Hoarding is not collection development
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Making a Collection Count


The Mission-Collection Connection

Practical Librarian - Mission statement

A library’s collection exists to help the library meet its mission. When you are having trouble letting go of non-circulating library materials, or talking the Powers That Be into allowing you to do some weeding, this is a great point to make. I love the fortune cookie message in the image above. Applied to library collections, it is a great reminder that collection management is an execution of public trust. Any publicly-funded institution would do well to remember where their funding comes from. This is particularly important now, when IMLS stands to be eliminated from the 2018 federal budget. (Fight for Libraries!)

There are a few documents that may help put the library collection into perspective:

  • The library has a mission statement. It may include values like lifelong learning, literacy, information needs, or curriculum support, for example.
  • The library also has a collection management policy that states how its collections will fulfill its mission. What will the library collect, for whom, and why? For example, perhaps a public library will collect audio books for children to enhance literacy efforts for auditory learners. Maybe a university library will collect science journals in electronic format to increase access to research materials for students and faculty.
  • Collection objectives detail the purpose of each collection and criteria for selection. They dictate what the librarian is hoping to accomplish with each collection and state criteria for selection. If you will collect audio books for children, which audio books will you choose? You may choose to only those collect classic fiction titles that are included in the curriculum. You may choose to only collect foreign language audio instruction in the languages that are taught in the school. You may choose to collect only unabridged audio books and avoid abridgements altogether. You may choose to avoid non-fiction titles in date-sensitive subject areas due to their short shelf life and high unit cost. Collection objectives help you select the best materials for the collection, and also to weed materials that don’t help the collection accomplish its goals.
  • Then there are collection benchmarks. They set a standard or expectation for a collection. You can then follow data to see if the collection is performing as expected. Of course, expectations are different for different materials. You wouldn’t hold a Latin dictionary to the same age or circulation benchmark as a James Patterson novel, for example. Benchmarks are a great way to weed because it becomes very clear which items are “working” (ie. helping the library meet its mission) and which aren’t.

This is a more holistic way of looking at collection management. So often a library has a mission statement and a collection policy, but they don’t consider how those two items relate. Adding the collection objectives and benchmarks add even more layers of analysis that encourage holistic collection management.


*Image labeled for reuse. Attribute: https://www.flickr.com/photos/glennbatuyong/3291425515


Gorbachev - coverMikhail Gorbachev
World Leaders Past & Present series

Submitter: Out of date and a B&W format. What could be more appealing in a YA book?  I am loathe to buy hardcover contemporary biographies because they are out of date by the time they hit library shelves. This book circulated once, twenty years ago, and most likely it was for the required biography book report. My library also has another title in the series on Anwar Sadat. They are both going to book purgatory. From the collection of [a] middle school.

Holly: This book was published in 1986, before any of the most important aspects of Gorbachev’s career as a world leader happened. It’s perfectly reasonable for a middle school library to have a book about Gorbachev, but it should really tell the whole story of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Fun facts: Gorbachev appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial in 1997, and also recorded an album of Russian ballads in 2009. (Source)

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When a Man Loves a Woman and a Librarian Loves Weeding

Michael Bolton cover

Michael Bolton: Time, Love, and Tenderness

Submitter: I started a new job at a small two-year college about a month ago, and most of my work so far has been figuring out just how bad the collection really is. The prior library director saw fit to have this 1993 fan publication library-bound to ensure its longevity. Thank goodness! It’s in pretty much pristine condition. Which it should be since it’s never circulated. Most pages feature a picture or six of MB–wearing different outfits, in the company of various starlets, playing softball. Very useful for your first year economics class or something.

Holly: I’d like to say that this is the first Michael Bolton book we’ve featured on ALB, but it isn’t. It is, however, the oldest! Why on earth would the Director bind something like this? Don’t let that stop you from weeding it, though. Better question: why would a two-year college have it in the collection at all?

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