Evaluation of the Collection Development Policy

3659 words (15 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Education Reference this

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Executive Summary

The aim of this report is to explore if and why a collection development policy is essential and valuable in the academic library field, and whether the Orinoco University should produce and employ a collection development policy. A literature search on collection development policy, and an analysis of the University of Melbourne and University of Queensland’s collection development policies was conducted to inform the outcomes of this report. The results of this report indicate that whilst there are some drawbacks to producing and adopting a collection development policy there are numerous advantages which support the development and use of a collection development policy in the academic library field. Generating and using a collection development policy can promote greater consistency in practices within libraries and help with the achievement of the library’s objectives (Johnson 2018). It is recommended that the development and use of a collection development policy should be strongly considered by the Orinoco University.

1. Introduction

The purpose of this report is to explore whether the Orinoco University should generate and employ a Collection Development Policy (CDP). The objectives of this report are to analyse and compare the collection development policies of the University of Queensland (UQ) and University of Melbourne (UM), highlight significant components of CDP, and explore why a policy document is essential in the academic library field. Information in this report has been obtained from a literature search and critical analysis of the Collection Development Policies (CDPs) of the UQ and UM. According to Johnson (2018, p. 82) a CDP is a document by which the library’s choice of resources, deselection and management of materials can be directed. There are mixed opinions about the importance of collection development policies (Chaputula & Kanyundo 2014 p. 317). Sanchez Vignau and Meneses (2005 p. 38) propose that a CDP is important in facilitating decision-making, however, other sources suggest that its development may be an ineffective use of time (Corrigan 2005, p. 65), it may become redundant (Snow 1996; Vickery 2004) and/or it may be too rigid or unclear (Mangrum & Pozzebon 2012, p. 109). The subsequent structure of this report is as follows: Abstract, Acknowledgements, Contents, Introduction, Main body of report, Conclusion, Recommendations and References.

2. Key elements of CDP

Johnson (2018) highlights that a CDP provides a standard for best practice by which progress can be assessed, assists with strategic planning, and promotes consistency and accountability. A CDP can inform librarians who manage collections and serve as an advantageous training tool for staff (Chaputala & Kanyundo 2014; Johnson 2018). Furthermore, it can reduce censorship and bias, and help with managing complaints (Johnson 2018). The literature is not conclusive on exactly what elements need to be included in a CDP as it may vary according to the intended audience of the policy (Whitehead 1989, p. 25). Some of the primary elements of CDP are outlined in this report.

2.1 Purpose and mission statement

An important component of a CDP is the policy’s purpose (including the target audience/s) as well as the library’s and/or the parent organisation’s mission statement (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) 2001, p. 2; Johnson 2018, p. 86 & p. 90). A CDP should feature the library’s mission to reinforce that the collection being developed is there to satisfy the educational and research purposes of the parent organisation or community (Johnson 2018, p. 86), and to highlight the benefit they give to users (Fought, Gahn & Mills 2014). A succinct description of the user community and their needs is also an essential feature in CDPs (Whitehead 1989, p. 26).

2.2 Outline of nature/scope of collection and collection development priorities.

Another key element of CDPs includes an outline of the nature and scope of the library’s collections (Pérez Salmerón 2013). A CDP should include the library’s collection strengths and weaknesses (Dibyendu 2011, p. 154), and justification on what the library chooses to collect and not collect (Johnson 2018). The format of collections should be documented (van Zijl 1998, p. 101) as well as an evaluation of the collections (Johnson 2018, p. 90). Future collection development priorities/goals are also an important component of CDP to provide a standard against which success in achieving goals can be ascertained (Johnson 2018, p. 86).

2.3 Guidelines for selection and deselection

A CDP often includes guidelines for selection, acquisition, deselection and weeding which can provide rationale for when and why decisions are made (Dibyendu 2011 p. 153; Sanchez Vignau & Meneses 2005, p. 38). Clearly defined guidelines on such processes can safeguard the library from accusations of unfairness and misconduct (Johnson 2018, p. 88).

2.4 Budget statements

A CDP which addresses budgeting in its policies can help ensure that funding is apportioned equitably and assists to safeguard library funds by justifying its decisions (Vickery 2004, p. 338). Policy statements that encompass aspects of budgeting/funding can increase the library’s capacity to contest for funding, and provide information for funding applications and budget requests (Johnson 2018, p. 86).

2.5 Partnership and cooperative agreements

An outline of cooperative and partnership agreements can be a key element included in CDP (Johnson 2018, p. 87). This can include documentation of agreements surrounding sharing of resources (Johnson 2018, p. 87). Including cooperative statements can help to inform stakeholders on what each library is collecting (IFLA, 2001, p. 2).

2.6 Information on Access

Van Zijl (1998, p. 101) highlights that it is imperative that a CDP includes a passage explaining the type of access available to its collections. Outlining the level of access provided to collections is important as the constraints and availability of user access impact on collection development decisions (van Zijl 1998, p. 101).

2.7 Policies on gifts and donations

Guidelines for accepting gifts, declining gifs and removal of rejected gifts are an important element of CDP (van Zijl 1998, p. 103) as it safeguards the library and the possible donor from a practical and legal perspective (Johnson 2018, p. 88).

2.8 Statements on statutory requirements and intellectual freedom

A CDP should include any relevant statutory requirements (e.g., legal deposits) (Jeremy 2019). Statements on intellectual freedom can also help to preclude censorship and defend people’s rights on freedom to read (Johnson 2018, p. 87). 

2.9 Outline of responsibility for the CDP and policy revision process

A CDP frequently decrees who is responsible for the policy (Sanchez Vignau & Meneses, p. 39) and its policy revision guidelines (Johnson 2018, p. 89). Guidelines for policy review are necessary as Pickett et al. (2011) highlights that regular review promotes accountability and achievement of collection goals.

3. Comparison and contrast of the collection development polices of the UM and UQ

3.1 Similarities

Sanchez Vignau and Meneses (2005, p. 38) suggest that an important aspect of a CDP is an outline of what it hopes to accomplish. Both the UM and UQ’s CDPs clearly outline the purpose and scope of their respective policies and link their objectives/purpose to their parent organisations. Both the UM and UQ’s CDPs address who their target audience is, and who is responsible for their CDP and collection development.

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Corrigan (2005, p. 66) states that a narrative policy views the collection in broader detail and has a relatively uncomplicated approach. Both the UM and UQ’s CDPs appear narrative-type in nature (the UM’s document more so). Furthermore, both university’s CDPs have clear policies regarding their handling of gifts and include partnership statements (e.g., The UM mentions links with the Friends of the Baillieu Library and the UQ mentions connections with the Alumni Friends of The University of Queensland Inc.).

In terms of the nature/scope of collections both the UQ and UM’s CDPs explain the nature of their collections with the UQ breaking them down into different material formats (e.g., books, journals) and the UM outlining its collections within its ‘electronic collection policy’ section. Both the UM and UQ’s CDPs highlight that their preference is for materials to be in electronic format. Collection development priorities are not explicitly addressed under a specific heading in both the UQ and UM’s CDPs, however, priorities are intertwined within the body of the CDP of both organisations (e.g., both Universities highlight that their priorities are for provision of course materials prescribed by the university).

3.2 Differences

According to Vickery (2004, p. 338) the main purpose of a CDP is to assist staff to make consistent and impartial selection or deselection decisions. The UQ’s CDP contains clear policies related to the principles of selection and acquisition. By contrast, the UM’s CDP only touches on general principles of selection and acquisition very broadly within its ‘electronic collection policy’ and ‘collection development process policy’ sections. The UQ’s CDP clearly documents deselection and disposal policies as well as eligibility criteria for warehousing. The UM’s CDP broadly outlines guidelines for deselection and withdrawal within its ‘collection review process’ section, however, the UQ’s CDP has much clearer deselection criteria.

The UQ’s CDP addresses budgeting matters directly and is specific about it (e.g., no less than 45% of the Library’s budget will be spent on collections). By contrast, the UM’s CDP hardly mentions budgeting. A CDP should account for budget as it can assist librarians to undertake measures to reduce spending (Ketterman, Hooever & Cable 2012) and establish an accountable plan for the equitable management of resources (Johnson 2018).

The UQ’s CDP contains dedicated sections on electronic access and accessibility including a statement about supporting open access e-books and open education resources. The CDP of the UM does not have an explicit section discussing access to collections but does briefly touch on user access within its ‘electronic collection policy’ section (e.g., stating that only UM staff and students have access to materials referenced in reading lists). The UM highlights in its CDP its policy related to the commitment of preservation and identifies that they participate in the Portico and CLOCKSS initiatives. Preservation was not explicitly addressed in the UQ’s CDP.

Furthermore, the CDP of the UQ has a list of definitions whereas the UM’s does not. The UQ’s CDP has a statement that library policies are guided by the  Australia Library and Information Association (ALIA) statement on Free Access to Information and recommendations by the IFLA whereas the UM’s CDP does not contain these elements. The CDP of the UM states that it is periodically reviewed but does not document the frequency of its review process whereas the UQ’s CDP states that their document is reviewed every 3 years.

3.3 What is missing from the policies

Neither the UM or UQ’s CDP appear to have a clear evaluation of the weaknesses of their collections which literature suggest is important (Dibyendu 2011, p. 154; Johnson 2018, p. 86). Van Zijl (1998, p. 101) highlights that any exceptional characteristics of a collection should be in the CDP and that often the evaluation of the collection is subject-area specific. Neither CDP contained much information about evaluations of their collections from a subject area-specific perspective. The UM’s CDP was missing an ALIA statement on Freedom to Read, statement/s on intellectual freedom, budget statements and a timeline for document review.

4. Conclusions

Overall, the UQ’s CDP is more comprehensive and specific in its policies that the UM’s CDP which by comparison contains more broad, general policies. The UQ’s CDP has a clear structure which makes it easier to locate important elements of CDP whereas one perhaps has to search more finely to locate specific information in the UM’s CDP. The UM’s CDP appears to be missing some key elements (e.g., statement on Freedom to Read). Whilst there are certainly some differences between the UQ and UM documents both appear to include many important overlapping components of a CDP (e.g., purpose of the CDP, policies regarding the handling of gifts). Having compared the CDP of the UQ and UM it appears that there is no one set way to write a CDP. The way a CDP is written and what is included may vary depending on the audience and what the organisation is hoping to accomplish (Sanchez Vignau & Meneses 2005 p., 38; Whitehead 1989). Policy statements vary as each organisation and its stakeholders are different (White & Crawford 1997). However, there are fundamental elements of a CDP which should be included such as: the purpose of the policy, mission statement, nature/scope of collection, guidelines for selection and deselection, partnership statements, budget statements, information on access, policies on gifts, a statement on Freedom to Read, a statement on who is responsible for the CDP and guidelines for policy review.

Based on a thorough literature review it appears that there is substantial evidence supporting the benefits of generating and using a CDP including it providing assistance and direction to meet the library’s goals (Corrigan 2005), and serving as a channel for communication with the library’s stakeholders (Johnson 2018, p. 86). There is also supporting evidence highlighting the negative effects of not having CDP in place, for example, Chaputala and Kanyundo (2014) found that not having a CDP resulted in fundamental practices that were inconsistent due to lack of clear guidelines. Despite challenges acknowledged in regards to developing and using a CDP such as it being time-consuming to develop (Corrigan 2005) and the document possibly becoming out of date and/or forgotten (Snow 1996; Vickery 2004), a quality CDP which is routinely reviewed can have substantial benefits which will likely outweigh the drawbacks.

5. Recommendations

Overall, it is recommended that the University of Orinoco should engage in formulating and adopting a CDP. A CDP is of ongoing importance and pertinence for the academic field and may benefit the University of Orinoco by assisting with strategic planning and commitment to organisational needs, assisting with budgeting, protecting intellectual freedom and promoting accountability (Johnson 2018). Developing a CDP can also serve as training tool for new staff (Chaputala & Kanyudo 2014: Johnson 2018) and help with managing complaints about collections (Johnson 2018, p. 87).

Whilst there are different ways of writing a CDP some important considerations for the University of Orinico may be to include a clear purpose, mission statement, information on the scope of collections, collection development priorities, and policies for selection and deselection. Additionally, information on access to the collections, cooperative and partnership statements, policies on gifts and donations, statutory requirements, a statement on Freedom to Read and a statement on who is responsible for the CDP should also be included.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that the CDP developed is of high relevance and quality as Disher (cited in Johnson 2018, p. 85) highlights that “having a collection development policy is not the same as having a useful collection policy.” The CDP developed by the University of Orinoco should exhibit consistency, demonstrate a level of flexibility, and allow some leeway for discretion and professional judgement instead of being rigid and inflexible (Moran & Morner, cited in Johnson 2018, p. 86). It is important that the CPD developed highlights guidelines for its review as a CDP is not stationary (Johnson 2018, p. 85) and requires constant revision to ensure best practice, to respond to changes in the community (Cabonero & Mayrena 2012, p. 1) and to maximise its effectiveness.


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