Learning Collection Development pt. 2

Postmaster General James A. Farley During National Air Mail Week, 1938

My first position in an academic library was as an adjunct replacement for a semester and I was just maintaining the collection development for several departments. This meant that a preset list of books to be ordered was given in case the departments didn’t fill their quota. I did run into a few problems with this method as soon as I began having the student employees process these lists for ordering.

The main problem with this type of development was that many of the books on this list were added years ago and were never updated, so a lot of the books were out of print or unavailable to purchase through our vendor. Many books in the academic publishing have small print runs, making them only available for a short time period. Books that may be of valuable information after their print run may be unavailable through the normal library vendor. And finding them through other vendors like Amazon or Alibris, you may find that the book that was once a reasonable price has now skyrocketed.

The other problem is the fact that the information may now be out of date due to new academic publishing on the topic, the library may already own other books that now cover the topic, or that type of research may now be out of vogue.  For all of these reasons, the ordering from these lists took longer for the students to check the library catalog, other vendors, and then get approval from me for an inflated price or to verify if the information was still valuable to the library. This approach of keeping a list of books seems to only be valuable if the list is weeded through yearly and problematic if kept too long.

My priority became to find out what the departments needed and keep them on task at sending their requests over in a timely manner, especially for new classes coming up. I would also add books that I read about from Choice Reviews and other magazines that complimented the courses taught at the school and the collection had gaps in topics. Since I was only at the library for a short time period, I didn’t get a chance to really figure out strategy for building, but I did get to see into another librarian’s approach to collection development.