The information environment is rapidly changing in so many ways; from how we search to how we expect information to be delivered. Libraries and librarians face many challenges, fortunately there is a wealth of information available to help us understand and meet patron’s ever changing needs.
The OCLC 2010 Perceptions of Libraries Report gives us some insight into the rate of change. In 2010, 86% of information consumers were using search engines as opposed to 71% in 2005. . World Statistics reported in 2005, that 69% of Americans had Internet access and in 2010 it had grown to 77%. In 2010, E-book sales grew to $345 million and the New York Times reported on July 19th 2010 that Kindle e-book sales outsold Amazon’s hardcover book sales. In January 27th 2011, Cnet news reported that Amazon’s digital books had outsold its paperbacks for the first time. The trends seem to show that the information industry is still growing and that people increasingly want to seek and retrieve information digitally.
Kevin Kelley the founder of Wired Magazine in his August 2010 Smithsonian magazine article “Reading a whole new way”, makes the point that there are 4.5 billion screens displaying information on cell phones, laptops, tablets, computers, game consoles, televisions and that paper is no longer the primary medium from which information is transmitted. To reinforce this idea, Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that looks at trends, shows in 2010 that newspaper industry is still in decline. Rupert Murdock, the owner of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, recently launched “The Daily” in January 2011. This digital publication was created specially for the iPad and is designed to compete for the newspaper reading audience.
There is good news for libraries. This new culture of search combined with the economic recession has increased the demand for libraries. OCLC reported that in 2010, 68% of information consumers in the United States had a library card and this jumps to 81% if the consumer’s job was affected by the recession. The New York Times also reported on August 1st 2008, that a downturn in the economy increases library usage. Patrons come for free entertainment, Internet access and help with gaining employment.
Digital search and retrieval is still on the rise. But what remains unchanged is that libraries still remain a vital part of a community’s information environment, especially when financial times become difficult.
Libraries are a community resource in both the services they provide and the collection of materials that is available. A mission statement defines who you are, who you serve, why you serve them. Collection management and development is about combining the organization’s goals and the needs of your patrons and remains unchanged. As a collection developer, you will also need to understand your collection as it stands today and how it will evolve and change in the future. In the September 1990 Library Journal “Get It in Writing”, Merle Jacobs gives a case study about her experience formalizing a written collection development plan that, up to that point, had only been in the minds of the library staff. Jacobs writes about how important is it to know the needs of all library stakeholders. These are your patrons, business leaders, teachers, board members, staff and anyone else that has a vested interest in your library. Online and offline surveys, community meetings, one-on-one interviews can all help you gather viewpoints and insights to help you formulate a mission statement.
Another way to understand your library clientele is by patron profiling. In the May/June edition of online magazine the article “Creating User Profiles to Improve Information Quality” explains how entering into this process eliminates the idea that we know what patrons want, when they want and how they want it. Its a process of gaining a comprehensive picture of both individual and group needs and setting goals for meeting those needs. The goals might be providing timely and relevant content and services. Understanding the patron’s information needs is an important component in developing a collection. Failure to understand the patron can lead to the situation that Dennis P. Carrigan states in Data Guided Collection Development. The 80/20 rule held true. 80% of a user’s needs were met by 20% of the collection. A good collection development plan can help avoid this situation.
The condition of your present collection needs to be understood, by asking “How does the collection match the mission statement?”. Denise Harbor, in the March/April edition of “The Book Report” writes how “Collection Mapping” is one way to appraise the quantity and quality of the material. Collection Mapping can help in three areas; future selection and weeding, showing the relationship between the collection and the population that the collection serves, and to justify the material expenditures. Another tool a collection developer can use is outlined in the article “Use of Circulation Statistic and Inter-library Loan Data Collection Management”. The authors discuss how circulation and inter-library loan statistics can be employed to make collection management decisions. A selector can look at past circulation trends to make prediction about future needs.
Intuitive or speculative collection management based on professional experience can be another tool, but should not the only tool as organizations are moving towards evidence-based decision models. Ken Haycock, the former director of the San Jose School of Library and Information Science, in a 2010 speech at the Computer in Libraries conference said that he felt the idea of “Public good was dead and what people wanted was public value”. Tight budgets and increased accountability are forcing many collection development managers to look objectively at their collection and employ a more data-driven approach to selection.
These new digital formats allow libraries to create new collections such as e-books, downloadable audio books and music. This is another challenge that faces the collection development. The article “Balancing Act” in the 2005 July Library Journal states that these new services are being created to meet an ever-growing consumer demand. It is clear that mass media and marketing influences consumer tastes and any public librarian can tell you the effect Oprah’s book club has in increasing interest in a specific title. A collection developer needs to keep current with changing trends and shifting formats. It is not enough to just collect the material, the librarian must know how it works on some new devices and not on others. As an example, the e-book services of Overdrive do not work on Kindle e-readers.
New software now helps librarians make faster and better informed decisions about collection development. In the Washington Post article 2007 “Hello, Grisham — So Long Hemingway?”, librarians at the Fairfax library talk about how a new application was able to quickly show them what material had not been checked out in a twenty-four month period. Librarians were able to then make a decision on that item and decide whether it needed to be weeded or could stay in the collection. At Fairfax libraries they are talking about their collection in terms of “Return of Investment” and wrestling with they should be making data-driven decisions or maintaining cultural standards. In the same article, Leslie Burger, the former president of ALA and the Director of the Princeton Public Library, reinforces this idea by saying “I think the days of libraries saying, “We must have that, because it’s good for people are beyond us”. While this is a trend, it is not the only voice in the public library arena. The Director of Arlington County library has an opposing viewpoint and believes that the role of the public library is to create a core collection for the cultural education of the community. In 2011 we are still struggling between “give them what they want” or “give them what they need” outlined in the Nora Rawlinson’s 1981 article “Give ‘em What they Want!”. While technology can help us gather and make sense of information and data, what remains unchanged is that it cannot tell us how to set overall vision and mission. Neither can it tell us how to create a collection that is meaningful to our communities and this ultimately, is up to each library and the community that it serves.
Technological advances now allow vendors to offer services to a collection developer. Companies such as Baker and Taylor and BWI can offer libraries recommended lists and offer selection services. While this can streamline the purchasing process, it does have its pitfalls. This was demonstrated in 1997 and covered by Library Journal when the Hawaiian State Public Library System attempted and failed to outsource its entire collection development process to Baker and Taylor. In the Library Journal 2007 September edition, Phoenix Public Library explains why they did decide to hand over selection to its vendors and Christopher Platt of Queens Library concurs that vendors do a good job of making a first cut in the selection process. Phoenix explains that they would rather have librarians doing collection analysis than selection. Many libraries are uncomfortable with this approach and believe that selection is a core function of the profession.
Plans change, but the need to plan does not. A plan fuses together the mission of the library, the knowledge you have about your patrons and collection and combining them with your material budget and your collection development goals and objectives. Merle Jacobs, in “Get it in Writing”, states that a collection development plan can guide both librarians and patrons by articulating how you are meeting the collection development goals. In the article “Leading Forward by Looking Backward”, Betty Carter outlines that a plan could include the mission statement and general overview of whom the collection is created. It can provide budgetary information which could include both financial and shelving resource availability.
Budgetary information is important in the planning process because some publishing can be seasonable and it is important to have a plan that ensures the latest seasonal titles will be available to your patrons when they want them.
A plan might include a list of print and non-print selection resources and tools a librarian might want to access for evaluating purchases. The plan might include areas where future collection development and retrospective ordering needs might be expanded. Documents such as the “Library Bill of Rights” and other policies and procedures could be included as the process for exclusion and re-evaluation of material and the materials evaluation form to give to patrons. A collection development plan should also outline weeding expectations and define what a well-weeded area would look like. It should have an explanation of why some works are considered timeless and should be retained and others weeded. A plan can also help remove bias, provide focus and reinforce that idea that the library is neutral towards the ideas contained within the material, but strives to provide a wide and varied selection for its patrons. Plan are about taking general goals and making them into specific objectives. Plans articulate thoughtful and deliberate change.
What is the difference between censorship and selection? Lester Ashiem’s article “Not Censorship But Selection” compares the role of the selector to that of the censor and in so doing really clarifies what differentiates selection from censorship. It, in many ways, comes down to perspective. Ashiem believes that a selector is looking for reasons to include an item, where a censor is looking for reasons to have an item removed or banned from a collection. Selection is about looking for the strengths and virtues in the material. Helen Haines, in her “Books for People”, has a framework that a selector might use for judging non-fiction material. Is it accurate, impartial and authoritative? Is the data current, board and deep? Is the topic relevant to your community and organized in a manner that makes access sense? Is it written in a style that is accessible and would this work be of value to the reader? Finally, is the item competitively priced as compared to other similar works? Are you getting value for your dollar? Prizing is another tool for the selector to use. Awards can help focus your selection efforts and save time, especially if the awarding body’s selection process is similar to your own. Lester Ashiem returns to the topic of selection in “Selection and Censorship A Reappraisal” and makes an important point about selection. He articulates that the bias of the selector is to create unbiased collections for the entire community that they serve and selection is about preserving the “liberty of thought” for all.
Censorship is the attempt to infringe on the rights of another, to limit or block their access to information. The principles of Intellectual Freedom come from the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. On the ALA website under the heading Public Libraries and Intellectual Freedom, Gordon M. Conable writes that the role of the public library is to preserves the freedom for people to access information and resources necessary for open, free and unrestricted dialogue on all issues of concern. Intellectual Freedom means that you are able express your ideas and have the right to access the ideas of others. There are times when those ideas are objectionable to individuals within the community that we serve and the library will be asked to have the item removed from the collection. Sandford Berman in “Inside Censorship”, writes that the staff and public have every right to challenge material that have been selected, unless the selector is considered infallible. There are times where an item should be removed. Berman gives the example of a book whose subject was Down Syndrome. The book referred to people with Down Syndrome as Mongoloids. In a historic context this might be kept, but in a public library setting, the book was viewed as inaccurate and antiquated and removed from the collection.
Intellectual Freedom is one of the foundations of democracy and ensures that all voices within a community can be heard. In the 2009 article “Standup! Defending teens right to read at West Community Memorial Library”, Kistin Pekoll shares her experiences of defending intellectual freedom. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Madison Wisconsin, ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Roundtable and the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom were wonderful resources that helped her and the Director face these challenges. Her advice is to stay focused on the specific material rather than being sidetracked into the broader discussion of the library’s role and why they shouldn’t be providing this type of material. Information was the most powerful tool in resolving this issue. The board had an open public meeting especially to talk about the Young Adult collection. They talked about how the collection was developed and the use of professional review journals in the selection process. The public was given a chance to speak and finally the vote was taken. The unanimous decision was to leave the Young Adult collection unchanged and not remove the challenged items.
Dealing with censorship and material challenges needs to be part of every library’s plan. Having a clear and simple process in place where patrons challenge the library’s selection choices is part of dialogue that comes with Intellectual Freedom. It is a certainty that material will continued be challenged and it is part of the library’s role within society to protect intellectual Freedom.
Technology continues to be the force that changes how we search and receive information. New tools allow us to quickly understand large amounts of data, but the role of the library to protect intellectual freedom, fight against censorship, create and organize meaningful collections to our communities, remains unchanged.