Library Collection Development for Professional Programs: Trends and Best Practices

Library Collection Development for Professional Programs: Trends and Best Practices

Sara Holder (McGill University, Canada)
Release Date: July, 2012|Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 506
ISBN13: 9781466618978|ISBN10: 1466618973|EISBN13: 9781466618985|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1897-8


Collection development, the process used by librarians to choose items for a particular library or section of a library, can be time-consuming and difficult due to the many factors that must be taken into consideration.

Library Collection Development for Professional Programs: Trends and Best Practices addresses the challenging task of collection development in modern academic libraries, which is largely learned on the job. This publication contains practical advice and innovative strategies essential for current collection development librarians and future librarians seeking guidance in this complex position.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Business, commerce, and management library collections
  • Collection Development
  • Collection management
  • Engineering library collections
  • Law library collections
  • Library Information Systems
  • Library Science
  • Medical, nursing, dentistry, and pharmaceutical library collections
  • Social work and counseling library collections
  • Teacher education library collections

Reviews and Testimonials

Collection development is a challenging part of a librarian's job and one that tends to be very situation-specific, making it difficult to teach it effectively (most, if not all, practical skills in this area are learned on the job). The purpose of this collection is to provide practicing librarians and students preparing to enter the profession with advice and strategies on how best to navigate the complex processes involved in creating and managing library collections. It will also showcase strategies, projects, investigations and comparisons developed and carried out across geographies and disciplines by librarians in the field. The volume is intended for use by practicing librarians in a wide range of academic and special libraries who have collection development responsibilities in one or more of the applied disciplines for whom it will provide practical advice from fellow practitioners as well as a comparative overview of collection development policies and practices in use at peer institutions. In addition, it is meant for use by professors in library science programs as a course or supplementary text for classes on collection development and academic librarianship as well as by students performing their own investigations and research.

– Sara Holder, McGill University, Canada

Sara Holder of McGill University in Canada has compiled a valuable reference resource for students entering library science, for practicing librarians, and for professors of library science who must keep up with the latest trends and practices in the area of collection development (management). [...] This volume is highly recommended for community college and academic libraries, and any institution that has undergraduate and graduate programs in library and information science.

– Laura J. Bender, American Reference Books Annual

North American academic and public librarians describe approaches to collection development carried out in support of professional and/or applied academic programs such as law, teacher education, medicine, business, architecture, or even library science itself. They cover creating plans for budgeting and buying; how discipline shapes practice; collecting for the professional subfields; and case studies, projects, and surveys. Among the topics are approval profiles from a vendor's perspective, information sources and collection planning for engineering, developing a juvenile literature collection in an academic library, supporting the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and the School of Nursing at Murray State University, and collaborating with faculty to weed an entire science and engineering book collection.

– Annotation ©2013 Book News Inc. Portland, OR

This book addresses the needs of librarians who have collection development responsibilities in general professional programs such as law, business, engineering, and allied health as well as specialized subject disciplines in their academic institutions. It is also geared toward professors in library science programs as supplemental material for their collection development courses.[...] One comes away from this book with a better understanding of how complicated and multi-faceted collection development is and how sometimes a librarian is not adequately prepared or even trained for this responsibility.

– Regina Gong, Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, USA

The overall quality of the volume is excellent. Each chapter has been well researched, well organized and includes an extensive bibliography. The volume concludes with a comprehensive listing of references and an index. It is a recommended addition to library science collections and as a collection development tool for librarians and staff in academic libraries. New subject selectors in the library profession as well as selectors with many years of service would benefit from the content provided in this volume.

– Robert Alan, Pennsylvania State University, Journal of Collection Building 33(1)

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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The Concept of Collection Development

Collection development (also known as collection management) is the term used to describe the evaluative process used by librarians to choose the items to be included in a particular library or sub-section thereof. There are many factors and variables that a librarian must take into account in this process (e.g. budget/pricing, accessibility, audience, popularity/reliability, trends, etc.) and it can be one of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of the job. Because these factors are by their nature specific to a particular environment, the way in which collection development is carried out also can vary considerably from institution to institution. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the process of gaining expertise as a librarian must take the time to become familiar both with the library and with the departments and/or programs his or her collection is supporting before he or she can manage the collection effectively.

Unique Aspects of Collecting for Professional Programs

In this collection, the authors describe approaches to collection development carried out in support of professional and/or applied academic programs (e.g., law, teacher education, medicine, business, architecture, library science, etc.). The practice of selecting materials and maintaining collections for these types of programs has many commonalities with that involved in supporting other academic programs; however, there are also certain aspects that make it quite different. In particular, there is an added emphasis on the currency of materials, as the graduates in many of these programs will need to pass a certification exam or be able to prove to an accrediting association or organization that they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to join the profession. Selectors whose collections support programs of this type must ensure that their collections include the materials that will aid students in gaining the skills and knowledge they will need. The programs themselves also often have to be approved by an accrediting body and many such approvals include a requirement that the associated library collection be examined to ensure that it too meets all of the requirements for accreditation.

Objectives and Mission

Collection development is a challenging part of a librarian's job and one that tends to be very situation-specific, making it difficult to teach it effectively (most, if not all, practical skills in this area are learned on the job). The purpose of this collection is to provide practicing librarians and students preparing to enter the profession with advice and strategies on how best to navigate the complex processes involved in creating and managing library collections. It will also showcase strategies, projects, investigations and comparisons developed and carried out across geographies and disciplines by librarians in the field. The volume is intended for use by practicing librarians in a wide range of academic and special libraries who have collection development responsibilities in one or more of the applied disciplines for whom it will provide practical advice from fellow practitioners as well as a comparative overview of collection development policies and practices in use at peer institutions. In addition, it is meant for use by professors in library science programs as a course or supplementary text for classes on collection development and academic librarianship as well as by students performing their own investigations and research.

Laying the Groundwork for Collection Development

The first section includes two chapters that outline some of the basic concepts that librarians will need to be familiar with in order to effectively develop a collection.

All libraries have experienced times of budgetary difficulties, and in recent years, the situation has become even more drastic. Even in times when budgets are not so tight, it never seems quite possible to acquire all items that are available and beneficial to a library's user population.  In times when financial resources are at the bare minimum, selectors must be even more disciplined and judiciously plan their purchases. Ann Hallyburton of Western Carolina University presents a five-step process for setting purchase priorities and carefully budgeting available funds. The method recommends that the largest portion of collection building funds go to meeting direct and pressing patron needs, and thus, the first and most important step of the process is getting to know the institution's constituents and their needs.  The second step and the next largest fund portion involves consulting recommended title lists and acquiring core titles. Next, Hallyburton explains how selectors can find and examine peer collections to discover important publications they may have missed. The final two steps involve finding any quality materials that are freely available and, with any leftover funds, purchasing any non-necessities that would nevertheless be appreciated by users.

Librarians new to the profession or new to the task of collection development do not always come equipped with all of the information that they need to understand the process. Among the many things that may be a mystery are the services of book vendors and the ins and outs of approval plans. Alison Griffin and Sarah Forzetting of Ingram Coutts outline current approval practices, provide an overview of the approval process including where it came from, how it operates, and they highlight current issues facing the industry such as integrating e-books and mediating Patron Driven Acquisitions. This chapter provides a rare opportunity to learn about what goes on behind the scenes in the commercial side of the library world.

Collecting Practices across Disciplines

The basics of good collection management practice is transferrable from position to position and across subjects; however, in every discipline there are specifics that are unique and often are known only to those with experience. In this section, experts from eight disciplines shed light on subject-specific collecting.

There are many general and specialized resources available to aid in the teaching and research of business students and faculty. These resources are often complex and consist of many specialized types of information. In their chapter, Leslie Farison and Georgie L. Donovan of Appalachian State University define and analyze various types of business information and suggest criteria to be used to select the most appropriate resources for curricular and research needs. The authors also recommend strategies for outreach and training so that selectors working with business collections can maximize use by students and faculty of these unique and often expensive resources by promoting them and educating users about how to best use them.

No one would question the transformative impact of digital resources on libraries. The emergence and proliferation of electronic legal research resources coupled with the call for more practice and skills-based training of lawyers has forced law libraries to break away from the traditional model. Mark P. Bernstein and John Cannan of Drexel University examine the changing trends and best practices for collection development in academic law libraries.  The authors outline the historical development of the law school as a professional school and stress the need for academic law libraries to become learning laboratories for educating lawyers and providing them with the tools and resources to practice law.

Students, faculty, and researchers in design programs have complex needs and as such, librarians collecting to support these programs must understand the nature of design and how it is taught so that they may better develop collection policies and make decisions. In her chapter, Amauri R. Serrano of Appalachian State University provides an overview of collection development for design disciplines in higher education that includes selection, planning and assessment, budgetary issues, and marketing. The chapter includes an examination of the specific challenges of design collection development, namely the cross-disciplinarity of the subject matter, the current transition from technical know-how to whole system thinking, the selection of trade and academic materials, and format and access issues.

There has been little written about effectively developing library and information science collections. Perhaps this is because librarians assume that it is a simple and straightforward process to select for one's own profession. This may not indeed be the case. In addition to providing advice on best practices for collecting, Susan E. Searing of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, outlines the challenges that library and information science selectors face including the proliferation of distance education programs, the interdisciplinarity of the field, the shifting landscape of electronic publishing, serial price increases, the drive for assessment, negative perceptions of the quality of the literature, and the need to promote collection use.

Libraries at theological schools (which may also be called divinity schools, divinity faculties, seminaries, or theological colleges) or at institutions supporting a professional theological program, collect materials in support of students pursuing master’s degrees in preparation for ordination and religious leadership in a branch or denomination of the Christian church, or for careers in religious education, social work, counseling, and chaplaincy. In his chapter, Geoffrey Little of Concordia University (Canada) discusses how to build collections at theological libraries, the importance of print and online reference works such as language dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias in theological library collections, indexes and databases for theological studies, important journals, the different categories of theological monographs, collection development policies, special collections in theological libraries, dealing with gifts and donors, and professional development resources for theological librarians.

Many librarians are asked to manage collections in engineering and technology although they have no academic background in the subject.  Librarians in this situation face two major obstacles to success: learning how engineers use different types of information and becoming familiar with the language of engineering. William Baer and Crystal Renfro of the Georgia Institute of Technology have crafted their chapter to help both new and seasoned engineering librarians improve their collection management skills. In addition, the authors explain how to determine information needs and the process of creating a collection development policy as well as discuss issues and challenges such as creating buy-in for open access initiatives and dealing with the inevitable journal cancellation projects resulting from ever-increasing subscription prices.

Librarians responsible for allied health or health sciences materials collect and maintain resources such as print and electronic books and journals, non-book materials such as anatomical models and flashcards, citation and full-text databases, and point-of-care resources.  To simplify the process, there are selection aids for all stages of collecting as well as methods of assessing a collection's strengths and weaknesses. In her chapter, Kathryn Zybeck of Methodist University sets out to provide helpful information about collecting medical materials including print books, e-books, non-book materials such as anatomical models and flashcards, journals, electronic resources, and point-of-care tools.  Much of the information is based on the author’s personal experiences of taking a collection that was badly out of date and turning it into a useful and dynamic resource for undergraduate students studying biology, chemistry, athletic training, exercise science, and healthcare administration and graduate students studying a physician assistant curriculum.

The history of American higher education shows a long-time tension between disciplinary and interdisciplinary influences.  Studies of the history of higher education show that the issue of disciplinary versus interdisciplinary education has been debated for some 100 years. Many interdisciplinary programs, especially those developed over the last five years, are career-oriented and are structured similarly to professional programs such as law or engineering. Cynthia Lenox's chapter serves to orient librarians to collection development strategies that address the particular needs of interdisciplinary programs by presenting them with a broad view of the issues they may face.  It includes a summary of the history, trends, and budget issues that impact the growth of interdisciplinary programs.  This approach will provide a context for academic librarians such that they will be able to more confidently discuss the issues with colleagues in the library and the classroom.

Deeper into the Discipline

In the previous section, the chapters outlined the diverse collecting practices and resources used for some of the major disciplines in academia. However, many librarians are tasked with selecting materials for one or more of the sub-fields in a particular discipline. The chapters in this section will illustrate how librarians can build collections that are fine-tuned for these individual subjects.

When selecting materials in graphic art and design, the information needs of a diverse community of users must be considered, including scholars engaged in teaching and academic research, undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in graphic design programs, students enrolled in specialized technical institutes, and design professionals. Patricia Pettijohn, Allison Etzel, and Anne Killenberg of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg describe why collecting for graphic design requires a combination of standard selection practices, such as use of core bibliographies and reviews, approval profiles and plans, and comparison with peer and aspirant institutions, with more unconventional approaches, such as perusal of graphic design blogs, monitoring of  interlibrary loan borrowing by graphic design students and faculty, and even use of Amazon reader reviews, where an active community of graphic designers share book lists and reviews.

When thinking about education in the applied and decorative arts, what often comes to mind are individual courses on subjects such as pottery, jewelry, and fiber arts. However, interior design and fashion design are disciplines that are likely to be found as degree granting, academic programs. Primarily, these programs are offered at the undergraduate level, but programs can also be found at the graduate level. In her chapter, Gwen Vredevoogd of Marymount University explains that the work of these professional programs is creative and practical rather than scientific or clinical, so it can be difficult to identify how research occurs in the creative process and what resources are needed. As a result, such programs can sometimes be ignored when it comes to collection development. Vredevoogd provides advice on how to build a collection that reaches beyond art history and fine art to satisfy the specific needs of interior and fashion design students and faculty.

While juvenile literature and materials are usually associated with public and school libraries, professional programs in the university often include courses that require students to evaluate and incorporate juvenile literature into their projects and assignments. In academic programs such as teacher education and library science, full courses are taught on the subject of children's and young adult literature. In their chapter, Todd Shipman, Greg Schmidt, and Susan Bannon of Auburn University further detail the need for juvenile literature collections in academic libraries. They also describe the nature of juvenile collections and their role in the academy, the process of establishing collection development policies to meet the needs of educators and librarians, the use of collection evaluation measures, selection tools and resources available to juvenile collection managers, and current issues in juvenile materials.

Nursing is a complex subject that encompasses many sub-topics. Just as academic nursing programs and curriculums have their own distinct characteristics, the academic libraries and nursing collections that support these programs also have unique aspects. For librarians new to the discipline, finding the resources that will best support the needs of their institution’s nursing population, programs, curriculum, and research can be a daunting prospect. Using information from collection development texts and articles, and drawing on her experience as a nursing librarian at a large, public university, Heidi M. Schroeder of Michigan State University Libraries provides readers with an overview of techniques for the evaluation, selection, and maintenance of academic nursing collections.

Veterinary libraries face many of the same challenges as any other academic or special library, such as space and budget challenges, materials inflation, and the consolidation of publishers, but they also face a special set of challenges in dealing with the nature of the veterinary literature and their small number of geographically dispersed colleague libraries. The strong tradition of cooperation and information sharing among veterinary librarians serves to mitigate these challenges. In that tradition, the authors of this chapter, Esther Carrigan (Texas A&M University), Ana Ugaz (Texas A&M University), Heather K. Moberly (Oklahoma State University), Jessica Page (Ohio State University), Kristine M. Alpi (North Carolina State University), and Carol Vreeland (North Carolina State University) have collaborated to provide an overview of collection development in veterinary medicine in the United States.  The chapter builds on standard concepts and operations in collection development to emphasize what is different or special in the context of the veterinary medical literature and the veterinary medical library and to provide practical advice and strategies relative to collection development for veterinary medicine.

Bioinformatics is a relatively new field and, to date, little research has been conducted on developing library collections in bioinformatics. In her chapter, Victoria Martin of George Mason University helps to fill this gap by offering a broad summary of collection development principles and practices as seen from the perspective of a liaison librarian for whom collection development is just one component of her job. The text examines current trends in bioinformatics study, teaching, and research and how these trends affect the information seeking patterns of bioinformaticians, describes the characteristics of a bioinformatics library collection, identifies the types of resources used most frequently by bioinformatics faculty and students, and suggests selection criteria of various library materials. Skills and competencies, and educational and training opportunities that will help a bioinformatics librarian achieve greater success are also described.

Experiences and Data from the Field

As has been mentioned previously, much of the knowledge acquired in the area of collection development comes after one is in a position where that is part of the job description. It naturally follows that practice is influenced by the particular environment in which the work is being done. In this section, the chapter authors will present models, methods, projects, and survey responses to illustrate the importance of tailoring selection to each unique situation.

The position of liaison librarian is becoming increasingly common in academic libraries and it is a model that divides a librarian's time among many different, yet related functions; one of which is collection development. The Louisiana State University Libraries treats collection development as a very important responsibility and in its service to the College of Engineering, collection development is a key element of support for the university’s mission. Alice L. Daugherty, Will E. Hires, and Stephanie G. Braunstein describe the liaison model at their institution, how its multiple functions relate to collection development, and in particular to the selection of materials for teaching, learning, and research in engineering.

The organization of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and the School of Nursing at Murray State University was created to support research in the following fields: nursing, social work, gerontology, nutrition, dietetics, food management, communication disorders, occupational safety and health, and wellness and therapeutic sciences (which includes athletic training, recreation and leisure services, and youth and nonprofit leadership). Using the example of Murray State, Julie Robinson explores the myriad factors that come into play and must be considered by librarians tasked with collection development in nursing and health sciences.

In 1999, the McGill University Faculty of Law began offering a unique program geared towards all undergraduate McGill Law students that offers them the opportunity to learn two legal systems, including civil and common law, in a comparative and interdisciplinary approach. In his chapter, Maryvon Côté looks at the unequalled transformation of collection development in an academic law library that is necessary when a faculty decides to change the structure of undergraduate legal education. He includes an explanation of the concept of mixed legal jurisdictions and the reasons behind a law school decision to create a transsystemic legal education curriculum. In addition, he illustrates the impact of this new program on the students' legal education and enumerates the challenges of transforming a library collection development policy and its services.

In 2009, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library initiated a major project to increase and update its human anatomy holdings to better support its divergent curricular and clinical resource needs. This project began with a few simple requests and evolved into a complex endeavor requiring an extensive internal review, the selection of multiple varieties of new resources, and a major publicity campaign. Susan Swogger uses the anatomy project case study as a framework to discuss strategies and best practices for materials selection to support multiple professional schools with similar but distinct curriculum needs. She also includes a discussion of one of the equally critical but occasionally neglected aspects of collection development––marketing the resources to the users, and continuing follow-up.

Montana Tech of The University of Montana, located in Butte, Montana, is a small university specializing in engineering, science, energy, health, technology, and information sciences.  The Montana Tech Library houses 79,600 books covering diverse topics such as nursing, geotechnical engineering, mining engineering, metallurgy, and petroleum engineering. In this chapter, Scott Juskiewicz, and Betsy Harper Garlish present the 2008 project that aimed to weed the entire book collection. Parts of the collection such as nursing had been assessed during the previous three years but the collection as a whole had not been assessed in thirty years. The library’s goal was to build a true use collection emphasizing print materials that are of immediate necessity and value. The authors describe how, in creating such a collection for the students and faculty, it was important to incorporate those users into the assessment process, and how this was accomplished and managed. 

St. John Fisher College is a small liberal arts college in upstate New York that has a robust nursing program offering courses of study for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. In her chapter, Michelle Price identifies the steps to create a continuous, systematic weeding schedule for nursing. The SWIPE (Systematic Weeding to Identify Purchases) method employs a model of systematic weeding and identification of purchases that combines faculty subject expertise and librarian searching skills. The chapter also shows how to use the schedule to capitalize on weeding to identify items for purchase and how to efficiently translate the work into purchases with built-in prioritization.

What are the collection development models being used in academic architecture libraries? Do the subject librarians merely voice their opinion on collection decisions, or do they take primary responsibility for adding new materials to the collection? What is the role of faculty? In this chapter, Barbara Opar of Syracuse University presents the results of a survey she conducted and uses them to provide an overview of each of the aspects of collection development as well as the many models of collection building used in the field. For each task, she includes a brief description of what is involved along with some of the problems that can arise as well as lessons learned through experience.

For the students and instructors in teacher education programs, the tools of practice are the items that make up academic curriculum collections. What elements make up these collections and what influences their content? Where can a new librarian looking to establish best practices for his or her own collection find benchmarks for comparison? In the volume's final chapter, the editor (Sara Holder of McGill University) attempts to answer these and other questions by analyzing collection data and opinions gathered through a survey of librarians responsible for curriculum collections across North America. 

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Sara Holder is an Associate Librarian and Head of the Education Library and Curriculum Resources Centre at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. She began her work at the McGill Library in 2005 as a Data Specialist in the Electronic Data Resources Service. Prior to arriving at McGill, she worked as a Reference Librarian and as the Interim Project Manager/Associate Director of the Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive at Princeton University. Sara received her MLIS from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and her BA from Vassar College. She is active in numerous professional organizations, and she serves as a manuscript referee for several publications. Sara's publications have appeared both in monographs and in open access journals and she is a frequent reviewer for Library Journal. Her research interests include the changing role of librarians, library assessment strategies, information literacy, and collection development.

Editorial Board

  • Kathryn Bartelt, University of Evansville, USA
  • Mary K. Chelton, Queens College (CUNY), USA
  • Brian Coutts, Western Kentucky University, USA
  • Paul Glassman, Felician College, USA
  • Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal, USA
  • Eloise Hitchcock, Cumberland University, USA
  • Robert T. Ivey, University of Memphis, USA
  • Nancy Mactague, Aurora University, USA
  • Sue Polanka, Wright State University, USA