Collection Development Policy: Reflective Practice
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
I have come to better understand the necessity of a present-reflective, future-oriented collection development policy (CDP) and the effect of this on the role and nature of school library collections. A CDP should not only provide guidance for the current collection but should also be used to propel the collection toward the vision of the library and school. To successfully address the needs of our clients, school library collections must be future-proofed. School libraries of the future must respond to the changing needs of the community they serve. In this way, collections must provide inclusive, diverse, accessible resources to enable users to examine topics through independent and collaborative inquiry.
A CDP assists in future-proofing the collection by aligning with the vision of the school and articulating the future direction of the collection (Figueroa, 2018; Foote, 2014). By aligning the CDP with school priorities, collection changes and decisions are relevant, clear and easily justified (Coventry, 2018). Thus, a CDP should provide enough flexibility to respond to trends while also providing enough guidance for consistent, relevant collection decisions in the present. The eight focal components of the Future Ready Librarians Framework can assist in creating and/or refining CDPs that future-proof the collection. These components stress the importance of digital resources and relationship-building as core to the success of future libraries (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2017). This can easily be applied to CDPs through the prioritisation of digital resources and collaborative collection development practices.
The ability of a collection to respond to changes in the information landscape and the curriculum is paramount. I have come to understand that many school libraries, like my own, have responded to the changing virtual landscape by incorporating a range of digital resources to increase access to information, and to market and share the collection through digital transference. While these practices occur in many schools, the gap between Catholic and Independent schools, and state schools continues to widen in terms of financial capacity to offer these resources (ALIA, 2017). As I eluded to in Forum 1.1, collection decisions are at the mercy of budgets and, for some, this creates a barrier to change (Harrison, 2018a). I have heard, many times, at library network meetings defeatist comments such as “We don’t have the budget for subscriptions”. These concerns, while valid, identify the desperate need for school libraries to reconsider their priorities, identify issues and build responsive CDPs in collaboration with their leadership team and colleagues.
The expense of digital collections can pose a significant challenge; however, these collections are important in increasing access, enhancing accessibility measures, and supporting future pedagogical approaches and curriculum requirements. To overcome budget limitations, libraries can develop collaborative collections with other libraries (Hadler, 2016). Furthermore, multidisciplinary resources, which also cater to the multidisciplinary subjects in the new senior syllabus (Burke, 2016; Cingel Bodinet, 2016; Firn, 2016), are effective in addressing tight budget constraints (Crowley, 2018). For school library collections to stay relevant, the need for the Teacher Librarian (TL) to be collaborator, steward and thinker is crucial (Harrison, 2018b; Lamb & Johnson, 2012). As Duvall (2018) stresses, the future is now. Therefore, proactive future-thinking TLs and CDPs are required. There is no longer time to procrastinate, particularly with the impending senior school curriculum, which requires increased critical agency, unique student responses to assessment, and deeper critical and creative thinking (Willis, McGraw, & Graham, 2017). We must ensure our collections provide access to an even wider range of information and primary data to assist this learning specifically in Science and Humanities. Flexible strategic CDPs can guide the acquisition of resources to support these needs.
Despite some criticism regarding the value of CDPs (Disher, 2014; Snow, 1996), it is evident they offer a clear and concise set of parameters by which school libraries can effectively meet the needs of the community and advocate for their position. Without formal policy documents, it is difficult to articulate the value libraries add to schools (Fought, Gahn, & Mills, 2014). Thus, TLs can use the CDP as a tool for self-promotion and marketing. CDPs offer the opportunity for collaboration with the whole school community, which helps to create a collection that better serves their needs and advocates for the library (Harrison, 2018c). Through this collaboration, CDPs can highlight budget and staffing needs, and promote awareness of technology requirements, licensing and copyright issues, and curriculum needs. TLs must develop effective CDPs and positive collaborative relationships with the school and wider community to secure their position and promote the importance of the library collection and services.
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