Collection development is related to acquiring books and information. The collection of this information is performed in a library setting and is focused on delivering information by combining resources into a network that is easily accessed by individuals, businesses and government associations.
The foundations of collection development stem from the goal of minimizing waste and maximizing efficiencies across communities. This assists in leveraging common resources and provides a collective source for information. These goals that underpin collection development are a key aspect of the goals of libraries and library associations.
Building collections is the responsibility of librarians and other library staff. This is done through purchasing books and materials or through natural acquisition via donations. Collections are built up through an analysis of a library's needs, which takes into account the needs of the community and library visitors.
The role of collection development also includes creating guidelines when selecting materials, methods for replacing used or lost items, identifying materials that should no longer be in the collection, planning future collections and building networks with other libraries and associations.
Collection development in schools has become like an art, as sophisticated systems have been developed to manage collections. Local governments invest heavily in maintaining library collections so an important aspect of a librarian's role is to monitor and manage these collections. For decades, the development and preservation of library collections is an essential element in most communities.
Standards for collection development were published in the 1920s with a focus on the school system. These standards were based on a systematic approach that was quite scientific in nature.
Many researchers believe that the systematic nature of collection development was influenced heavily by the emergence of management theory in the same period. In the early 1900s, management theorists prevailed and provided insight into the science behind managing people. The same theories were later extended into the collection management arena.
General systems theory is a key management theory that has contributed to collection development practices. This theory includes ways of implementing initiatives that combine scientific approaches of management with those related to the management of human beings. This method provides a structured approach to problem-solving and takes a high-level view in identifying appropriate collections for libraries and schools. By relating traditional management theory to collection development, libraries and communities are able to create a universal program that can be followed across regions, helping to develop consistency in the approach.
As with most theories, including those in the management area, there are a number of critics who have challenged these methods over time. These varying points of view have created different forms of collection development.
Amongst these conflicting views, a number of models have been developed regarding how libraries should develop their collections. Many libraries believe that their role is to raise literacy in their communities and this should be enabled through providing access to high-quality literature sources. Others believe that communities should dictate what libraries build into their collections. Proponents of the latter view would seek input from the community so the library could understand how to build up its collection in a manner that would gain community involvement.
Most libraries approach collection development as a way to provide a communal sharing of information. However, with the development of so many libraries and library associations and the emergence of policies, practices and standards for library collections, a more complex process has evolved.
To this effect, the scientific process that is now associated with collection development has resulted in development of paradigms. The current paradigm of collection development is rooted in the original philosophy around providing access to materials that will empower individuals and communities with information. In addition to moving a lot of library collections into an electronic format, developing collections in a communal environment continues to be an important priority in communities across North American and internationally.