Collection Development

What is Collection Development?

Collection development is the process of building or improving a collection of library materials. It is where 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 involves four elements:

  • Policy
  • Evaluation
  • Weeding 
  • Selection

Collection Development Policy

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

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

Collection Evaluation

Collection evaluations involve examining a particular collection for the number of books on each topic as well as its currency, condition, reading levels, use, variety and depth. School libraries may also check that their collection supports the Alberta School Curriculum.

A variety of methods can be used to conduct collection evaluations. Reports from the ILS can be generated to determine circulation counts, average age of collections, number of books, interlibrary 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 Weeding involves removing outdated, unused or worn-out items, so that current, information-rich, and visually appealing materials are easily seen and accessed.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important for a nonfiction collection to have information that is current, as people should not be provided with outdated or incorrect information.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 include:

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  • Duplicated or superseded content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  • Outdated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

For more detailed information, see Weeding.


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. Other selection considerations include:

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