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Dec 3 / Erin Vader

Collection Development Policy

Written by Priscilla Dahl Melesco

Information Policies direct library activities and affect library patrons with regular frequency. In the library, some of the policies that guide a patron’s experience include privacy policies, copyright policy, circulation policy and collection development policies. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science defines Information Policy as:

“The set of rules, formal and informal, that directly restrict, encourage, or otherwise shape flows of information.”[1]

Collection development has traditionally been the responsibility of librarians, who are familiar with the mission statement and goals of a library, the scope of collections and are knowledgeable about potential new sources of information. The Library of Congress Collections Policies Statements:

“…govern the Library’s collections development and acquisitions efforts. They provide framework to support the Libraries responsibilities to serve the Congress as well as the United States Government as a whole, the scholarly community, and the general public. The policies provide a plan for developing the collections and maintaining their existing strengths. They set forth the scope, level of collecting intensity and goals sought by the Library to fulfill its service mission.”[2]

How do collection development policies assist a library in achieving its mission and goals? Mission statements for public libraries address their roles as providers of access to information, literacy and cultural traditions. The library is a place of inspiration and education. The framework and guidance found within a collection development policy defines the process of selecting materials that reflect the overall purpose and objectives of the library.

The Conspectus model of collection development provides four reasons a library should have a written collection development policy. These are: Selection, Planning, Public Relations and the Wider Context.[3]  By following a written policy, personal bias is reduced; gaps identified, and the policy provides clarity and consistency. In Planning a Collection Development Policy, departments across the library are directed follow a similar course; and make selection choices within the context of library priorities, mission and budget. A collection development policy is a written document to be read, shared and interpreted by patrons, library staff and the community. It provides an understanding of the intention and direction of material selection. As libraries work in consortiums, a written policy is necessary for guidance and direction.

There are common threads which are woven through information policy and collection development policies. Both are created to provide formal, consistent and informed decision-making management and administration tools. The generation of collection development policy parameters will certainly shape and define the information resource choices and strengthen the collection value by providing consistency, direction and goals. Librarians are increasingly sharing this responsibility with their library patrons, who have a growing voice in collection development. The choices patrons make when selecting and reading e-books, through data-driven, library usage statistics and by formal request to the library staff are three ways patrons actively participate in collection development.

A transformation is occurring in libraries with the introduction of electronic resources. The advancement of e-book collections has introduced a new way for patrons to participate in resource selection, known as patron-driven acquisition, library e-book collections grow as patrons make their own development choices by downloading and reading online. Titles are selected by individual patrons, not only by library staff. These choices also provide specific and clear data on resource selection and usage. This resource data can be combined with circulation reports generated by integrated library systems to provide quantitative statistics to assist in a collection development policy.

Libraries revel in their ability to provide their community with culture, art, education and technology. To thrive, it is necessary to know what library patrons are looking for within the library, and to provide this to the community.  Libraries are encouraged to review and revise their collection development policies, and through this reflection understand how to best serve their patrons.

[1] What is Information Policy?, (2/3/99)retrieved from

[2] Collection Development and Policies, (11/2008), retrieved from

[3] Guidelines for a Collection Development Policy Using the Conspectus Model , (2001), retrieved from