Focus on collection development: a report on ALA Midwinter 2008

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 18 April 2008



Cassell, K.A. (2008), "Focus on collection development: a report on ALA Midwinter 2008", Collection Building, Vol. 27 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Focus on collection development: a report on ALA Midwinter 2008

Article Type: Focus on collection development: a report on ALA Midwinter 2008 From: Collection Building, Volume 27, Issue 2.

One of the pleasures of an American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter meeting is the preponderance of discussion groups. I attended two discussion groups the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Collection Development for the Practitioners Interest Group and Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)/ALTCS Collection Management in Public Libraries Discussion Group.

The ALCTS discussion group began by discussing what they perceived to be the declining importance of collection development librarians. This group of predominately academic librarians discussed the role of collection development librarians in libraries that use approval plans for the majority of their selection. They agreed that their role in selection is changing. Collection development librarians are now spending their time as follows:

  • working with vendors on customizing approval plans;

  • developing, monitoring and adjusting monograph approval plan profiles;

  • monitoring e-book packages and selecting e-books;

  • monitoring electronic resource packages;

  • selection of all formats of materials not arriving through approval plans;

  • developing the most cost effective ways to handle interlibrary loan requests such as buying the books requested;

  • more emphasis on assessing of collections;

  • more outreach publicizing collections; and

  • developing guidelines for selection of materials in all formats such as always buying material in electronic format if available.

By working with vendors libraries can make their plans work for them and not just accept a plan as formulated by the vendor. Most vendors are willing to customize their plans to suit the needs of the library. For example, if a vendor provides shelf-ready books from approval plans, the library has no chance to return books not needed. So one library uses the shelf ready plan only for mainstream material giving it some ability to return non-mainstream materials sent but not needed.

Discussions about e-books led to the observation that the use of e-books needs more research. Not everyone thinks the e-book packages are satisfactory yet they can be the most economical way to acquire e-books. Librarians are still not sure how users are reacting to e-books and whether they can be a replacement for paper.

Libraries are also using Library 2.0 technology in their collection development tasks. One library uses a wiki to enable the staff to discuss electronic purchases. Another uses blogs to provide a forum to make the staff aware of new books. Yet another has a professional FaceBook account.

The RUSA/ALCTS discussion group focused on collection management in public libraries. The first topic was weeding. Public libraries are selectively using circulation reports to assist in weeding such as the “dusty book” report and the zero circulation report. They stressed the importance of weeding as a way to educate staff on how users are using the collection which can result in important information being relayed to the staff doing centralized ordering. Jefferson County (CO) has a floating collection among its branches so it has had to develop a centralized method of weeding. The weeding is done through the online catalog with materials marked for discard. The branches then remove the materials from the shelves. Training for staff involved in weeding includes: having mentors to help staff get started, giving them a tool kit of information such as the CREW manual, and encouraging them to monitor materials by format and date to see what is circulating. For example, many books that are more than three years old do not circulate. Another approach is to display books that do not circulate to see if this will encourage their use.

Another topic of this group was circulation and whether non-fiction circulation is dropping. Phoenix has noticed a big drop in non-fiction circulation especially for materials that are more than three years old. They found that a well-weeded non-fiction collection seemed to make the circulation go up. Marketing also seemed to help such as a display of books reviewed on National Public Radio (NPR). Pittsburgh asks the staff to do new non-fiction displays. All seemed to agree that the circulation of children’s non-fiction seemed to be going down nationwide. On the other hand, fiction circulation has remained strong.

Kay Ann Cassell

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