider circulation statistics as a critical factor in determining value. Items that do not circulate often enough are usually weeded. The act of weeding is a controversial and sometimes polarizing subject in the library world.

There are a number of collection evaluation techniques used to assess relevance and potential value; generally, these techniques are either collection-based or user-based. (Disher, 2007). A collection-based example is list checking, which involves comparing existing collections to titles listed on any number of Best Books lists. A user-based evaluative technique involves circulation data analysis.


Another critical element of collection development is collection organization. Library collections are organized according to service demographic, which allows users of all ages to find items quickly. Materials serving teens, children, and adults are often organized separately, and have their own sections. Items are also organized within their respective sections according to format type (e.g. audiovisual: DVDs, CDs, audiobooks; print: large-type; or digital: e-books). In public libraries, collections are typically organized according to the Dewey Decimal System (DDC), while academic libraries have replaced Dewey with the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. Fiction materials are also differentiated from nonfiction materials by the DDC or LC call numbers that define them within the organizational system. In the DDC system, call numbers for children’s items are distinguished from similar adult titles by a J (for Juvenile) that precedes the call number.


Preserving collections is critical to collection management. All collections are vulnerable to any number of ills: misuse, natural disasters, human error, and negligence… Additionally, the majority of media formats are vulnerable for various reasons. Print collections are susceptible to erosion or embrittlement due to chemical composition and breakdown of paper materials, sensitivity to light, heat, or moisture, and pest problems, to name a few.

One particularly harmful menace to print collections is mold. I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a personal journal collection dating back to my teen years as a result of an unknown mold situation in my previous apartment. As a writer and recordist, this sense of loss has been particularly palpable. In libraries, the mold abatement process is rather intensive, and requires professional assistance for serious mold situations. Library workers are advised not to attempt to care for affected materials as they may develop serious respiratory and other health issues. Preservation methods like reducing the RH in the environment prohibits mold growth, as does the use of a climate-controlled HVAC system.

Digital preservation necessitates meeting certain criteria to maintain collections: digital objects must be controlled, findable, secure, readable, renderable, and authentic. Assigning metadata to digitized collections allows for future storage and retrieval. Migration is a way to maintain file readability and renderability. The authenticity of a file is determined by validating checksums. Validating checksums is a means of determining whether the number of bits that comprise a file have changed, and if so, why. This type of file validation assesses the security or vulnerability of a digital object.

To preserve our cultural and historical records, we must take care to preserve both our print and digital collections. Archives are evidence of our existence. They are historical fragments selected to document pivotal and transitory moments in time. They’re pieces in a palimpsest, a grand tome layered with centuries of human and animal memory, writings and recordings of our lives as a people.


Libr 266_Collection Analysis

My first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is a paper I wrote for LIBR 266: Collection Management in which I analyze Albany Library’s (AL) print collections based on statistical and anecdotal community data to determine whether collections meet current community needs. In this paper, I compare the size of AL’s children and teen collections to evaluate whether access to collections for children and teens is equitable. I also benchmark another local public library’s children and teen collections to evaluate whether AL’s collections meet community needs. In order to determine how Albany Library’s teen collection meets the needs of its’ teen patrons, I used the list checking method to analyze AL’s collections based on their current holdings of titles from two reputed lists: Best Books for the College Bound and 2011 Teen’s Top Ten.

This paper demonstrates my competency in suggesting ways to augment existing collections to match community needs as well as analyzing community data to determine those needs. Evaluating and weeding public library print collections is a critical skill for future librarians to possess given the ever-evolving needs of our local communities.

Libr 266_Final Paper

My second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is my final paper written for LIBR 266: Collection Management in which I suggest crowdsourcing as a viable and sustainable means of expanding extant print and digital collections in public and academic libraries. In this paper, I discuss how libraries can promote, advocate, and engage local communities as well as build existing collections by implementing crowdsourcing as a collection development tool. I also explain how crowdsourcing allows libraries to engage various community demographics and age groups who create their own content, be they writers, poets, visual artists, woodworkers, or gamers. As such, this participatory community creates a continuous cycle of supply and demand.

Creating a web-based portal for content creators to participate globally is another employable aspect for libraries to consider. An online forum or portal for artists and content creators all over the world to share ideas and content will indeed promote collections and engage both local and global communities.

Libr 259_Final Project

My third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is a final paper I wrote for LIBR 259: Preservation Management in which I explore web archiving methods currently being employed by institutions such as Internet Archive and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media to preserve documents capturing the living history of the Occupy Movement.  I also discuss personal web archiving methods used by active and interested citizens to preserve living documents often related to social, political or cultural movements, which seem to be perpetually changing and evolving.


Maintaining vigorous and relevant library collections is the primary goal for collection managers. By implementing a thoughtful collection development policy and other standardized procedures for selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation, library managers will prioritize community needs to remain accessible and valuable.

The preservation of both print and digital collections is essential to maintaining records of our cultural heritage to ensure economic, social, cultural and political growth for future generations. By studying the past, we aim to learn how to move forward as a people to improve our societies and nation for future success.


Disher, W. (2007). Crash Course in Collection Development. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Northeast Document Conservation Center. (2007). Preservation Leaflets 3.8: Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper. Retrieved from

Rubin, Richard E. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. (3rd ed). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman.

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