at The Evergreen State College

Defining "Library" and "Collection Development"

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To understand the environment within libraries operate currently and in order to look at Collection Development from a current and financially sensible perspective, the definitions of both library and collection development need to be understood.


Defining "Library"

"The library is at the heart of the university." - Charles William Eliot, President of Harvard University 1869-1909

In a presentation by Rick Anderson (University of Utah) titled "Let Them Eat...Everything: Embracing a Patron-Driven Future"1, he looks at how the library was once defined and what the library means now.

The former definition of library:

"a building, room, or set of rooms, containing a collection of books, for the use of the public or of some particular portion of it, or of the members of some society or the like; a public institution or establishment, charged with the care of a collection of books, and the duty of rendering those books accessible to those who require to use them." (OED)

Now, the library is defined less by a physical space and more by its collections. Appropriately, he uses the definition from Wikipedia.

"...a collection of sources, resources and services, and the structure in which it is housed; it is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or a private individual." (Wikipedia)

The library is now defined by its permeability; the structure is less important, content can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world via the internet, the former limits on collection size no longer exist. Anderson points out that collection development is directly impacted by these developments. The collection development department can "cast a huge net rather than carefully craft artisanal collections", or put off acquisitions until need is demonstrated.

Defining "Collection Development"

In keeping with the theme of web-based collection development, I'll supply the Wikipedia definition of collection development, with a necessary footnote1

"...the process of meeting the information needs of the people (a service population) in a timely and economical manner using information resources locally held, as well as from other organizations." (Wikipedia)2

In a paper by Emma Crowley and Chris Spencer titled "Library Resources: Procurement, Innovation and Exploitation in a Digital World", they explain that procurement (acquisition) in the twentieth century was "relatively straightforward" because resources were only in "print format and acquired in perpetuity" (215). At the risk of reiteration, digital platforms have changed all that.

Important to take note of are the changes is accessibility and thus the usefulness of the web as a platform for collection development and distribution. In Stanley Chodorow's paper "Here Today and Here Tomorrow", he notes that librarians and collections are now serving an increasingly global public and serving it globally (11). He goes on to point out that the internet offers scholars endless sources of information, as well as endless amounts of garbage content. Whereas many lament that aspect of the web, Chodorow points out that the process of sifting through "junk content" isn't so different than it is in traditional book publishing (11). New strategies for optimizing acquisition in collection development are allowing libraries to sharpen their resources with increasingly stringent budgets taken into account.

What do changes mean for Evergreen?

The Evergreen State College library has redefined itself by incorporating digital portals, databases, and archiving methods to increase access to patrons and remain relevant in a media-saturated learning environment.

The individuals accessing the library are changing- what was once a male, face-to-face demographic has changed towards "male and female students; school leavers and mature students; international and local students; on-campus and distance students' full-time and part-time students; students with disabilities; students sitting for foundation degrees; students studying for continuing professional development and academic curiosity". (4, University Libraries) The increased diversity of patronage requires increased diversity of materials. I outline the various options available to libraries in the 21st century here.

Daniel E. Atkins: "Libraries and library schools first need to engage in strategic visioning and planning activities designed to explore a full range of options about how to respond to the huge vector of social and technology forces impinging on them." (246). Evergreen State College has made significant use of digital information resources, including JSTOR, EBSCO, eBrary, and others. The library has a compiled list of current trials for online databases as well, though no feedback mechanism for students to evaluate the services.