Collection development for a public library is a challenge because of the individualized make-up of each city and their patrons. The challenge comes in discovering the reading habits and tastes of the patrons that use the library, the access level of its patrons within their system or cooperative if available, and the limitations of their budget.
My experiences of collection development have been varied, starting at a Slide Library now called a Visual Resources Center, then at an academic library and now a public library. My first experience in collection development started in selecting visual materials to develop areas of high use while working at an art college, first adding to well developed slide library, then in building our digital collections. At this school, I learned how to anticipate the needs of our patrons by looking at statistics of the highly used areas, talking with professors when they came in to select their items, and checking the course’s offered, especially new courses.
For new courses, the library would do a cursory assessment of what items were available that fit the scope of the course, then we would try and arrange a meeting with the professor to talk about their needs and the time allotment and resources necessary in order to have items ready. Our department would usually start with finding out how many of the items we could purchase through image vendors and doing an evaluation of books available in the library. In a visual library we are always trying to be conscientious about keeping to fair use law of shooting only 20 percent of the images in printed materials. This is why us try to find several resources to create the images, rather than one specific resource, which is what we try to remind professors when setting up their courses. The time it takes to do this type of assessment is why it’s important to constantly develop the collections beyond the required needs at any time.
The libraries development program became more refined when the school suddenly phased out the slide projectors and professors needed to switch to using digital images quickly. It was during this time of creating a new collection that these development strategies became more important. Other means of developing have been viewing the statistics of the digital collection of highest users, whether students or faculty and which areas are being used. Also, keeping track of new exhibitions and upcoming artist helps to anticipate trends that students and faculty will be using for inspiration or projects. Establishing a yearly schedule of development of visual materials in support of several art departments, especially in a department like architecture that has its own accrediting process.
Each of the means described have been ways of finding out the needs of our patrons, while continuing to develop the collection in a way to support the overall mission of the college. One of the advantages of working at the art college, was that I worked there for over ten years and had a very good sense of how the collection had developed over the years, how the professor’s used our collection, and trends of studying at the time. I would soon learn new challenges when working with an unfamiliar collection when I left Savannah.