Collection development. Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
The primary goal of collection development is to ensure the availability of print and digital resources in support of a library’s mission to meet users’ information needs. Maintaining collection development policy is vital in ensuring that this goal is successfully met. A holistic approach to library collection management takes into account the entire cycle of a collection’s life: selection, acquisitions, processing, storing, preservation, use, and weeding. “Understanding what happens at each stage of a collection’s life cycle is the key to making globally acceptable decisions for a library,” Hibner and Kelly maintain (2010, p. xvi). Effective policy guiding collection development practices includes analysis of user groups and information needs and outlines criteria for all stages in collection development process: selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation. The institution’s mission statement, organizational environment, and budget allocation justifications are important considerations in the collection development policy and implementation plan.
While designing collection development policy, librarians ground their decisions in the ALA core values of librarianship, in particular:
- Access. All information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users;
- Diversity. We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve;
- Intellectual freedom. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources; and
- Preservation. The Association supports the preservation of information published in all media and formats. The association affirms that the preservation of information resources is central to libraries and librarianship (American Library Association, 2004).
A collection development policy sets up selection criteria guiding the library’s decisions about purchasing and licensing new materials. These criteria are usually based on the library’s mission, user audience, budget, reading level, timeliness, and other important factors. Brazil (1990) lists eleven selection criteria frequently used in collection development policies (adapted here to account for born-digital resources):
- Purpose and scope: The selector needs to establish the purpose for which the material was issued and to determine the level of coverage.
- Subject content: How well is the subject covered? The contents must match the fields of interest of a particular library.
- 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?
- Level and Audience for which material is written: Is the material popular in tone, or is it technical or scholarly? What is the reading level?
- Authority of Author: What is known about the author? Is the author qualified to write on the subject?
- Publisher: What is known about the publisher? What type of material is generally issued by the publisher? Is it a popular or scholarly organization?
- 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?
- Cost: Cost will influence whether the selector acquires the book in print or electronic editions and whether a popular title is acquired in quantity.
- Format: Each type of material must be considered in terms of quality for its analog or digital format, in such matters as binding, illustrations, quality of paper, audio or visual reproduction, etc.
- Bibliographic Control: In the case of serials, an important consideration is determining which indexing services cover them and whether these services are print, online, or CD-ROM.
- 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?
As libraries continue to augment their holdings with electronic resources, additional considerations come to play in making decisions about the e-resource acquisitions. “Deciding the e-content to add to a collection either through purchase or subscription (lease) requires identifying the content desired; evaluating providers, their services and the quality of the product; seeking the best price; analyzing the license agreement, and determining the most sustainable option,” Johnson recounts (2013, p. 43).
Librarians are expected to be familiar with selection tools used in the field to evaluate new collections, such as publisher catalogs, book reviews (e.g. New York Times Book Review, Bloomsbury Review), and professional reference resources and databases, such as American Reference Books Annual (ARBA), Choice magazine, Library School Journal, Emerald Reference Reviews, etc.
Collection development impacts a wide array of information services, including library reference. Since reference librarians are key players in providing universal access to information, evaluation and weeding of reference collections are integral components of reference service. To support this point, Francis lists several important benefits of reviewing the reference collection, including a collection that better reflects the needs of patrons, a collection that is more compact, and staff that is more knowledgeable of its content (2012, p. 227). Replacement of print editions with electronic versions results in additional benefits: more up-to-date collection (electronic versions are updated with greater level of frequency than traditional, print editions), availability for distance learners, and the ability of patrons to search quickly across multiple sources with a single search, using the online database (ibid., p. 229).
Finally, collection weeding contributes to development of collection policy, to serve as a guiding factor in the future collection development. Given that 33% ARL member libraries surveyed in King’s study did not have a collection development policy (Francis, 2012, p. 150), the result reported by Francis, in my opinion, is particularly important in the light of the fifth Ranganathan law—that library is a growing organism and as librarians, we need to always have an eye toward the future and implement new collection development strategies that fit the core values of our profession (Ranganathan, 1963).
Once the collection items have been received by a library, they enter the organization phase of the collection development process. Hibner and Kelly refer to it as processing—when a technical services department prepares an item for the catalog, circulation, and shelving in the library collection (2010, p. 32). The authors distinguish four main tasks in the organization phase:
- Unpack the materials.
- Decide which collection will house them (reference, large print, audio, maps, etc.).
- Direct how the processing of that item will be handled.
- Create a catalog record or link it to an existing one.
“When a library collects rare or unique materials, pre-existing catalog records usually do not exist,” Pressley explains. “In these cases librarians must create original catalog records, usually using the MARC format ” (2009, p. 68), and add them to the library catalog database. MARC records provide description of the newly acquired collection items, including the author, title, publication date, format, subject, language, and other bits of information that help users find the items in the library catalog. Ensuring consistency in classification and metadata standards application in description of new collection items provides for interoperability and sustainability of the collection in the online catalogs maintained by individual libraries and library consortia.
As the formats of library holdings grow increasingly diverse, librarians need to stay abreast of the preservation theory and practice as they relate to both analog and digital formats. Rare books, manuscripts, oversized maps, archival and contemporary film footage, e-books and electronic serials—each format calls for knowledge of preservation standards required to ensure the physical maintenance of the resource in the library collection. “Preservation is a complex part of the field that can take a lifetime to completely learn,” Pressley points out. “It involves everything from repairing bindings or replacing pages that have fallen out of books, to disaster preparedness and recovery, to educating fellow staff as to necessary steps to take in the case of an emergency” (2009, p. 75).
Digitization is often viewed as a preservation technique. As rare books and special collections often require limited access and special handling, in order to avoid light or moisture damage, for example, libraries have begun digitizing their collections and making the digital counterparts available in the online library catalogs. This type of work requires knowledge of digitization standards and best practices in digital preservation.
Collection items that were born digital—e-journals, e-books, online learning resources, digital photographs, software applications, video games, websites—call for specific preservation considerations in their own right. In the e-book world, for example, “a number of formats have already become extinct, including Microsoft’s .lit format, which was released in 2000 and discontinued in 2011,” Caminita reports. “The very act of preservation of e-books itself is multifaceted, and not only must consider the possibility of format obsolescence, but also must ensure the library’s access to vendor copies of e-books while maintaining consistent metadata at the item and collection levels to preserve discovery of e-books” (2014, p. 9).
“Born-digital resources also force us to consider the relationship among form, text, and function, where content is no longer tied to format,” Neal argues. “We are encouraged to be more sensitive to context, renderability, and versioning over time. We see the inevitability of physical and format obsolescence, the importance of authenticity and provenance, and the role of standards such as globally unique identifiers” (2015).
Tailoring collection development policy for format-specific preservation is equally important to the long-term availability of the collection in both physical and web-based library environments.
To support my skills in this competency, I present the following examples of my work:
- The Digitization Project Case Study assignment from LIBR 284 (Seminar in Archives and Records Management – Topic: Digitization and Digital Preservation)
- The Online Collection assignment from LIBR 284 (Seminar in Archives and Records Management – Topic: Digitization and Digital Preservation)
- The case study from LIBR 249 (Advanced Cataloging and Organization of Information), Local History Collection Finds New Home at Academic Library
LIBR 284 Digitization Project Case Study
The first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is a Digitization Project case study from LIBR 284 (Seminar in Archives and Records Management – Topic: Digitization and Digital Preservation). In this assignment, I present analysis of Wonders: Images of the Ancient World— a digital collection of images developed by the New York Public Library. The analysis criteria include:
- planning for digitization, including user needs and funding sources
- criteria used to select objects for digitization
- technical production information, including image digitization
- cataloging and access
The findings presented in this paper demonstrate my understanding of the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information objects, as well as providing access to the digital collections in the online public library environment.
LIBR 284 Online Collection assignment
The second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is an Online Collection assignment from LIBR 284 (Seminar in Archives and Records Management – Topic: Digitization and Digital Preservation). In this group assignment, I worked with two of my classmates to create an online collection of 45 images and artifacts within CONTENTdm—a digital collection management system provided by OCLC. In the course of the project, each of us selected 15 images and artifacts from our personal archives, digitized them using best practices in digitization, and then worked collaboratively to design a database in order to make our collection available for discovery in CONTENTdm, in anticipation of multidisciplinary information needs of our intended user group. The title of our collection is Growing Up in a Pre-Millennial World.
The collection development component of this assignment features:
- planning for digitization (the overall theme of the collection, user audience, and user needs)
- selection (criteria used to select items for digitization)
- technical production policy (standards and equipment used for digitization of images)
- image production (archival masters and derivatives)
- metadata types (structural, descriptive, technical) and fields
- development of multifaceted information retrieval functionality
By centering the collection on the lives of women and their families, we aimed at providing users with better understanding of different cultures and values during the “pre-millenial” era. The collection features items in various formats, including photographs, postcards, documents, drawings/art, a calling card, and computer media storage (a floppy disk).
“By adopting community shared good practice, project designers can ensure the broadest use of their materials, today and in the future, by audiences they may not even have imagined and by future applications that will dynamically recombine “digital objects” into new resources” (Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, & National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage, 2002, p. 1). While digitizing items for further online retrieval and preservation, we applied current technical production standards, such as compression, resolution, bit depth, and color profile, and maintained high image quality free of noise or clippings in the histogram.
In order to facilitate collection organization and discovery, provide digital identification, and ensure interoperability, archiving, and long-term preservation of individual objects, we designed descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata for the collection records, using the NINCH Guide recommendations (ibid., p. 115). In order to afford the cross-institutional, federated search and retrieval of collection items in the real-world digital library environment, we applied the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) standards while designing our metadata fields and used established controlled vocabularies, including Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM), Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), and DCMI Type Vocabulary [DCMITYPE].
In the course of my work on this assignment, I learned to apply in practice the main principles of collection development—selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation—while creating an online digital collection in CONTENTdm. My work on this project helped me understand the importance of using the most up to date digitization and metadata standards during collection development process in order to ensure preservation of analog collection items, as well as interoperability and sustainability of the digitized collection in the online library environment.
LIBR 249 case study, Local History Collection Finds New Home at Academic Library
The third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency F is a case study from LIBR 249 (Advanced Cataloging and Organization of Information), Local History Collection Finds New Home at Academic Library. In this assignment, I present my solution to a scenario involving moving a local history collection from an old storage and housing it in a new space that became available at an academic library. The collection has been in the basement for 50 years; it has 25,000 archival items (books, photographs, realia, scrapbooks). In my paper, I discuss the steps I would take to ensure maximum access to these new materials. My analysis provides the collection integration project plan and a detailed work plan designed for cataloging and other technical services-related tasks that are involved in the integration of the new materials in the university library, including the local and electronic access, and discovery—via the library online catalog (OPAC) and the university digital library.
This piece of evidence demonstrates my competence in collection development in the academic library environment, including planning, intellectual property considerations, collection management, organization, preservation, and access.
Collections play a vital role in advancing human knowledge, addressing societal issues, and increasing the information literacy of global community. Within the context of this mission, integration of new collections helps libraries increase the quality, breadth and diversity of their holdings. Building new collections enhances our knowledge of local history and our cultural heritage; it facilitates interdisciplinary scholarship and research; and finally, building upon the lessons of the past, it helps us better plan for our future.
Understanding of the concepts that comprise collection development and the ability to apply collection managements principles in both physical and digital library environments—have shaped the foundation of my professional collection management philosophy. In my future work in collection development, in addition to the librarianship core values and code of ethics, I will honor the lessons learned and best practices in the field, in particular as they are described by Evans: know/learn your service community’s needs and interests; remember our “product” is access to information regardless of format; expect change and be flexible; think ahead/plan/scan the environment; build relationships; engage in collaborative/consortial activities; and realize that providing access can be a challenge for a variety of reasons (2008, p. 87).
American Library Association. (Adopted 2004, June 29). Core Values of Librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/corevalues
Brazil, M. J. (1990). Building library collections on aging: A selection guide and core list. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.
Caminita, C. (2014). E-books and patron-driven acquisitions in academic libraries. In Bridges, K. (Ed.). Customer-based collection development: An overview (pp. 1-12). Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.
Evans, G. E. (2008). Reflections on creating information service collections. In K. Haycock, & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.). The portable MLIS: insights from the experts (pp. 87-97). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Francis, M. (2012). Weeding the reference collection: A case study of collection management. Reference Librarian, 53(2), 219-234.
Hibner, H., & Kelly, M. (2010). Making a collection count: A holistic approach to library collection management. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.
Johnson, P., & Thornton, K. (2013). Developing and managing electronic collections: The essentials. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.
King, N. (2012). Nice vs. necessary: Reference collections in ARL member libraries. Reference Librarian, 53(2), 138-155.
Neal, J. G. (2015, May 28). Preserving the born-digital record. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2015/05/28/preserving-the-born-digital-record/
Pressley, L. (2009). So you want to be a librarian… Duluth, Minn: Library Juice Press.
Ranganathan, S. R. (1963). The five laws of library science. Bombay, New York: Asia Pub. House.
Rubin, R. E. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman.