Collection Development 101

Ever wonder why the SPU Library does not have that expensive textbook that you need or the latest John Grisham novel, but you do find books with dull brown covers, unexciting titles, and maybe even a speck of dust? Well, the content of those books may not be quite as unappealing as they seem, so what follows is a little Collection Development 101.

The mission of the SPU Library is to support the teaching, learning and research goals of the University. We do this by collecting materials – books, journals, electronic resources, DVDs, CDs, and even a puppet or two! – that support courses in the undergraduate and graduate curriculum, materials expected in a library of a university of our size, and materials that reflect SPU’s mission, history, and signature statements.

The primary responsibility for this work lies with the subject liaison librarians, and they use a variety of resources to help them in this endeavor. The liaisons receive recommendations from faculty (and others), they consult the professional literature for resource reviews, and they also use special library tools that provide guidance.

Besides deciding what to add to the collection, the liaisons must also decide the best format to acquire. For example, CDs are procured for the music department and the aforementioned puppets for the education department. Lately, the library has also been collecting more and more eBooks.

Collection Development is not just about selecting new materials though. The library often receives book donations, and the liaisons must decide how to best handle these items. It also stands to reason that if new items are continually being added to the collection, other items may be deselected, or “weeded” as we like to say using library lingo. Weeded items are materials that no longer meet the library’s mission. (One indication may be that speck of dust noted earlier.) These items are handled in a variety of ways, but one place you may find them is on the Book Sale cart on the main level.

Still wondering why the library does not have that expensive textbook? The reason is that one criterion we use when making collection development decisions is to purchase items with lasting value and because many textbooks are continually being updated they do not meet this criterion. And although we may not have that John Grisham novel either, should you need a break from your studies, please do check out the Popular Fiction Collection on the library’s main level. And in the meantime, enjoy our collection!

-Becky Paulson, Acquisitions Librarian