Collection Management

Collection management is a process of information gathering, communication, coordination, policy formation, evaluation, and planning.  These processes, in turn, influence decisions about the acquisition and retention of materials and the access to information sources that support the needs of a given community.  The public library system collects materials based on its mission and goals and the communities it serves.  The types of materials can vary greatly depending on the library system’s defined roles.



A collection management policy is not just a selection policy.  It also incorporates procedures and policies for adding/removing materials, describes collection and relevance to communities served, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and establishes collection goals.  The term “collection development” has been integrated into the process of collection management.

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Every library system should have a collection management policy that:

  • documents how collection was built and describes future expansion
  • focuses on communities’ interests
  • serves as consistent guide for selection
  • defines the scope of collection and limitations
  • establishes role of intellectual freedom in collection
  • outlines procedures for dealing with challenges

The policy should be a collaborative effort of the director, staff, the board, and the communities. The length of the policy varies depending on the size and the complexity of the communities served. A collection management policy is not static and should be reviewed annually and adjusted to reflect changes in the communities, the library system’s mission and goals, and the collection itself. A collection management policy may include:

  • Introduction
  • Mission Statement
  • Purpose of the policy
  • Environmental Description
  • Community and user groups defined (Community Assessment)
  • Patron needs and services/programs (Needs Assessment)
  • Funding considerations
  • General Statement Describing the Collection Goals
  • Subject areas (Dewey Classes) collected
  • Formats
  • Multiple copies
  • Languages
  • Special collections
  • Professional Considerations
  • Cooperative collection management and Interlibrary Loan
  • Collection responsibilities and selection procedures
  • Gifts Policy
  • Complaints (reconsideration) and censorship

To be effective in collection management, the director and staff need to consider these issues:

  • Organization and mission of the library system
  • Needs of the communities served
  • Utilization of collection by its customers
  • Formats of materials in collection
  • How the materials budget is allocated, spent, and monitored
  • Involvement of staff in the selection process – branch and/or headquarters
  • Selection of vendors
  • Process of purchasing
  • Types of donated materials accepted
  • Plan for marketing and usage of collection


Selection Process

The selection process component of collection management is essential in building and maintaining a good collection.  Having procedures in place can stretch funds by reducing impulse buying. There are some practical selection activities:

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  • Track trends and events in publishing by reading reviews and consulting trade reviews and national bibliographies.
  • Know the demographics of the communities served.
  • Keep current on local and world events and popular culture trends through utilizing various print and non-print media resources.
  • Talk to patrons about what they would like to see in their communities.
  • Keep track of series titles.


Selection Criteria in General

Selection is likely based on knowledge of community reading interests combined with review sources.  Service desk personnel with direct contact with the public can provide a wealth of information.  A process should be established to also encourage customer input.  General selection criteria should include:

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  • Subject matter
  • Construction quality
  • Potential use
  • Relationship to the collection
  • Bibliographic Considerations
  • Cost


Selection Tools

Selection tools are critical in making decisions.  However, such tools are limiting in that only a fraction of the available resources on a topic are reviewed. Included in this category are book and media reviews, “best of” lists, subject lists and Internet resources of standard bibliographic sources.

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  • Publisher’s Weekly Email Newsletters –
    • Readers can choose from newsletters about children’s publishing, religious publishing, new book deals, upcoming releases, or a special newsletter specifically for librarians. Good way to keep apprised of the publishing world.

Printed Book and Media Reviews – Reviews provide descriptive and evaluative information used in place of physically examining the item.  A review also makes comparisons to similar works.   However, it is important to understand the goal of the review (is it to promote, announce, describe, or evaluate a new book or new media item?); the source of the book or media review (is it in a reputable reviewing source that is impartial?); and the authority of the reviewer. Reviews have limitations and should not be used as the sole selection aid. One limitation is the length of time it takes for reviews to be published.  Another is the small fraction of new book and media items that are actually reviewed. Many publications are reviewed in only one source with titles from small presses oftentimes not being reviewed at all.  Examples of print resources for book and media reviews include:  School Library Journal, Booklist, Book Links, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, and Library Journal.

  • “Best of” and Recommended Title Lists—These “best of” and recommended title lists can be used as collection checklists.  If a library system is limited in reviewing sources, using annual compilations of award-winning books and media can expand the scope of the collection by adding titles previously missed. Many divisions of the American Library Association curate annual lists, such as ALSC and YALSA.
  • Subject Lists—For almost every subject area, there are lists that include works considered vital to that subject area.  Annotated lists of books and media titles in particular subjects sometimes appear in the regular reviewing sources such as the Collection Development lists in Library Journal.  In using these subject lists, it is important to keep in mind that these lists were not compiled with the community needs or collection goals of a specific library in mind.
  • Online Bookstores—Online bookstores that enable libraries to search and purchase print books over the Internet can provide a selector with a quick and easy way to find publication information for a wide range of books. These sites also provide a convenient method for purchasing books that are needed very quickly. Since these sites are not curated by or for librarians, they should only be used as an information source, not a recommendation tool.


Collection Assessment

Collection assessment involves both the library’s collection and its use. The aim is to determine how well the collection supports the goals, needs, and mission of the library.  Collection analysis methods can include the following:

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  • Quantitative
  • Collection-based
  • Collection/growth
  • Materials budget size/growth
    • Collection size standards and formulas
  • Use or user-based
  • Interlibrary loan statistics
  • Circulation statistics
  • In-house use statistics
  • Document delivery statistics
  • Shelf availability statistics
  • Qualitative
  • Collection-based
  • List checking
  • Verification studies
  • Citation analysis
  • Direct collection checking
  • Collection mapping (assigning conspectus levels)
  • Brief tests of collection strength
  • Use or user-based
  • User opinion surveys
  • User observation
  • Focus groups


Collection Maintenance (Weeding)

Discarding or withdrawal of items from a library’s collection can be difficult for many reasons, but it is an essential feature of a collection management program.  Librarians are often hesitant to “weed,” “deselect,” “withdraw,” or “remove” from the collection dated and/or non-circulating materials.  Reasons often given include:

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  • Weeding is a time-consuming process
  • Staff resistance
  • Negative reaction by the community and/or library board
  • Reluctance to admit possible selection mistakes
  • Cost to update collection resources
  • Fear that one might weed something of value or something with needed information
  • “Anything is better than nothing” philosophy – Don’t let the public leave without something, even if dated

One of the most intrinsic benefits to “weeding” a library’s collection lies in the documented fact that circulation will increase because browsing or finding materials is easier when shelves are less cluttered.  Further, as circulation increases, shelving times and other collection maintenance activities are also easier; this may also increase user satisfaction.

Weeding a library’s collection is a continuous process that includes not only books, but all types of materials.  To be effective in weeding, the library system needs to have an organized plan (policy) with specific priorities and assignments.  There are many different lists with suggested retention time spans, usually by Dewey classification numbers, that can assist in developing this plan.  Most libraries do not weed the entire collection in a year, but based upon collection priorities, withdraw and update with new purchases in specific sections so that over a three to five-year period the entire collection is reviewed.


Deselection (“Weeding”) Methods

The CREW (Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding) method for weeding both book and media materials is used by many libraries.  It is an effective process.  Central to its concept is the acronym – “MUSTIE” which means:

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  • Misleading and/or factually inaccurate;
  • Ugly (worn out beyond mending or rebinding);
  • Superseded by a new edition or better source;
  • Trivial (of no discernable literary or scientific merit to the collection);
  • Irrelevant to the needs and interests of your community; and
  • Elsewhere (the materials are obtained from another source through interlibrary loan, if needed).

In an effective “weeding” process, the library system combines the “MUSTIE” concepts with additional factors:

  • Date/Author
  • Currency
  • Publisher
  • Physical condition
  • Availability of additional copies
  • Shelf-time (non-circulation)
  • Replacement expense
  • Relevance to the community
  • Similar resources available in the collection

As a collection is weeded, the library system is faced with the problem of disposing of the withdrawn materials.  In Mississippi, the administrative board of trustees has the responsibility for disposing of equipment and property according to the Mississippi Code 1972 Annotated §39-3-19 (j).  Public library systems should have a standard operating procedure regarding the disposal of broken, non-used equipment and withdrawn materials.  Disposal actions need to be documented in the board’s minutes.  Administrative boards can sell, donate (usually to the Friends of the Library), trade, recycle or destroy all withdrawn materials and equipment.


Special Collections

In a public library, a “special collection” is often what is considered “special” by that particular community.  Many Mississippi public libraries have some type of basic genealogy and/or local history collection that is considered a “special” collection.  There are a variety of other special collections, including an archaeology collection and numerous photographic collections.

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Prior to accepting a “gift” for a special collection, the library system director should discuss the possible donation(s) with the benefactor in light of the library system’s policy.  At that time, any conditions of the gift should be identified before a decision about accepting the items is made.  When a decision is made, a deed of ownership should be prepared by the library system’s attorney acknowledging the gift and signed by the donor and the library director.  Once items have been donated to a library, these materials become the property of the library system, and are governed by the policies adopted by the administrative library board.

If the library system has difficulties funding a basic collection, perhaps adding a special collection, even one that has been donated, may not be in the library’s best interest.  Maintaining special collections will require additional funding for materials, staff and promotional efforts.

In starting a special collection, there should be a clear, written policy outlining the parameters to the collection.  Such a policy will reduce local public relations problems and misunderstandings. The policy should detail usage guidelines, especially if the requirements are different from those for the regular collection.  Most special collection materials are non-circulating and usage may be restricted to a particular section of the library.  Access issues are also specified in many policies, in part, due to the fragile condition or uniqueness of the materials, such as old photographs, newspapers, or scrapbooks.  Often, staff may be required to provide services not usually necessary with other collections.

Other issues to consider in written policy for special collections are:

  • Is the special collection in a closed stack area?  Or is the area maintained by a staff member who can assist the patron at all times?  Will staff be available to assist with operation of equipment, such as a microfilm machine?
  • Will the library involve volunteers with the special collection?  What will be the duties of the volunteers?  Will there be a recruitment, training, evaluation process and recognition program?
  • Are hours different from other areas of the collection?  Are materials located in the general library catalog?  What online sources are available for use for this particular collection?
  • Who will be allowed to photocopy?  Copyright Issues?  What are the costs involved with photocopying?
  • Are personal materials (i.e., notebooks, pens, laptops, digital cameras, scanners) allowed in the special collection?  If not, are there lockers provided for storage of such items?

Implementing or maintaining a “special collection” can be a wonderful service for the community, but it can have drawbacks.  With a well-organized service program, many of these issues can be addressed to the satisfaction of the community, director and staff, and the library board.



American Library Association. “Collection Development.” ALA, 19 April 2016. <>


Baker, Sharon L. and Karen L. Wallace.  The Responsive Public Library: How to Develop and Market a Winning Collection.  2nd edition.  Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2002. (027.473 B168 2002)

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Boon, Belinda.  The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-Sized Public Libraries.  Austin, Texas: Texas State Library, 1995. (025.216 B724 1995)


Evans, G. Edward.  Developing Library and Information Center Collections.  5th edition.  Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2005.  (025.21 E92 2005)


“Local History and Genealogy.”  Your Library.  Services.  Reference.  DeKalb County Public Library.  December 2003.  29 June 2004. < >


Johnson, Peggy.  Fundamentals of Collection Development & Management. 3rd edition. Chicago: American Library Association, 2014.  (025.21 J68 2014)


Kovacs, Diane K. And Kara L. Robinson.  The Kovacs Guide to Electronic Library Collection Development: Essential Core Subject Collections, Selection Criteria, and Guidelines. 2nd edition. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2009.  (025.284. K88 2009)


Mississippi Library Association.  Intellectual Freedom Committee.  Resource Manual.  Revised edition.  Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Library Association, 1997.


Slote, Stanley J.  Weeding Library Collections: Library Weeding Methods.  4th edition.  Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 1997.  (025.216. S634 1997)