Competency F

Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items



The ubiquity of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science exists because of the laws’ easy application across the many duties of librarianship. It is perhaps most applicable in collection development. As library professionals select items and information for their collections, the five laws can be an excellent, if basic, set of guidelines. Certainly each item in a collection must have a purpose or use; each person (in a general sense) in a community should be considered during the selection process; consequently, each item in its collection must have a user in the community; materials should be organized and presented in such a way that allows for ease of access and brevity of effort; and the library should be an ever-changing collection to fit the needs of its community. With this simple set of rules, as it applies to collection development, a library staff member can have a solid foundation on which to build their collection.


Selection for collection development can be determined by a number of sources. Using Ranganathan’s five laws a base for a collection development policy is an excellent first step, but there are many more considerations to follow. Budgets can greatly restrict what libraries are able to afford to include in their collection and may therefore be a deciding factor in whether or not an item is included in a purchase for the library.

Equally important is the community for which the selection is being made. There are two primary schools of thought when it comes to communities and their intersection with collection selection. Disher (2007, p. 74) describes these differing philosophies as follows: “Should a library, particularly a public library, provide material the community wants? Or should the library provide only what the professional library selector feels the community should have?” There is not, necessarily, a right or wrong answer. Disher goes on to suggest one of the best options is a balance between the two philosophies, rather than one over the other.

Selection can and should be a detailed process. Disher (2007) also discusses some of the challenges those who develop collections might encounter, such as selecting materials that are contrary to the selector’s personal beliefs (p. 75). The best way to handle these situations is to confront these biases and acknowledge the actions being taken in the selection process are professional, not personal. Personal beliefs do not have a place in this process. These convictions should continue to stand throughout the collection maintenance process, whether the professional is evaluating, organizing, or preserving materials.

Disher (2007 p. 77-80) wraps up his discussion of the selection process with a list of suggested criteria to consider when making selections. For books, these are subject, demand and usage potential, material construction quality, collection balance, author, publisher, format, reviews, cost, audience, and date. These criteria can be broadly applied to other selected materials, as well, with some modification.


Collection evaluations may be completed for a number of reasons. Realistically, as Disher (2007, p. 27) points out, collection evaluation occurs every time an item is assessed for damage or otherwise considered for purposes of keeping, replacing, or discarding the item. Larger-scale evaluations may occur as a result of an agreement with the community’s governance or as a part of making plans, whether those plans have something to do directly with the collection or not. The particular characteristics of the library and its users’ needs will determine, in general, the measures and process by which the evaluation is completed. Disher (2007, p. 30-31) recommends first determining your “collection evaluation goal.” Without a specific goal in mind, figuring out where to start and what data to collect becomes far more challenging. Once the goal is determined, the library should choose what information is relevant to their evaluation and make a decision as to how that information will be obtained. Following this step, the library can decide how they wish to evaluate their collection. Finally, the data gathered from the evaluation should be composed into a report and discussed.


Print collections in a library may include both circulating and non-circulating (often referred to as “reference”) materials. The variety of format and genre will depend largely on the type of library in which the collection is housed, though a typical public library will have fiction (and its many sub-genres, perhaps separated, perhaps not) and nonfiction. More specific collections within a larger collection may include children’s literature, young adult literature, poetry, science fiction, mystery, periodicals (magazines, journals, and/or newspapers), and even a professional collection for the staff.

Many libraries also hold physical audiovisual collections, though some have moved to housing these collections in online database formats. Common audiovisual materials include feature films, documentaries, audiobooks, music CDs, and English as a Second Language learning materials (frequently a book and CD combined into one circulating package). Some libraries package children’s books with their corresponding audiobooks. Playaways are an alternative to audiobooks. One final audiovisual collection sometimes included in libraries is that of videogames.

As technology becomes more and more advanced, the possibilities for digital collections expand. While databases with scholarly journal articles have existed for some time, more recently, databases such as OverDrive have made it possible for libraries to lend eBooks and eAudiobooks to their patrons. Services such as Hoopla, which focuses on audio content, make both eAudiobooks and eMusic available for borrowing to patrons. Libraries and publishing companies continue to have conversations about what is fair and reasonable in terms of licensing and copyright, but as eContent grows in the world of libraries, the landscape for its management is sure to change and adjust.

Some public libraries include collections beyond the traditional print, audiovisual, and digital to also include objects. The Arlington Public Library (2016) is one such library, allowing patrons to borrow American Girl Dolls, complete with clothing, a book, a traveling patron journal, and other doll accessories. The Keokuk Public Library (2016) also lends an atypical item: cake pans. Libraries all over the world are lending items that increase service to their communities. While this is a unique challenge for collection development staff, including objects in a library collection can greatly enhance the library’s value in a community.

Local collections, compiled of information and objects that are of interest to a particular location, are also common in public libraries. Items may include photographs, historical documents, letters, or other relevant materials.

Digital collections are often organized by format and genre. Libraries are somewhat more limited in this format, as their digital collections exist through other databases such as OverDrive. While OverDrive and similar applications may allow customization, there are boundaries to that customization, both created by OverDrive and the limitations imposed by computer code. Some applications may also sort items by average rating, date, and other information inherent in the unique file of each digital item.

After format and genre, libraries may choose to use an existing organization method, adapt a current organization method, or invent a method of their own. Many public libraries in the United States opt to use the Dewey Decimal System, although some may use the Library of Congress System (which is more common in academic and special libraries), and still others have opted to use a format based on common organization schemes in bookstores such as Barnes & Noble. Call numbers, often placed on book spines, help to identify the correct location for materials.


The method by which items are preserved depends on the item in question. Disher (2007, p. 135) defines preservation as “when collection developers take preventative action to stave off potential damage or to prevent additional damage once it has occurred.” This is different from repairing a book that has sustained damage, and more often occurs with items of historical value. For books of historical value, there are a number of common damages that may occur which preservation specialists can help prevent.

Whether pages are sewn or glued, it’s not unusual for them to come loose over time. The solution is often regluing pages, though Disher (2007, p. 138) warns, “…this process is likely to make the book last only another few checkouts before the same thing happens again.” Book spines are another place of trouble. Spines may separate from the binding due to usual wear and tear and require replacement. Paper, too, tends not to age well, as it can become frail and break apart over time. Disher (2007, p. 139) suggests replacement over repair in many cases when it comes to page damage. “Mending torn pages in material that has been printed on high acidic paper is nearly always a futile attempt to save the item. Within weeks the paper begins to self-destruct, yellow, and become even more prone to additional damage.” Both light and water can increase the fragility of a book, as well.

Unfortunately, there is no way to keep a book safe from everything while still maintaining its use. Patrons should be reminded of the responsibility they have in keeping the books they check out in good condition.


INFO 266 Argumentative Essay

In this assignment, I argued for the inclusion of nontraditional material collections in public libraries when the community has a need or desire for it. While recognizing the unique challenges that come with selecting for and maintaining a collection of things (as opposed to books or digital materials), I use criteria sanctioned by the American Library Association to make my case. Furthermore, I discuss the successes in existing nontraditional library collections. In exploring the particular issues that come with maintaining a nontraditional collection, I feel this assignment demonstrates mastery of Competency F.


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LIBR 267 Selection Policy Paper

This assignment evaluates a public library selection policy by comparing it to values set forth by the American Library Association while taking into consideration the environment and other library-specific factors that might influence the selection policy. Overall, I argue the [Redacted] Public Library has a policy in line with the expectations of the American Library Association and is, in fact, quite comprehensive despite its brevity. As a look at a specific instance of collection development, this assignment satisfies Competency F.

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Collection maintenance extends beyond just selecting the books the selector is interested in for a collection. Instead, many factors come into play when determining what items to include, how to organize them, how to reevaluate as time goes on, and how to preserve items worth preserving in a collection. These challenges alone warrant a staff member dedicated to the special tasks within collection development and maintenance.


Arlington Public Library. (2016). American Girl lending program. Retrieved from

Disher, W. (2007). Crash course in collection development. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Keokuk Public Library. (2016). Cake pans. Retrieved from