Five Steps to Efficient, Economical Collection Development

Five Steps to Efficient, Economical Collection Development

Ann Hallyburton (Western Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1897-8.ch001
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Libraries’ collection development funding seems limited in the best financial times. In worse economic situations, those resources prove even scarcer. To ensure that the constituents served by libraries receive the best possible materials to meet their needs, developers must set purchasing priorities before spending the first dollar. A five-step process can aid developers in wisely spending funds. First, developers should devote the largest portion of collection building funds to meeting direct patron needs. The next largest fund portion goes toward “core” materials singled out by respected recommendation resources specific to relevant disciplines or genres. Holdings data from libraries with notable collections offer an additional avenue for identifying necessary items. Freely available, quality materials offer another opportunity to plug holes or accentuate collection areas. Finally, resources craved by the developer but not critical to the collection, should be judiciously considered.
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Priority setting is not a new concept to individuals who build and maintain collections, no matter the type or funding level of the library in question. Chan (2008) and Kusik and Vargas (2009) state emphatically that program needs must function as the primary driver behind collection development and advocate for reexamination of current funding models to insure expenditures still align with foremost needs and goals. Austenfeld (2009) outlines priority setting steps used by librarians at a small academic library to add materials supporting a new university program. Those steps recommend that, when collecting for a new subject area, librarians:

  • Meet with faculty members of the new program;

  • Use reviews, bibliographies, and searches of journal indices to create an “ideal collection” list;

  • Evaluate current library holdings;

  • Compare holdings to those of top collections in the field;

  • And estimate the cost of adding needed materials to the library collection.

The sheer quantity of materials in various formats now available complicates this priority setting, though. In his wide-reaching piece “Rethinking Research Library Collections: A Policy Framework for Straitened Times, and Beyond,” Hazen (2010) states the situation brought about by a profusion of Internet resources and online communications and proliferating journal titles has caused librarians and libraries to experience “a dual crisis of purpose and identity” (p. 116). Hazen (2010) goes on to describe the difficulties the library profession faces in defining, categorizing, and making accessible electronic and sometimes ephemeral resources such as blogs, raw datasets, and even genome sequences. These resources often serve multiple disciplines. As information types and resources become even more numerous and widely spread, librarians may find that adapting or cross-mapping existing classification methods makes resources more accessible to the individuals they serve and saves money by lessening duplication of resources across affiliated libraries (Hiebert, 2009).

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