The human element in collection development

Kay Ann Cassell (Department of Communication and Information, Rutgers The State University, New Jersey, USA)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 6 July 2015



Cassell, K.A. (2015), "The human element in collection development", Collection Building, Vol. 34 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The human element in collection development

Article Type: Editorial From: Collection Building, Volume 34, Issue 3

It is interesting to see how collection development has changed and continues to change. It was not so long ago that we did a tremendous amount of selection title-by-title. Then, vendors stepped in and offered us alternative ways to order that saved time and produced similar results. One way was approval plans which gave libraries the opportunity to develop a profile and the vendor to identify materials that fit the profile. Libraries still continued to do some title-by-title ordering to strengthen their collections and to fill in the gaps that were identified. Although librarians were somewhat dubious about this new way of doing collection development, they began to accept this as a practical way to do collection development, especially as their other duties increased. At first, it was mostly academic libraries that used approval plans. They were interested in acquiring new, up-to-date material that has been well-reviewed to expand their resources in areas of study and interest to faculty and students. Now, of course, many and sometimes most materials are acquired as e-books, although some libraries continue to acquire some materials in print. E-books are usually offered in packages, although title-by-title selection is possible.

Later, public libraries began to make more use of vendor selection. Sometimes, it was a plan to automatically receive materials that were going to be very popular or receive materials that were in a series and the library wanted each book in the series. Then, we saw libraries like the Phoenix Public Library turning a great deal of their selection over to a vendor but with careful monitoring of the selection. Next, new systems have been developed that keep track of what materials are circulating in a library system to be used to analyze what is in demand and what is seldom used and in a multi-branch system to see if books in one branch would be more popular in another branch. E-books are also part of public library collections and packages of e-books are offered here too as well as title-by-title selection.

We are using much more technology and vendor services in our collection development. This is practical and often helps us to make good decisions about our collections, as we have more information available about collection use. It also gives us more time to manage our collections and discover collection gaps we have not noticed. But I do think we still have to add a qualitative component to our collection development work. Not everything can be solved by vendors and new technology. Some part of our collection development needs the input of people serving users. We may not know exactly how this will work, but I think we need to keep trying to find a way to add the human element into our work.

Kay Ann Cassell