Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask a Librarian: What's Collection Development?

Collection development. What is it, and why do we do it? Libraries have lots of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. We've got books, DVDs, CDs, journals, newspapers, online journals and more. I suppose it would be easy to assume the way we get more stuff is we go out and buy as much as we can of everything that's out there. Even assuming we had the money to buy everything, however, we still wouldn't. Why? It's all about collection development.

A library has to decide how best to serve the needs of its users. For example, if we went out and bought every graphic novel in print, we'd have a killer graphic novel collection as far as completeness goes. But what if our students really only need to have every *excellent* graphic novel that's been printed? What if they're more interested in quality, not quantity? And let's face it: we're under a tight budget. There are many resources in demand, and we have to weigh what to buy carefully. So collection development is the systematic expansion of the material a library owns.

Allow me to give an example.

When I first came to Mantor, they had decided to start collecting more films. To find out which films to purchase, librarians had contacted the film department, who had all sorts of good suggestions for films that fit their teaching and research interests. The result was a collection that was sort of all over the place. We had some good foreign films, puddles of good art films, but no real breadth. One of the first things I did was to look at the collection as a whole and decide it would be good to expand it. Thus, I added American classics, then world classics. I've branched out into Anime, documentaries, animation, horror, comedy--trying to get some strong titles in everything. As I continue to grow the collection, I'll start turning back to faculty for input. Now that we have the basics, we can expand the collection in areas most pertinent to our campus. For example, we have a class on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so we've added a fair bit of vampire films. We have another one coming up on films of the Coen Brothers, so those are getting added, as well.

So collection development isn't just about going out and buying stuff. It's about going out and buying the right stuff.

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