School of Information Management & Systems
 Previously School of Library & Information Studies

 Michael Buckland,  Professor.

 What will collection developers do?

Michael K. Buckland.  What will collection developers do?. Information Technology and Libraries 14 (1994): 155-159.

Summary: 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 catalogers.
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 changed environment.
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.
Go to Redesign of library services or to Michael Buckland's home-page. Revised July 17, 1997.