Library Collection Development Policy: Brief Information

1
1

1.1 Introduction:

Information resources in myriad forms have been collected and preserved for future generations and posterity from ancient times. India has a rich tradition of learning and education was considered as the most important tool for self-realisation in ancient India. There is “no country where the love of learning had so early an origin or has exercised so lasting and powerful an influence” (Thomas, 1891). The importance and respect with which a nation views its universities and higher education systems reflects its appreciation of the role of these institutions in nation building. Higher education in India is witnessing sea changes as the universities and colleges are striving for achieving high standards at national and international level. University libraries are playing a major role in the development of higher education. This is reflected in the way libraries are developing their collections, providing facilities and delivering services. Collection available in the library should meet the needs of the user community for which discussions with specialists are necessary to identify and locate the required information. A holistic collection incorporates the characteristics of both traditional collection and the changes brought by technology. Since collections are developed primarily for serving information needs of the users, how users perceive a collection while seeking information and how collection can facilitate information seeking are important factors to be considered while developing collections. For a collection to be useful, the items should be selected based on the community’s needs (Lee, 2000). Several studies are being conducted at national and international level for assessing the user satisfaction level, evaluation of collections and how to update the existing collections to meet the changing requirements (Fombad & Mutula, 2003).

1.2 Collection Development in Libraries

The primary function of libraries and information centres is to assist in accessing information and gathering knowledge. Collection development is the central professional function of any library since the very concept of a library is primarily associated with the idea of a collection. Developing library collection is one of the most demanding and challenging professional functions of a library which requires a deeper knowledge and understanding of the service community, institutional priorities and information & publishing industry. According to Evans & Margaret (2004), collection development is “the process of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a library’s materials collection in terms of patron needs and community resources, and attempting to correct existing weaknesses if any”. It involves framing of a systematic plan for creating library collections that will meet the needs of library users and incorporates several activities like determination and co-ordination of relevant policies, fiscal management, assessment of user needs, collection use studies, collection analysis, identification of collection needs, selection of materials, planning for resource sharing, collection maintenance, weeding and user liaison and outreach activities.

Collection development is a dynamic process that requires involvement of both library professionals and service community. The need and value of client input is not given due importance or often neglected which is a drawback since resources in libraries are intended to meet the needs of the community. It should be an inclusive process taking care of not just the most active users but the total community’s needs and incorporating all types of formats. It should also have a plan to rectify weakness and maintain strengths.

1.3 Collection development functions

The major functions of collection development include formulating and revising collection development policies, preparing budget allocations and fund management, selecting materials in all formats for acquisition and access, assessing collections, use of collections and user needs & requirements, maintaining collection through weeding, cancellation, preservation etc., resource sharing, cooperative collection development activities, carrying liaison work and other outreach activities in the user community.

1.3.1 Collection Development Policy:

Planning is an essential function in collection development and framing a written collection development policy is the first step in the planning process. Collection Development Policy is a formal written statement of the principles guiding a library’s selection of materials including the criteria used in making the selection and de-selection decisions and policies concerning gifts and exchange (Reitz, 2004).

It delineates the purpose and content of a collection to both external audiences such as readers and funders and internal audiences or staff.

1.3.1.1 Purpose of Collection Development Policy:

To build a balanced and relevant collection, it is necessary to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the existing collection. Collection development policy has many functions like describing current collections, providing a framework for developing and maintaining collections, assisting in budgeting, assisting staff to consider the long term and short term objectives of the organisation, prioritising different activities etc. It helps to develop a realistic and practical acquisition program for procuring resources for the future. It provides clear and specific guidelines for the selection, acquisition, storage, preservation, relegation and discard of stock. These policies can help in improving communication between the library and users and in enhancing understanding of the objectives of the library by administrators whose decisions influence resource allocation. The policies to be effective should be flexible and should be reviewed and revised periodically.

1.3.1.2 Policy for selection:

The policies concerning selection include providing guidance to the staff while selecting and de-selecting print and electronic resources for the collection, reducing personal bias, identifying gaps in collection building responsibilities, ensuring continuity and consistency in selection and revision, clarifying the purpose and scope of collections, evaluating selection decisions and providing training tool for new staff. It enables individual selection decisions to be justified on a standardized basis.

1.3.1.3 Planning:

Planning involves the process of allocating and reallocating resources according to the changing environment and in the context of the library’s mission and priorities. The policy provides a sound foundation for future planning and helps in deciding priorities when financial resources are limited. It is a good basis for the fair allocation of resources and protects library funds by explaining the rationale behind acquisition bids. Having a well-written policy ensures continuity and avoids confusion

1.3.1.4 Public relations:

Since the policy is an accountability tool supporting the objectives of the organisation, it is useful while dealing with administrators, funding bodies and users. It improves communication between library and its clientele and serves as a contract with users by indicating what is to be expected from library in terms of collections and services. It is a protection against criticism and censorship, unwanted gifts, sectarian and offensive items. In the wider context, it serves as a basis for wider cooperation and resource sharing locally, regionally, nationally or internationally (International Federation for Library Associations, 2001).

1.3.1.5 Elements of a collection development policy:

The primary aim of a policy is to provide a framework and guidelines for developing collections. As the libraries are acquiring more and more electronic resources, guidelines concerning the selection and acquisition of these resources should also be incorporated in the policy. The first element of the policy should give a clear statement of the mission of the library, purpose of the policy and the audience for whom it is developed. It should identify the service community and their needs, give description about the types of academic programs, specify the parameters of the collection by subject fields, formats, languages etc., and identify the types of materials collected and the primary user group for each subject (Mack, 2011). There has to be guidelines regarding gifts, weeding, preservation, cancellation, retention etc. It must also provide criteria and guidelines for selectors and identify selection tools for the library. Access versus ownership issues has to be addressed along with issues like cooperative collection development and the role of consortia. It should also include general guidelines for licensing requirements for e-Resources such as number of authorized users at a time, remote access availability, Inter Library Loan (ILL) services etc.

1.3.2 Finance and budget allocation:

Finance is the most important factor for the development and progress of any library. Adequate finance is very important to procure books, journals, online resources and to meet various other expenses. Adequate funding helps to enhance library’s role in providing access to scholarly literature and managing digital collections. Separate fund allocation for print and electronic collection will help the librarians to maintain a balanced collection. Budget structure for e-Resources is a complex issue though most libraries allocate a certain percentage of their budget to electronic resources collection. In addition to the direct costs, supplemental costs also involved with e-Resources which include expenses paid to maintain the subscription, upgrade equipment, educate users, negotiate and manage licenses, back files, servicing, managing, and accessing electronic information. Other costs which affect the budget include hardware, software and staff.

1.3.3 Selection and acquisition of materials:

Selection of materials is a key function in collection development. Selection involves two schools of thought; the demand theory and the quality theory. The demand theory put forth by Lionel McColvin advocates selection of only those documents which are demanded by users for their information needs. The quality theory states that the library should select materials that will develop, enrich and educate its patrons (Gardner, 1981). Other major principles of selection include Drury’s principle ‘To provide right book to the right reader at the right time’, Melvil Dewey’s principle ‘The best reading for the largest number at the least cost’, Ranganathan’s first three laws ‘Books are for use’, ‘Every book his reader’, Every reader his/her book’, Haine’s principle which advocates development of a balanced and unbiased collection etc. To practice quality selection, extensive knowledge of the subject and books is required along with an awareness of the classic works in any field and current trends of thought. Knowing the needs of the users and knowing the sources and documents which could meet these needs is very important in selection. The principles of selection in the electronic age suggested by (Alford, 2000) include a balance in subject areas reflecting the needs of the service community, building collections with breadth and depth, promoting cooperative collection building since no single library can cater to the needs of all users, eliminating selector bias while building collections and organising digital information for quick and easy access.

Selection requires sagacity and careful attention to community needs in addition to considering the mission, goals and priorities of the library and the parent organization. The selectors must have awareness about the resources for locating materials, skills in choosing between different materials and formats, evaluating quality of materials and balancing costs with funds available. In the case of e-Resources, addressing issues like quick and easy access for users, continuous content evaluation and technological and legal issues also have to be dealt with. Academic libraries select materials for educational and research purposes and identifying collection needs in specific subject areas and specific types of materials are essential. The selection of subject materials is mostly done by faculty or subject specialists. The success of faculty-based selection depends on the faculty members’ expertise in the field and his interest and involvement with the library activities. Selection and acquisition of resources depends on various factors like value and relevance of content, book reviews, publisher, author reputation, accessibility and cost (Fieldhouse, 2012).

1.3.3.1 Selection process:

The selection process involves identifying the relevant item, evaluation and decision to purchase the product. Identifying items require factual information about authors, publishers, titles, topics etc. Many tools and resources help professionals in identifying possible acquisitions. These include bibliographies, lists issued by libraries, professional societies, commercial publishers, reviews in press, popular media, discipline-based journals, publisher announcements, book fairs and book stores, review or approval copies, web-based tools, in-house information such as ILL requests etc.

Tools for identifying e-Resources include trial offers and demonstration from publisher/vendor, faculty/patron suggestions, discussion lists, peer library websites, vendor exhibits at conferences, publishers’ catalogues, published reviews in print and electronic sources etc.

The qualities of an item have to be evaluated to determine whether it is worthy of selection and appropriate for the collection. Criteria for judging materials include content of the item, language, currency of data, veracity of the item, reputation of the author and publisher, adequacy of scope and depth of coverage, frequency of citations, updates and revisions, geographic coverage, physical characteristics, cost in relation to the quality of the item, and curriculum or research needs of the students/faculty/patrons.

Criteria for evaluating e-Resources include licensing and contractual terms, considering copyright issues for multiple users, pricing options with discounts for retaining and cancelling print,discounts for consortia purchase, content-authoritativeness to determine accuracy of the content, completeness i.e. whether content is same for print and e-version, availability of retrospective material, currency (speed with which e-Content is added or updated), permission to access purchased content if a subscription is cancelled, provision to select individual titles in case of a package deal, reputation of the provider, indexing of the electronic product, impact factor to evaluate use and reputation of journals, ease of access, stability, possibility of customisation, searching options, downloading options, archiving and preserving digital materials, technical support i.e. whether the product is compatible with existing software and hardware, training for staff, online help etc.

Acquisition activities include initiating purchase orders, claiming, cancelling, receipting, invoice processing, and preparing requests for proposals from vendors and serial agents and payment processing. Acquisition of e-Resources is more complex necessitating direct interaction with publishers and producers. Acquisition of e-Resources involves verifying the bibliographic information for the product, identifying various pricing options, reviewing license agreements and purchasing the product (Yu & Breivold, 2008).

1.3.4 Collection assessment and evaluation:

Collection assessment helps librarians to better realize what materials are in their collections and how well they are meeting the collection development goals. Knowing the collection allows acquiring resources that complement current holdings by improving weak areas or enriching strong collections (Agee, 2005). The aim of assessment is to measure the collection’s utility, i.e. how well the collection supports the goals, needs, and mission of the library or parent organization. It is the process of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a collection and provides information on different aspects of the collection like the number of items in a subject, age and condition of materials, format and language of resources, and impact on user community.

1.3.4.1 Purpose of collection assessment and evaluation:

Assessment and evaluation of collection is necessary to find out if the library is collecting materials required by its clients and to gather data which will remedy deficiencies and improve collections. Academic libraries do evaluation for accreditation purposes, to assess the feasibility of new programs, to determine how well the library is implementing policy or how the policy should be revised on the basis of evaluation of data etc. Other reasons include funding purposes, analysing how the service community use the collection, monetary value of the collection, quantity and quality of collection to know weak areas, providing data for de-selection, co-operative efforts etc. Assessment is also done to find out institutional needs like adequacy of budget, whether collection is out dated, cost-benefit ratio is reasonable, providing data for funding agencies, networks, consortia, donors etc. (Kennedy, 2006).

1.3.4.2 Techniques of collection analysis:

Collection analysis techniques include use and user-centred approach where emphasis is on the individual user as the unit of analysis; collection-centred approach where collection is examined against an external standard or the holdings of other libraries that are comprehensive in the relevant area; quantitative analysis which is measuring collection/ circulation statistics, ILL requests, e-Resources usage, budget information, ratios such as expenditure for print resources in relation to e-Resources, serials in relation to monographs etc.; qualitative analysis which is subjective because it depends on the perception of users and the opinion of selectors and external experts.

1.3.4.2.1 Collection-centred methods :

1. Collection profiling: Statistical description or numerical picture of the collection at one point in a time. e.g. Titles within a classification range, imprint years etc. It provides information for cooperative collection development and management and to identify weak areas.

2. Expert opinion: This method depends on personal expertise for making the assessment. It involves reviewing the entire collection using shelf list or a single subject area or shelf examination of various subject areas. Depth of the collection, its usefulness in relation to curriculum or research and deficiencies and strengths in the collection are estimated.

3. List checking: Checking to see whether library has access to a list of expert recommended books or journals. The list also includes general list or specialized bibliography, catalogues, course syllabus, list by professional associations or government authority, recommended reading lists, frequently cited journals list etc.

4. Verification studies: A form of list checking in which collections are checked against a special list of titles which encompass the most important works in a specific area.

5. Shelf scanning or direct collection analysis: The collection is physically examined by a person with subject knowledge and evaluates the breadth, depth, significance and level of collection, physical condition of materials etc.

6. Comparative statistics are used by libraries to determine strengths by comparing collection size and expenditure, expenditure and format, expenditure and preservation, rate of net growth, size of collection in volumes, titles, formats etc., degree of content overlap and unique holdings.

7. Applying collection standards: Collections are compared with standards developed by professional associations, accrediting agencies, library boards etc. They apply qualitative standards rather than quantitative recommendations and emphasize on addressing adequacy, access and availability (Johnson, 2009).

1.3.4.2.2 Client-centred methods:

1. Citation studies: Using citations/bibliographic references in articles and other scientific works as indicators of use or influence assuming that more frequently cited publications are more valuable. In academic libraries, receiving bibliographies from faculty and students to find out which books, journals or authors are popular and how many cited resources are available in the library.

2. Circulation studies: Using circulation reports, which resources are mostly used and less used, compare use patterns in select subject areas, type of materials etc.

3. In-House use studies: Mostly used in non-circulating periodical collections or to measure book usage in non-circulating sections. This method relies on cooperation from the users and can focus on materials used or the users of materials, a part of the collection or entire collection.

4. User surveys are conducted to find out whether the collections meet the users’ needs and requirements qualitatively and quantitatively. The results identify user groups that require better service, improve public relations, receive feedback on drawbacks and successes and find out changing trends and interests.

5. Focus groups: A small representative group of people of about eight to ten selected from the user community engages in a discussion in an informal setting. Focus groups can identify issues, offer suggestions and detailed comments and provide opportunities to explore topics and issues in depth that cannot be covered in surveys.

6. Document delivery test determines the ability of the library in providing the user with a required item at the time of his need and provides objective measurement of a collection’s capacity to satisfy user needs.

7. Inter library loan analysis: Reviewing ILL reports to find out the items patrons are using that are not available in the library, how often patrons resort to ILL vs. using local resources etc. Identify areas of collection not meeting patron needs and represent use of the collection because the deficient item is required by the patron. 8. Quantitative bench-marking: Comparing counts of books and journal holdings between library and peer libraries, comparing size of holdings on a subject to the enrollment in the corresponding department or budget for that department (Kohn, 2015).

1.3.4.3 Benefits of collection analysis:

Analysis of the collection provides a better understanding of the scope, depth and accuracy of collections, whether the collection meets the goals and mission of the library, aids in the preparation of a collection development policy, provides a measure for the effectiveness of the policy, ascertains the quality and adequacy of collections, rectify the inadequacies and improve the collection, explains decision about expenditures and provide justifications for budget increase (Mosher, 1979).

1.3.5 Weeding:

Weeding involves removing material from open access, reassessing its value and discarding or transferring to storage. De-selection or weeding is an important step in collection development without which the collection becomes aged and out-dated and difficult to maintain. The excess copies, rarely used books and materials which cannot be further used may be transferred to a different location in the library or sold and discarded. The funding bodies and administrative agencies may disapprove the disposition of materials for which money has been spent. Space constraint is a main factor motivating weeding and disposal, other reasons include ensuring continuous quality in the collection, to improve access, save money and make room for new materials. The items for de-selection could include unwanted gift materials, duplicates, obsolete and worn out items, superseded editions, unneeded volumes of sets etc.

A library with a well written collection development policy with criteria for weeding decisions offers a measure of protection against those who are suspicious and disapprove about such decisions. The criteria for weeding could include objective approaches like publication date, physical condition, circulation history, citation frequency etc. and subjective considerations based on professional judgement like relevance, local needs, knowledge of the subject literature, format and user community. An important step in weeding is to ensure that bibliographic records are to be updated to reflect the disposition of the item.

1.3.6 Preservation:

Preservation involves protecting the materials from damage, deterioration and retaining the intellectual content of materials which can no longer be preserved. These include binding, repairing, using protective enclosures, monitoring environmental conditions, controlling use etc. It is considered as a librarian’s responsibility to preserve the human record for future generations. Non print collections also need preservation. Digital resources and digitized files pose problems because of the different types of formats and the speed with which standards, software and hardware changes. Libraries with digital collections migrate the data or emulate obsolete hardware and software to retain the content. Digitization is used as a preservation treatment as it has the advantage of reducing the handling of the original artefact and making accessible to more people.

1.4 Challenges, Issues and Problems in Collection Development:

Library collections are becoming increasingly complex and diverse owing to many types of formats and managing and accessing these resources brings its own challenges. The libraries are dealing with print, electronic and digital formats and although technology has immensely enhanced the scope and use of these collections, the electronic formats in addition to the physical materials pose significant challenges in managing these heterogeneous collections. Selecting, acquiring and maintaining different types of e-Resources like e-books, e-journals, reference sources and full text journals which are multidisciplinary in nature is more complex than print resources.

Legal and access issues, technological compatibility and services for training and ease of use have to be taken care of. Continuous content evaluation is also required as the content of the resource may change over time. There can also be duplication of content across databases which results in confusion and wastage of investments. Lack of perpetual access is another issue. Many of the e-Resources may be licensed for a limited period and once the license period expires the subscription is cancelled. Preserving and archiving e-Resources therefore poses its problems.

1.5 Impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on  Library Collection Development:

Like all other fields, technology has revolutionized academic libraries also. Academic libraries have effectively made use of technology to respond to user demands by bringing changes in the nature of the collection. Though technology has not affected the core activities of collection development, its scope has been altered significantly. Transformative changes are taking place; the possibility of remote access has changed the nature of collections from what it was years back, philosophy has evolved from ownership to access and the implications are felt in all areas of planning, policy making, budgeting, services etc.

As pointed out by (Seetarama, 1997), collection development policies have to be redefined to balance ownership and access and to include cooperative efforts and evaluation. Earlier when collection development was purely print based, selection tools like publisher catalogues and trade bibliographies were used but today all the tools are electronically available. Traditional selection criteria like quality, relevance, cost, usage etc. were considered and faculty and user suggestions for new titles were forwarded for purchase. With advancements in technology, ICTs are used in all areas of collection development activity like selection, acquisition, evaluation, cooperative efforts etc. Selection involves making use of online publisher’s catalogues, online book reviews, online sites, faculty-librarian communication for providing online suggestions and recommendations and online alert services. Acquisition work of pre-ordering and ordering process and communication with vendors make use of the ICT facilities. ICTs are also used in the evaluation process to measure circulation statistics, provide budget reports, e-Resources usage, online user surveys etc. Transaction log analysis of e-Resources provides information on the use of electronic journals and databases.

The greatest impact of e-Resource is increased access to information resources, speed of access and ease of access. Earlier researchers and faculty depended upon books, reference material, journals and case studies for information. With internet and telecommunication advancements, electronic resources are being profusely used by academicians. Online catalogues, high tech information networks and increased resource sharing have accelerated access to information. Budgets and grants are deployed in different ways that enhance library’s role in providing scholarly information and managing digital content. Collaborative arrangements for acquiring and managing digital resources have considerably reduced the cost. Consortia provide member libraries wider access to digital resources at affordable cost and best licensing terms.


Original Reference Article:

  • Deepa, R. (2017). Information technology Library collection development University libraries of Kerala. India: Alagappa University.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here