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Collection Development: Collection Development Policy

A guide to building quality library collections that serve the entire community.

Steps in Writing a Collection Development Policy

The West Virginia Library Commission requires every public library in the state to have a collection development policy. Such a policy is really an expanded version of the mission or purpose of the library. The policy is useful in several ways. First, a policy provides a point of reference for staff to consult when deciding on whether to acquire, discard, or reject an item. The guidelines established in the policy lead to consistent and informed decisions about the collection and provide continuity during times of staff turnover or funding changes. The collection development policy identifies procedures for accepting donated materials, methods involved in removing outdated and unused materials from the collection, and serves as a source of reinforcement when an item is challenged by a patron.


Collection development policies may be written by a committee that includes perhaps the library director, an informed staff member, and a Board member, or by an individual. In most instances, the task of actually putting the pieces together, editing the final version, informing the Library Board about the implications of various policy options, and even educating them about collection development policies will fall to the library director. A library policy of any type by definition is an official document and as such must be officially adopted by the Board at a regularly scheduled public meeting.

Some steps involved in developing a collection development policy are:

·         Establish the procedure with the Library Board

o       Be sure to include a timeline

·         Gather data

o    Basic data about your community (population, size, age distribution, educational levels, and other library and educational opportunities available to the citizens)

o    The library’s current long-range or strategic plan provides large segments of what is initially needed for the policy.

o    Data gleamed from doing a collection assessment as well as data about how much the collection is used, and what its strengths and weaknesses appear to be.

o    Existing policy statements.

o    Written procedures about the work within the library, especially those related to gifts, acquisitions, processing, and circulation.

·         Write the policy

o    In the course of writing the policy, think carefully about the wording how it will be perceived by library patrons. The collection development policy can be a public relations tool for the library.

·         Use the policy

o    The purpose of the policy is to use it. Therefore, be certain that it is posted on the library’s website, that every staff member is given a copy, and that a nice copy (perhaps in a folder) is always available at the circulation desk for an interested citizen to read and for staff to consult if need be.

o    In order to be prepared to revise the policy when the time comes, it is a good idea to keep a notes copy of the policy.   The notes might reflect situations that arise for which there appears to be little guidance.  If you find the policy does not help the director and staff make consistent decisions, make a note in the margins regarding the type of revision or the question that needs to be addressed next time the policy is revised.

·         Revise your policy

o    It is critical to review the policy regularly. The revision schedule is part of the policy and should be not less than every three years.


West Virginia Library Commission
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