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.


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One comment

  1. The majority of our Middle-High School classrooms now have ceiling-mount LCD projectors, and every teacher has a laptop, which enables them to instruct with all kinds of media. They all used to have giant TVs on huge carts with dual DVD-VHS players. The school has gradually de-accessioned these. The implication for our library is that zero teachers have borrowed instructional VHS tapes for a while, and it would be hard to find a player system if they did–there are a couple still lingering. It felt really good weeding most of the VHS collection! And after speaking directly with certain teachers about keeping their “favorites,” I learned that I probably don’t have to hang onto what’s left.
    I brought the classic movies to the free bin at the public library…some people in the community still use them.
    We have a well-used DVD collection and the library budget supports teacher requests, but I can envision the day when I distribute those to classroom teachers who want them and free up some floor space by getting rid of that monster 10-drawer media cabinet. Besides, the current best practices in education don’t encourage “movie Fridays” anymore. Teachers use online clips, streaming video, and short, introductory material on DVD instead of playing the entire mini-series of anything. It’s important to recognize when materials and formats no longer support the needs of the school community.

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