ERIC Identifier: ED392467
Publication Date: 1996-04-00
Author: Schamber, Linda
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Library Collection Development in an Electronic Age. ERIC
Electronic technologies and collection development are two of the top
concerns in library and information science today. In a recent analysis of the
literature, four major trends in library and information science were
identified: increases in end-user access to computer-based information
resources; library use of networks and telecommunications; dependency on
CD-ROM-based information sources; and emphasis on collection management
activities (Brennan, 1991).
Clearly, collection management is a fundamental concern. Demas puts the
matter into perspective this way: "Electronic publishing has profound
implications for collection development, which is defined as the intentional and
systematic building of the set of information resources to which the library
provides access. While the principles of collection development, which were
developed in the world of print publications, do not change radically with new
publishing technologies, methods of decision making and specific selection
guidelines must be adjusted significantly to incorporate new publishing formats"
(1994, p. 71).
Although most of the current literature cited below refers to academic or
research libraries, much of the content applies to all types of libraries. This
digest will focus on problems and solutions of practical interest to all
The challenges of integrating electronic
resources and technologies into the process of collection development are many,
and many-faceted. Beyond task-oriented considerations, such as the selection
process itself, there are large-scale management issues to consider such as
budget, policy, personnel, and technology. Some of the biggest problems, not
surprisingly, stem from simultaneous decreases in funding and increases in
operating costs. Collections budgets are at special risk because they are not
directly connected to the number of staff positions or level of user services
(Otero-Boisvert, 1993). Academic libraries note impacts of electronic
technologies on research, such as increasing demands for electronic searching
capabilities, demands for access to machine-readable scholarly texts, and use of
network discussion groups for scholarly communication (Shreeves, 1992).
Three areas of collection development that seem to be the most problematic
are selection, acquisitions, and inter-institutional cooperation. Two themes
pervade the discussions: the shift in library philosophy from ownership of
locally stored resources to provision of access to electronically stored
resources; and the need for rethinking collection development policy, both to
support the new philosophy and to better deal with new types of resources on a
- SELECTION: An updated textbook on collection development by Evans contains
an entire chapter on electronic materials in which he first emphasizes the
importance of needs assessment. "The electronic environment," he says, "creates
several dichotomies...print versus electronic; ownership versus access; user
versus institutional need; free versus fee; gatekeeper versus user selection. It
is not a matter of either/or, rather it is a matter of determining the proper
local mix" (1995, p. 260). The next step in the selection of electronic
materials is the formulation of collection policy and practice. Evans discusses
formats and selection issues, and provides two valuable sample documents: a
sample policy for electronic resources management, including 41 selection
criteria related to library policy, vendors, technical concerns, costs, and
local needs; and a checklist for CD-ROM products and subscriptions.
Although many selection criteria for electronic resources are the same as
those for print, electronic resources present special problems. For example,
LaGuardia and Bentley (1992) provide a list of questions to ask when selecting
CD-ROM resources. These questions are related to administrative costs and
effort, vendor reliability, and technical hardware and software requirements. In
addition to these considerations, Shreeves (1992) discusses matters of markup or
tagging that affect perceptions of the quality and authenticity of scholarly
texts in the humanities.
- ACQUISITIONS: Acquisitions staff experienced the most changes with the
advent of automated processing. From the beginning, automation eased the labor
of this detail-intensive and repetitive work. Improvements continue with
enhanced integrated library systems, and time-sharing services from
bibliographic utilities or vendors (see Evans, 1995, Zhou, 1994).
The most radical change, however, is not related to technology, but to
policy. Smith and Johnson suggest that libraries "reverse the approach that they
have followed throughout the print era: rather than buying as much as they
possibly can to respond to any present or potential need, they should acquire
only the most heavily and regularly used material for processing and retention"
(1993, p. 392). They suggest that nothing should be purchased on the basis of
long-term planning. The single criterion should be current user satisfaction,
with a goal of fast and effective delivery or access, not ownership.
- INTER-INSTITUTIONAL COOPERATION: The tradition of cooperative collection
development and resource sharing among libraries began decades ago as means to
alleviate problems of lack of space and costly duplication, especially for
little-used materials. Now, with electronic networks facilitating cooperation,
the lines are blurring as to what constitutes ownership and resource sharing.
Because of the vast storage capacity of electronic media, space is no longer the
issue. Rather, the issue for libraries is the role they should play in access
provision and document delivery when end-users have direct access to OPACs and
myriad other information resources available through network connections (Evans,
Crowe and Sanders (1992) see these technology-driven changes as actually
increasing the need for cooperation and communication among institutions. In
order to continue to provide effective physical access to documents, libraries
must increase cooperation to overcome potential funding and management problems,
such as communication failures, and lack of standard access and authority for
The ultimate vision, according to Summerhill (1992), is a single network to
be shared by library personnel and end-users--in effect a restructured
inter-library lending model. He foresees innumerable opportunities for sharing
information resources via electronic networks. Libraries will be called upon
more than ever to make decisions about mounting databases on local systems, and
providing access to remote resources and services.
MEETING THE CHALLENGES
Several authors suggest
comprehensive approaches to library collection development in an electronic age.
Evans (1995) provides an excellent general overview of collection development
policies and fiscal management for libraries as a whole. A highly informative
success story is the comprehensive selection model developed at Mann Library
over the past decade as a means to mainstream electronic resources into the
library. Demas (1994) says the model involves breaking the task into manageable
units, developing expertise in selecting resources regardless of format, and
anticipating impacts throughout the institution. An important component is a
standing committee, the Electronic Resources Council, that reviews electronic
publications and thus continues to define the role of collection development.
Two innovative concepts in this model are those of "information genres," which
covers both print and electronic formats, and "tiers of access," which refers to
degrees of technological support for electronic access.
Crowe and Sanders (1992) describe OHIOLink, a consortium of 17 academic
libraries, as a model for cooperative collection development. The success of
such a project, they say, depends on an aggressive commitment by its organizers.
Specifications for OHIOLink include ease of use by collection managers, regular
provision of data for routine reports, and the capability to collect and analyze
usage data across the system. Seven functions, such as the ability to analyze
collections and to form cost projections, are specifically intended to aid
Finally, in view of serious fiscal concerns in collection development, Shad
(1992) outlines a seven-part agenda for rethinking priorities: planning,
allocating, faculty liaison, cooperative collection development, evaluating,
acquisitions alternatives, and selection efficiency. Although the agenda does
not directly address the challenges of new technologies, it is geared toward
responding to the overriding issue of the changing philosophy from ownership to
Brennan, M. A. (1991). "Trends &
issues in library & information science 1990. ERIC Digest." Syracuse, NY:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources. (ED 340 389)
Crowe, W. J. & Sanders, N. P. (1992). Collection development in the
cooperative environment. "Journal of Library Administration," 15(3-4), 37-48.
(EJ 446 237)
Demas, S. (1994). Collection development for the electronic library: A
conceptual and organizational model. "Library Hi-Tech," 12(3), 71-80. (EJ 491
Eisenberg, M. B., Spitzer, K. L., Kingsley, I., & Darby, C. (1990).
"Trends and issues in library and information science 1990." ERIC Clearinghouse
on Information Resources. (ED 335 061)
Evans, G. E. (1995). "Developing library and information center collections,"
3rd ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Harloe, B. & Budd, J. M. (1994, May). Collection development and
scholarly communication in the era of electronic access. "Journal of Academic
Librarianship," 20(2), 83-87. (EJ 486 709)
LaGuardia, C. & Bentley, S. (1992, July). Electronic databases: Will old
collection development policies still work? "Online," 16(4), 60-63. (EJ 447 462)
Otero-Boisvert, M. (1993). The role of the collection development librarian
in the 90's and beyond. "Journal of Library Administration," 18(3-4), 159-170.
(EJ 476 169)
Shad, J. G. (1992, March). The future of collection development in an era of
fiscal stringency: A symposium. "Journal of Academic Librarianship," 18(1),
4-16. (EJ 443 408)
Shreeves, E. (1992, Spring). Between the visionaries and the Luddites:
Collection development and electronic resources in the humanities. "Library
Trends," 40(4), 579-595. (EJ 461 662)
Smith, E. & Johnson, P. (1993, September). How to survive the present
while preparing for the future: A research library strategy. "College and
Research Libraries," 54(5), 389-396. (EJ 469 170)
Summerhill, C. A. (1992). Internetworking: New opportunities and challenges
in resource sharing. "Resource Sharing and Information Networks," 8(1), 105-125.
(EJ 464 349)
Zhou, Y. (1994, Spring). From smart guesser to smart navigator: Changes in
collection development for research libraries in a network environment. "Library
Trends," 42(4), 648-660. (EJ 489 792)