Over the past decade, the concept of a Collection Development (CD) team has changed dramatically. Gone are the days of determining what more a library can purchase to bolster title and volume count. Now the charge has to be much more connected to being good stewards of tuition dollars. I clearly remember being told a number of years ago that money the students pay in tuition is no longer their money once it is paid. While it may not technically be their money at that point, the amount of it we collect certainly has an impact on them and should be spent judiciously. Decisions concerning the collection are important since they often can take up large portions of the budget. In the frenetic workplace, it is easy for formal collection development to fall by the wayside. Librarians are being utilized in new ways both in the classroom and the library with time constraints that are very different than a decade ago. However, there are a few reasons that make a CD team more relevant than ever.
- Representatives from multiple library departments comprising a team fuel increased communication. If multiple areas are represented, then decisions become more thought out and balanced. Technical Services librarians have a unique perspective concerning the cataloging of print materials and the accessibility of online databases. An engaged faculty member could bring an interesting patron perspective to the table. Meetings do not need to be often, but once a month or a few times a semester are enough to create an agenda and accomplish some basic CD tasks such as reviewing major purchases and assessing portions of the policy.
- The value of continued print, the accessibility of online materials, and the preservation of historical items need to be discussed in an acceptable forum. These are current issues that each library is grappling with today. While cookie-cutter answers may work in some situations, random decisions affecting collections may create a snowball effect of inconsistencies. Cleaning up the mess would be a lot more work than having the well-thought-out process of regularly meeting as a group.
- Selection of titles still needs to be conducted. If the library is involved in weeding or de-selection, it should not be at the hands of just one person. Even if you have moved to an on-demand purchase plan, it needs to be revisited. Reserve, reference, or other higher demand items require reviewing.
- Collection development fosters team work and collegiality among library staff. A staff of five should have the same opportunities as a staff of 25. A team with a purpose and specific charge can have a real impact on the day-to-day operation of the library through collection development. Seemingly insignificant decisions as to particular study aids purchases can affect library use in significant ways. The team can take pride in successes related to collection development.
- Sudden changes in publishers may cause hurried decisions from the director. A team that meets regularly will be able to assist in making those decisions more quickly since they are familiar with the CD policy and needs of patrons. If you have end of the fiscal year decisions to be made, a group that meets regularly is more agile in making decisions in tight timeframes.
With valuable monetary resources at a premium, cooperative agreements and consortia arrangements are becoming very popular. Such decisions can be best analyzed in a group setting with tasks related to investigating and implementing CD related changes delegated to various members. A solid CD team equates to more efficient use of resources.
If you do not have a formal CD team, now is the time to encourage the formation of one. Two or three people meeting regularly with a set agenda and focus allows for better planning overall. If your team is dormant, now is the time to revive it. There are many resources out there to help with collection development policy creation but few places to seek out CD team management and operation information. That does not make the concept any less valuable. Let the team develop on its own given a very broad charge. Collection development plans are meant to be active, working documents. Using some type of team to implement, review, and update that plan truly creates solid, simpler decision making.