Curator: Gitta Denning; Additional contributor: Scott Larson


Welcome to the collection development (school library) Wiki. This space was created to offer background information, direction and best practices to librarians in matters related to collection development, policies, management, selection and more in school libraries.

| What is collection development? | Collection development policies | Multi-cultural collection development | Weeding/Deselection | Additional Resources | Bibliography

What is collection development?

The term collection development came into wide use in the late 1960s to replace selection as a more encompassing term reflecting the thoughtful process of developing a library collection in response to the missions and priorities of the library or institution being served as well as the community and user needs and interests. Collection development was understood to cover several activities related to the development of library collections including selection, the determination and coordination of selection policy, assessment of the needs of users and potential users, collection use studies, collection analysis, budget management, identification of collection needs, community and user outreach and liaison, and planning for resource sharing (Johnson 1).

There are several components to the process of collection development and all are important as it relates to the management of a school library collection. The American Library Association suggests including:
  • Needs analysis - understanding the needs and wants of the library users as well as a profile of who they are
  • Creation of a collection development policy
  • Selection
  • Acquisition
  • Deselection (Weeding)
  • Evaluation of collection use

With all steps in the collection development process, it is essential that a library has a detailed plan involving the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Additionally, it would be prudent for libraries to have an established policy for handling objections to the selection and deselection on materials, even if that policy is to disregard any public comment on the management of the collection. Having established policies helps to ensure the maintenance of a collection that provides the information that a community needs and protects the free access of that information.

Collection development policies

What are they?
Policies and procedures guide the activities of the library media collection program. Policies explain why the collection exists and what will be in it. A policy tends to address ideals and generalities and often reflects the mission statement of the library. Procedures explain how the policy will be implemented and who will be involved with the implementation and should be concrete and specific (eduScapes)

Why do policies matter?
Policies can have a very real impact on your collection development practices: haphazard patterns of acquisition will result in waste because some—perhaps many—materials will overlap in content, or will be unrelated to changing patterns of instruction (ALA). Without a policy you expose yourself and your library to difficulties regarding book censorship, accusations of bias in selection and pressure to develop your collection in ways that do not reflect your library's goals and missions. Written policies offer a foundation from which to proceed fairly and equitably when dealing with confrontations between the library and parents, staff members or administrators and also require that school librarians adhere to the policies set forth for the school. For this reason, policies may evolve over time as the needs of the users and library changes over time, but in the meantime, they provide a clear focus and guideline for materials selection and de-selection. In addition, policies provide consistency over time - while the people may move on, the collection and policies remain and can be the backbone of the school library (eduScapes).

Strategies for developing a policy
When you are creating a collection development policy, you should plan to:
  • Identify the community user group
    • Education levels, numbers, frequency of use
  • Identify patron needs and services/programs by user group
    • Education, recreational, research and internet needs
  • Identify services and programs
    • Bibliographic instruction, research units, book chats, book clubs, database use (for example)
  • Describe the collection
    • Size (how many new items acquired per year, types of items collected), spell out the coverage by section/DDC and include average age of collection, discuss formats that are collected, discuss policy of purchasing duplicates, discuss policy on multi-cultural acquisitions.
  • Describe policies on controversial materials and reconsideration
  • Discuss who is responsible for the selection of books.
  • Describe the process of collection maintenance and the weeding of books

Examples of Collection Development Policies

The Newark (NJ) Public Library has broken its collection development policy into five sections: Introduction, General Collection Development Policies, Collection Levels, De-Accessioning, and Requests for Reconsideration of Selection Decisions. These categories take the time to describe the nature of the current collection, the procedures for adding to and taking away from the current collection, and the means of objecting to those decisions. Furthermore, the library has also appended the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and the Freedom to View Statement to the end of its policy. The appendix is a laudable addition to the overall policy, as it clearly informs patrons that the Newark Public Library is not alone in championing the free access of information, and that it has larger, more widespread organizations behind it to support the protection of this free access.

The Monroe County (IN) Public Library Collection Development Policy is organized in a similar manner to that of Newark. Monroe County begins with Statements of Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Goals. Thereafter it continues into descriptions of the current collection. Additional sections detail how the library deals with interlibrary loans, outreach to the local prison, gifts and donations, deselection, requests for reconsideration, and a provision for the future update of the collection development policy. Appendices include the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, the Freedom to View Statement, a worksheet entitled "Purchase Suggestion Form," and a worksheet entitled "Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials."

The Whitefish High School Library Collection Development Policy is broken down into four sections: Introduction; General Priorities, Limitations and Policies; Subject Areas Collected; and Policy Implementation, Evaluation and Revision. A great deal of attention is given in the introduction to defining the user groups, their needs and programming goals to address this group and their needs as well as mention of needs of this group that are not being met. The section on General Priorities, Limitations and Policies addresses the chronological coverage of the collection along with formats collected and also speaks directly to who is responsible for collection and selection.

Multi-cultural collection development

"Students can benefit from exposure to multicultural resources in a number of ways. Most significant, integrating these materials into school curricula and into students' leisure reading habits can promote a sense of belonging among immigrant and minority youth, facilitate student learning, foster acceptance of individual differences, and increase student knowledge about the world." (Agosto)
Creating a well-balanced collection in a school library, in terms of including materials that are representative of a variety of cultures, is vital in building an environment for students in which they feel comfortable, respected, and included. "Multi-cultural" is a term that is often tossed around when speaking about education, literacy, learning, and instruction. Contrary to outdated beliefs, it does not merely refer to ethnic or racial backgrounds, but also to various other groups, descriptions, and characteristics with which students may identify. The list includes, but is not limited to the following: ethnicity, race, nationality, sexual orientation, language, gender identity, disability, political persuasion, age, and socioeconomic status. In forming a collection, it is important to keep all of these cultural perspectives in mind, and to have an overall awareness of the composition of the school's population. Even if working in a school that may not have a vastly diverse population, it is still important to highlight the existence of different cultures in order to promote multi-cultural awareness in students.

The Monroe County Public Library details the steps that it has taken in order to make its collection appeal to the Spanish-speaking members of the community. In addition to attempting to create a budget line-item for the purchase of foreign language materials, the library has made special efforts to create a well-marked Spanish-language section of the library, and to purchase a computer with a Spanish-language interface. Additionally, the library wished to make it as easy as possible for Spanish-speaking patrons to locate anything in Spanish, so they created a Bienvenidos! slogan, which they use on or near anything in the Spanish language. The library has also taken up advertising efforts to inform the local Spanish-speaking community members of the increase in its collection. Hopefully, the increase in circulation within that collection will prompt the library's decision-makers to further increase the collection development budget. Libraries that desire a funding boost for collection development could easily make use of a marketing-based strategy to emphasize the areas of their existing collection which they hope to bolster when future funding becomes available.

(For information on collection development for non-native speakers of English, click here)


"Next to emptying the outdoor bookdrop on cold and snowy days, weeding is the most undesirable job in the library. It is also one of the most important. Collections that go unweeded tend to be cluttered, unattractive, and unreliable informational resources."
--Will Manley, "The Manley Arts," Booklist, March 1, 1996, p. 1108.

There are six major benefits of weeding your collection as described by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. These include:
  1. saving space and the cost of housing additional books
  2. saving the time of patrons and staff as they sort through many "unwanted" books to find the ones they are looking for
  3. upgrading the appeal of the collection by removing unattractive and worn titles
  4. enhancing your library's reputation for reliability and currency while building trust with your patrons
  5. keeping up with the needs of your collection (books that need repair, items that are lost or stolen, etc.)
  6. receiving constant feedback on the collection's strengths and weaknesses

A mnemonic device was coined by the American Library Association in conjunction with the Texas State Library in 1976 to assist with the deselection and the weeding process. This device is known as MUSTY:

M - Misleading Occurs more rapidly in technology than mythology. Look for "dated" popular fiction, obsolete information, books containing racial, cultural or sexual stereotyping
U - Ugly Refers to the physical condition of the book. Antiquated appearance, worn-out, frayed, dirty, unable to mend.
S - Superseded There may be newer copies available. Almanacs, yearbooks, encyclopedias are superseded by newer editions.
T - Trivial Look for appropriateness for the collection. Check for poor writing, inaccurate information, an inappropriate interest or reading level for students using your collection.
Y - Your Your collection has no use for the book; it is not relevant to your collection.

This is a helpful tool to keep in mind when reviewing items in your collection.

Additional Resources

Online Resources:

Collection Mapping Tool
Resource Links for Collection Development
Library of Congress Collection Development Information
ALA Collection Development Wiki
10 Steps to Developing an eBook Collection

Weeding Brochure - California Department of Education
Dickinson, Gail. "Crying Over Spilled Milk" Library Media Connection. 23, no. 7 (2005): 24-26.
Dilevko, J. and Gottlieb, L. "Weed to Achieve: A Fundamental Part of the Public Library Mission?". Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services (27) 2003, 73-96.
Larson, Jeanette. CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, Revised and Updated . Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 2008. [Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.]


Multi-cultural Collection Development:
Library Services to Diverse and Special Populations - Colorado Department of Education
Latin American Resources for Teachers
American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL)

Print Resources:

Crash Course: in Collection Development

by Wayne Disher

Libraries Unlimited (September 2007)
The Collection Program in Schools

by Kay Bishop

Libraries Unlimited, 4 edition (July 2007)
Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management

by Peggy Johnson

Amer Library Assn Editions; 2 edition (January 30, 2009)


Agosto, Denise E. "Building A Multicultural School Library: Issues And Challenges." Teacher Librarian. 34.3 (2007): 27-31. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

"ALA | Workbook for Selection Policy Writing." ALA | Home - American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <>.

"ASLAPR - Collection Development Training." Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <>.

Johnson, Peggy. Fundamentals of collection development and management. 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2009. Print.

Larson, Jeanette. CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries, Revised and Updated . Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 2008. [Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.]

Lucas, L. "Library Service And The Generation Gap Among Older Adults." Journal Of Educational Media & Library Sciences 24.2 (1987): 130-145. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

Monroe County (IN) Public Library. Collection Development Policy. 2011. <>.

Newark (NJ) Public Library. The Newark Public Library Collection Development Policy. 2006. <>.

"The School Library Media Specialist: Information Access & Delivery." eduScapes: A Site for Life-long Learners. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <>.