Collection Management Policies

PolicyLet’s talk about collection management policies. Stay with me, now!

A library’s collection helps it meet its mission. The collection management policy explains how that will be accomplished. I’ve seen selection policies, deselection policies, and a gift policies, but that just is not enough. A fully-formed collection management policy is a working document that both the public and the staff will find useful. Here’s what to include:

General selection criteria

  • Who does your library collect materials for? For example, students, all ages, seniors, faculty, or even a variety of ages in the case of most public libraries.
  • What is the scope of your collection? Do you plan to collect popular materials, research materials, text books or other curriculum materials, or something else?
  • What constraints might you encounter or consider? Examples include space, availability, durability, format, demand, and budget.
  • Even more specific criteria may be considered when including items in the collection, such as reviews, local or historical significance, authority of the author to the subject, performance quality, and licensing contracts.
  • If appropriate to your library, include a clause that “selection of a work does not imply the library’s approval of the actions or ideas contained in that work.” This may not be necessary in some special libraries, such as faith-based school or church libraries.

Now that you’ve listed the general criteria that applies to all collections within the library, break down each specific collection. If you are a public library, you may want sections for adult, teen, and youth.

Within the adult section, you could include fiction, non-fiction, large print, reference materials, periodicals, audio books, video recordings, music recordings, games, ESL, genealogy, and whatever other special collections your library offers. It could be as simple as “Video recordings for the primary purpose of home entertainment, information, and instruction” and “Music recordings in a variety of genres and formats, to allow patrons to experience the art of music in its diversity.” Break each category down to the specific collections in that area.

Also include in your collection management policy:

  • Cooperatives and resource sharing. If your library participates in ILL, say so! What can you get, and from whom? How far reaching is your system (cooperative-wide, state-wide, world-wide).
  • Preservation, conservation, and maintenance. How far will your library go to repair items? Are you an archive? Will you send items out for re-binding? Under what circumstances? What will you do with items that cannot be repaired?
  • Extra copies. What is your holds-to-copies ratio? How many holds need to be in place before you buy another copy?
  • De-selection (Weeding). Under what circumstances will items be weeded? What will you do with them? How often will weeding be undertaken?

Your mileage may vary, and it will depend on your individual library, the services it offers, the materials it collects, and its mission and goals as to what you include in your policy. The information above is intended to serve as food for thought, not all-inclusive.

Click here for a sample collection management policy for a public library.


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