Collection Development

What is Collection Development?

Collection development is the process of building or improving a collection of library materials. It is a process whereby each purchase, and each candidate for discard, is carefully evaluated in terms of the needs it meets and its place in the collection. It is an on-going process that changes as the community changes. Collection development is a process involving four elements:

  • Policy
  • Evaluation
  • Weeding
  • Selection

Collection Development Policy

A collection development policy guides selection decisions for a library. The policy sets a library’s priorities and plans the growth of the collection over time. The policy also serves to eliminate personal bias and provides continuity over several years. Collection development policies should contain statements on:

  • Selecting and buying materials for the library
  • Accepting gifts and donations
  • Weeding and disposing of weeded materials
  • Reasons for the selection and rejection of any materials
  • Procedures for managing challenges to material in your collection

Collection Evaluation

Collection evaluations involve examining a particular collection for currency, condition, reading levels, use, variety and depth, Alberta School Curriculum in school libraries, and number of books on each topic.

A variety of methods can be used to conduct collection evaluations. Computer system reports can be generated to determine circulation counts, average age of collections, number of books, inter-library loan statistics, etc. These statistical reports are best used in conjunction with qualitative methods of evaluation. Qualitative methods include manual surveys to identify gaps in the collection and examine the condition of the books, interviews with library staff and patrons, and comparisons with standards and bibliographies.


Weeding is an important part of any library’s collection maintenance program. Weeding involves removing outdated, unused or worn-out items, so that current, information-rich, and visually appealing materials are easily seen and accessed. It is especially important for a nonfiction collection to have information that is current, as people should not be provided with outdated or incorrect information. Reasons to discard material:

  • Lack of use
  • Poor physical condition
  • Change in curriculum (in school libraries)
  • Racist or stereotypical content
  • Duplicated or superseded content
  • Poorly written
  • Outdated
  • Inappropriate reading level for collection


Selection is the fun part of collection development. When it comes time to select materials, you will want to consider your budget and your collection plan. Use the collection evaluation to set your purchasing priorities and guide new purchases. Consider first the physical form: format, binding, appearance, illustrations, size, price and series. Selection tools such as bibliographies, annotated lists, reviewing journals, award-winning lists and patron requests, are also useful in choosing new materials. Selection considerations:

  • Purpose, scope, audience
  • Reading level
  • Authority, honesty, credibility of author
  • Subject matter
  • How it compares to other works
  • Timeliness of subject
  • Accuracy
  • Impartiality
  • Literary merit
  • Logical organization
  • Support curriculum
  • Demand
  • Canadian or local content

For more information about collection development, please contact the Client Services Librarians.