Collection Development and Management: 7 Important Things to Remember

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Through the study of library science, current and aspiring librarians can build the skills they need to succeed in collection development and management. The Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) degree, offered through the top-ranked Marshall School of Business, includes courses focused on these important areas of library science and information management.

Patrons using the collection at a public library

Image ALT text: Patrons using the collection at a public library

Building Collections to Effectively Serve Communities

Collection development and management involves identifying, acquiring and evaluating resources that will be available to a community of users. This process may also be referred to as information resources management, materials management, or collection management. The purpose of collection development and management is to provide options that effectively meet the needs of a group of users. In a library application, this group of users could include students at a school or members of a community in a specific area.

Collection Development Is More Complicated Than It May Seem

Identifying the needs of a group of users isn’t something that a librarian innately knows how to do. Through an educational program, such as the MMLIS, aspiring librarians can attain the skills needed to create a plan of action and develop a stronger collection of materials. This educational program includes an upper-level collection development and management course, which is a lecture-style class focused on developing a collections across a wide-array of mediums.

The emphases of this course include clientele interest, website sources, usage patterns, and bibliographical sources. Prior to taking this course, students must complete two fundamentals courses. The first is an overview of the history of recorded knowledge, beginning in ancient times and running through the digital age. This course gives an inside look at the cultural implications of how history was recorded. The second prerequisite provides information about the fundamentals of library leadership and management from the perspectives of the past, present, and future. This course includes selected case studies for a more hands-on approach to learning. At the end of these courses, a student may be able to effectively assemble, develop and manage collections spanning a wide-array of interests, mediums and eras.

Librarians Need the Skills to Develop and Manage Collections

The core discipline of collection development and management is one that any successful librarian, information professional, or archivist should clearly understand. In the MMLIS program, the course LIM 502, Collection Development and Management, combines principles from the library, information, and archival sciences. Its purpose is to answer several key questions:

  • What is the library’s mission?
  • How can a collection be evaluated, updated, and revised to improve efficiency and accessibility?
  • What are the resources and formats of each resource in the collection?

Through practical and theoretic applications, students will look at different types of information presented in various libraries around the world. These applications will help aspiring professionals learn how to design and assess their own collections, through the assessment of current trends and those predicted to impact libraries in the future. The course also goes deeper into the ethical and legal aspects of developing a collection of resources for a group of users. Thus a student may have a full, comprehensive understanding upon completion of the program.

Successful Collection Management and Development Involves a Variety of Skills

The Collection Development and Management course in the MMLIS degree program focuses on several learning outcomes that will be useful to aspiring librarians. After completing the course, a student should be able to describe the range of responsibilities associated with collection development and management in a library. Additionally, students should be able to list the elements within a collection development policy and write their own policies.

Through the course materials, students will also gain an understanding of the importance of routine analysis of a library’s collection through one or more methods of analysis. The final objective is for students to gain the skills necessary to explain the liaison and outreach responsibilities associated with working in a library, as well as to develop a plan for improving activities in both of these areas.

After finishing the course successfully, a prospective librarian, archivist, or information professional should feel confident in designing and assessing collection development programs and policies. These programs should include both digital and print resources to appeal to a broader audience of users. When assessing the needs of library patrons, graduates of this course should be able to address users’ needs and make changes to the collection in order to accommodate them. Finally, the students should feel comfortable describing the importance and role of collection development in information, archive, and library institutions.

Librarians Should Be Familiar With Collection Development Literature and Tools

To do their jobs efficiently, librarians need to be familiar with key literature and tools related to collection development. To that end, critical materials in the Collection Development and Management course include two books that are well-respected and commonly used in the library sciences field. The first is “Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections: An Introduction,” by V.L. Gregory and “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” by P. Johnson, which is published by the American Library Association.

Gregory’s text combines many crucial aspects of the subject, providing basic details for beginners and sage advice for experienced librarians and archivists. The advisory board for this text featured professionals from many educational institutions across the country. Some of the main topics explored include collection development policies, budgeting and fiscal management, legal issues, diversity and ADA concerns, preservation, and the future of collection development and management.

Additionally, Johnson’s book was published by the American Library Association. Technical Services Quarterly declared that this text “must now be considered the essential textbook for collection development and management … the first place to go for reliable and informative advice.” It is split into detailed chapters about specific aspects of development and management of collections, with special emphasis on traditional management topics, shifts in access and information delivery technologies, negotiation tactics and tips for contracts and licenses, the evolving needs of library users, and outreach, marketing, and liaison activities.

These texts, paired with additional articles and short publications, provide a deep look into the current and future needs of collection development and management; enabling students to effectively reach users through strong, relevant and current collections.

An MMLIS Degree Can Open Up Many Potential Career Paths

In addition to working in a library, graduates of the MMLIS program can also look into additional career opportunities. This degree may prepare a student for a successful career as a digital archivist, historical curator, information architect, or corporate taxonomist.

All of these roles are important in different ways. A corporate taxonomist works with a corporation, providing more effective ways to collect and manage data. A historical curator cares for ancient documents and texts, so understanding the importance of managing a collection that includes these historical artifacts is crucial. An MMLIS degree can be applied to many other careers, as well. The careers mentioned above are among the common paths that graduates of this program choose to follow, but they are not the only options.

With a clear understanding of the importance of collection development and management in the library science world, many students are looking for ways to improve their skills and gain more knowledge about the techniques used to develop and manage a collection of resources. The Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) degree through the USC Marshall School of Business provides access to these skills, as well as information about management and leadership strategies to prepare students for careers in library and information science.

By learning more about the MMLIS degree, a potential archivist or librarian can gain insight into the practical application of collection development and management, as well as develop advanced management and leadership skills that can be beneficial when working in a library, research institution, or similar facility.


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