ETL507: Assessment 5: Part B – Collection Development

The creation of a collection development policy is an essential part of providing the school community with books and other resources.  A collection development policy succinctly defines who the resources will be provided for, which resources are collected and why (Johnson, 2014; Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) & Victorian Catholic Teacher Librarians (VCTL), 2017).  The collection development policy should be subordinate to the vision, mission and values of the school it serves (ALIA & VCTL, 2017) , so that the library becomes an essential part of the business of building lifelong learners.

Before I began this subject, I had no real concept of how collections were developed; I think I envisioned the teacher librarian browsing a bookshop and purchasing whatever looked “good”.  This certainly had an impact on the way I initially looked at resourcing curriculum areas (Parnell, 2018), and the way I initially approached my first assignment for ETL503.

Collection development can take many different forms and approaches, as seen on my work placement at Penrith City Library. As I worked with different people in different departments I came to see that they all had their own approaches to collection development within their own departments or domains. Ebooks are purchased based on whether the author is well known, whether it looks like it might circulate and making sure that the cover images are not “bodice rippers” that might offend patrons (J. Suckling, 2019, personal communication). In fact, I was encouraged to scroll through the newest offerings on an ebook platform and add items to the cart. There is no effort made to ensure that titles in a series are purchased or are all accessible, so books 3 and 4 of a series may be available as ebooks, but not 1 and 2.  In the children’s department, popular series titles are purchased at rates of upward of ten copies upon release, and series continuity is maintained (A. Dumas, 2019, personal communication).  Large print collection development is often limited to what is available in large print (K. Smith, 2019, personal communication).  In contrast to the disjointed approach to maintaining books in series, I learned from the study visits that both the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts library (Cathy, 2019, personal communication) and the City of Sydney library (L. Bacot, 2019, personal communication) prioritise keeping series intact.

There is an increasing trend for libraries to outsource their collection development work, something that the City of Sydney library does (L. Bacot, 2019, personal communication). This is usually justified as being more cost-effective, however the time taken to develop a written profile of the community the library serves, the borrowing habits and criteria for desired resources could negate much of the time saved, especially as this document would need to be updated regularly (Fieldhouse & Marshall, 2013). This practice also has some ethical implications, including the devaluing of the work of librarians and patron privacy (Buck, 2015).

My belief is that the people who should be in charge of collection development are the same people that directly serve the community the library is situated in.  No amount of community profiling can replace the personal knowledge of a librarian on the front desk.

In a school library, the library space and resource collection must reflect the focus and goals of the school it serves (Bentley, Pavey, Shaper, Todd, & Webb, 2016). This means that the library and the collection are supporting the aims of the school and are directly contributing to the work of the school, rather than having a teacher librarian alone in the library, doing her own thing.  This intentional action of bringing the library in line with the rest of the school may take some time and internal work, especially if the vision of the school for students (and therefore the library) doesn’t match with the teacher librarian’s vision for students, but bringing them into line is a valuable task (Platt, 2017). This alignment should also cause the senior management to look on the library more favourably, as it demonstrates genuine contribution to the goals of the school, which in turn would mean the library was looked upon kindly during conversations of budget and staffing (Bonnano, 2011).  Research has shown that teacher librarians who support the goals of the school, and take initiative and leadership roles in supporting these goals, are more likely to be valued by their school principals (Lupton, 2016).

In my future career as a librarian, I want to build a collection that is equitable and supports the aims of the organisation I work for, whether that be in a school, public library or other institution.  I will actively fight against the trend to outsource collection development, and advocate for the value that a trained librarian brings to the process of collection development (Weisburg, 2017).

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