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Thursday, September 1, 2011

RA and Collection Development

With the semester having begun last night, my thoughts have moved from the day-to-day assistance of patrons to the larger RA issues.

There are 2 big concepts that I go out of my way to teach the LIS 763 students that I know they often do not get in any other class: Collection Development and Marketing.  Right now I will focus on the CD (Marketing will come a bit later in the semester).

Collection Development is the professional process by which we librarians decide which books to acquire for our collections and which books we want to delete.  For more on the deletion part, called weeding, click here to see my weeding rant.

But the other component of CD is how we decided what we will purchase for our libraries.  Back in the 1980s there was a huge shift in CD philosophy beginning with Nora Rawlinson's influential 1981 article, "Give 'Em What They Want," which is still read in many library schools today.

Before this article, libraries focused on stocking the books people should be reading.  Rowlinson upset a lot of people by saying no, public libraries are for the people, we should have what they want to read and lots of copies.

RA service was a logical outcome of this mentality.  The idea that we should help leisure readers find what they want without passing judgment on their reading tastes or trying to "graduate" them to something "higher," stems from Rowlinson's article.

Booklist Online has an electronic newsletter which goes out a few times a year (no subscription necessary) called The Corner Shelf.  It is a newsletter that fills the space, "Where Readers' Advisory meets Collection Development."

The most recent issue has this great conversation with three former heads of Collection Development at the Chicago Public Library in which they discuss Rowlinson's legacy and the similarities and differences between RA and CD.  I suggest that anyone who buys books for their library or helps readers take a look at this conversation.  It is full of history, current issues, and a look into the future.  They have a larger discussion on Rowlinson and her legacy too.

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