Information Management & Systems
Previously School of Library & Information Studies
What will collection developers do?
Michael K. Buckland.
What will collection developers do?.
Information Technology and Libraries
14 (1994): 155-159.
What would libraries' collection developers do if and when the
emerging environment of networked electronic resources were to
lead to the absence or reduced significance of local library collections?
Collection developers partition the universe of documents, privileging
selected documents for acquisition and retention. Their selections
of documents, based on expected demand and perceived value, direct
the actions of libraries' technical services staff. A comparable selective
privileging of documents, based on demand and value, and a similar
direction of a reoriented technical services activity appears needed for
networked electronic resources. Collection developers will be needed
for value-based privileging more than for demand-based decisions.
What collection developers will do, procedurally, in the future with the
new technology can be expected to differ in various ways from what
was done in the past with the old technology:
1. Hitherto the privileging of documents has been dominated by a
binary division: Items acquired for the local collection and those not
acquired or not retained. In the environment of networked resources
any such abrupt division seems improbable. A much finer gradation of
degrees of accessibility and privileging seems likely.
2. Hitherto all users of a given library have been supplied with one and
the same collection. This "one-collection-for-all" approach has been
technologically inevitable, but it is Procrustean rather than democratic
or egalitarian, since different users have different needs and users are
unlikely to be equally well served by what the collection contains or by
the way it is arranged. The popularity of branch and departmental libraries
arises from their being customized to special needs as well as from
geographical convenience. With the new technology, different forms of
access (multiple "clients") can be designed for different interest groups
within the local population served.
3. Because of the inherent localness of local collections, collection
development work has been specific to each location and has resulted in
massive geographical inequalities in library holdings. Library users with
similar interests but located at different sites have received radically different
service. With the new technology it may well be that the task can and
will become more specific to topical areas than to locality, which opens
new opportunities for cooperative efforts. Similar forms of access could
be shared by those with similar interests but who are at different locations.
4. Because the evaluative, privileging role will no longer be combined with
catering to demand, it will become a separate task and, therefore, a performance
with greater visibility and accountability—as has already happened for
5. The notion of "materials budget" will evolve. Historically a component of
the cost of making privileged documents more accessible, a different
deployment is inevitable if the traditional purpose is to be sustained in a
What collection developers will do depends on how one regards what they
do now. At the superficial, procedural level, it seems that there will be a
much reduced need for employment. But if we are to take seriously the
purposes underlying the procedures used in the development of local
collections, then, while new and different technology brings new and
different procedures, the fundamental purposes and the expertise
needed for selection (as opposed to acquisition) remain crucial. So, too,
in this redesigned environment will the dependence of technical services
on what collection developers do.
Redesign of library services
or to Michael Buckland's
Revised July 17, 1997.