Collection development

From HLWIKI Canada
Jump to: navigation, search
Source: Panizzi Reading Room, British Library
Are you interested in contributing to HLWIKI International? contact:

To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.


Last Update

  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, August 2018


See also Authority | Brandon-Hill and Doody's Lists | Collection development policies in health libraries | COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) | EBooks | Print ordering

"...Health library collections have changed in the digital era... but will collections go completely electronic in the future? Is this a debate that is productive? Perhaps the focus should be on discussing the skills we bring to the table as health librarians. After all, Socrates believed, the secret of change is to focus your energies not on fighting the old... but on building the new..."

Collection development is a core activity for health librarians in the digital age. Collection development is changing due to the availability of digital alternatives and information on the web generally. However, buying materials and negotiating licenses for the provision of e-resources continues to be the primary way health librarians build their collections. While the proliferation of electronic options has changed approaches to the provision of reference services, information literacy and meeting the information needs of users, some core collections activities remain. With the changes in information formats, budgets and scholarly publishing, print ordering is more complex. Some collections work, for example, is centralized within acquisition departments and/or consortial arrangements with groups of librarians. Some ebook platforms and databases are purchased by national or provincial consortia; in some local instances, a firm order from a book supplier for one print copy of a medical text is still the way to go. That said, librarians continue to collaborate with users, clinicians, faculty and researchers to build their library collections and to support clinical programs and health services. Various patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) models are also popular in the 21st century (Draper, 2013).

The process of building a balanced collection is a long-range, iterative process. Health librarians, whether in an academic or strictly clinical setting, aim to make collection development decisions based on rigorous assessment of the information needs of users, analyses of print usage statistics and overall budgeting. Collection management may include the application of well-developed selection criteria, replacement of worn items and ongoing weeding and moving print materials to online equivalents. Some libraries use approval plans and blanket orders to build collections. In medium-sized libraries, collection responsibilities are usually shared among a group of liaison librarians.

Selecting print and electronic book and journal collections is among the most important activities for health librarians. Some important collections issues to consider are what is my annual budget? what is the overall scope of the hospital library collection? what is most likely to be most needed? how do I balance print and digital resources? Are the resources we need fee-based, and if radically different in print do we need both formats? Duplication of sources, multiple vendors, online access and authentication, adaptability of database interfaces and, of course, budgets are all part of successful collection development. For more information about issues associated with collection development for electronic resources, see eBooks.

As physical libraries change from housing print collections to going completely digital, health librarians should find newer ways to perform outreach and liaison activities with users. One of the primary challenges for health librarians in the digital age is the proliferation of scientific knowledge and evidence due to advances in research. Changes in information cycles are linked to how physicians are trained, how they practice and do research; ultimately, this has an impact on knowledge creation in medical disciplines and consequently how health librarians build collections.

To keep up to interesting discussions and developments in building health library collections, see the Medical Library Association, Collection Development Section blog. In 2014, SAGE published a The State of Reference Collections white paper that analyzes the state of reference resources. The white paper presents information on how reference resources are being collected and used in today’s academic, public, and special libraries (including legal, governmental, hospital, and corporate libraries) around the world.

Selection / deselection tools


See also Assessment

Providing online access to library collections beyond regular opening hours is a challenge due to technical issues but also due to the costs that are associated with licensing and networking of resources. The literature increasingly mentions the importance of teaching library users how to use e-resources which is, in part, why health librarians see requests for their teaching increase considerably after the acquisition of e-content. Different resources, platforms and access methods are all potential technical areas that can confound users. LibQUAL is a standard technique for assessing the quality of libraries according to users' satisfaction. Physical spaces, information control and staffing are three critical areas. In several quality assessment studies, students mention that they are not as concerned about collections as they are about the physical surroundings of their libraries and the creation of social spaces.

Selection decisions

See also Impact factor and Open Access

Selection decisions are usually made on the basis of reviews and standard collection development tools. In health libraries, selection may also be done in concert with library committees. Large academic and public libraries may use an approval plan or blanket order plan to assist selectors. Library patrons also recommend titles for purchase, especially in libraries that provide suggestion mechanisms. For decades, collection development in the health sciences relied on the "Brandon/Hill Selected List of Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library" and "A Library for Internists: Recommendations from the American College of Physicians". As those lists are no longer updated, health librarians use a range of tools to build timely, relevant collections for their users. For example, Doody's is a popular selection tool used by academic health librarians. The sources of information that aid health librarians in their collection duties include:

  • approval books and slips
  • catalogues of government documents and publications
  • course reserve lists to support degree-based health and medical programs
  • interlibrary loan requests
  • previously-answered reference questions, trends in medicine, in-house systematic reviews
  • publishers' and university press announcements
  • reviews in scholarly journals or newspapers
  • scholarly publishing and communication
  • unsolicited sample journal issues
  • recommendations from physicians, nurses, pharmacists
  • standard lists, e.g., Brandon-Hill and Doody's Lists, catalogs of professional associations
  • stock lists from major vendors
  • Login Brothers newsletters

e-Book evaluation Criteria

Many health professionals prefer to read the print versions of their favourite texts...
  1. Access and network capacity: access preferably across networks
  2. Added-value and advantages over other formats (not less "functionality")
  3. Archival issues - availability, cost, limitations, storage, etc.
  4. Availability and quality of documentation; vendor support
  5. Canadian content
  6. Copyright issues
  7. Cost-effective -- cost of edition; digitized backfiles, future upgrades
  8. Currency and validity of information and updates
  9. Ease-of-use, navigability, discoverability of information
  10. Format/appearance, content, medium, "usability" and "user experience"
  11. Hardware needed to read or print
  12. Legal issues including licensing requirement and restrictions
  13. Mobile-device accessible
  14. Needs of primary clientele; academic, clinical or research
  15. Publisher commitment to maintenance
  16. Subject match to users and institution
  17. Research, scholarly or intellectual level
  18. Reputation and authority of authors, producer; publishers, edition
  19. Technical ease and accessibility
  20. Uniqueness and completeness of information
  21. Usage and/or limits to access can be monitored

Evidence-based collection management

  • learn how your patrons are using ebooks; defined e-versions including exact duplicate of print (also, UpToDate-like items that function similarly)
  • who uses ebooks ..faculty, students, clinicians?
  • What are they used for ...learning, teaching, research?
  • what factors influence use: are they at a distance? how do patrons find them? are short/longforms available
  • what are ebooks used for in clinical medicine?
  • support of clinical care, research; medical faculty do not assign ebooks, more students chose them
  • 67% find print, 43% ebooks; most agree they have time to get ebooks more than print
  • federated search tools and Google were most popular ways to find ebooks, followed by library catalogues
  • use of e books and onsite physical libraries are related to print use
  • a minor preferences for ebooks in reference; those who prefer print are willing to use ebooks but not other way around
  • most important features: people want to print chapters and save; find full-text; annotating not so much
  • patrons are more interested in authoritative information than format

EBCM issues

  • new editions may lag behind in updating online
  • tech-savvy staff are needed to troubleshoot
  • do you buy print too? Cataloging records may be a problem with large packages
  • balance between subscription and one-time purchases; subscriptions tie up your budget for items you may not need or want
  • one-time funds are great to spend leftover funds, but you do have to keep buying new editions a la carte
  • future trends include enriched ebooks, multimedia; reference/reserve collections are going electronic
  • finding e-versions of ref/reserve texts is a huge challenge; usage stats and reporting models continue to evolve
  • chapter-by-chapter usage is a great way to count; buy single chapters for ILL
  • usability testing and focus groups to see why people are using ebooks and how successful they are; keep access consistent and reliable via mobile devices

Studies regarding ebooks vs print

  • librarians in the Health Sciences Library, University of Pittsburgh, explored the possibility of developing an electronic reference collection that would replace the print reference collection, providing access to valuable materials to a dispersed user population; they evaluated print reference items against standard lists as potential benchmarks for an e-collection, and determined which books were available online. The low availability of electronic versions of titles in each benchmark group rendered the creation of an electronic reference collection using either benchmark impractical.
  • article examines the literature from 2005 to present and best practices for acquiring, cataloguing, maintaining and promoting ebooks; academic library practices include implementing trials, considering institutional requirements, providing ebooks in library catalogues, monitoring usage and utilizing the library web site for promotion
  • Library Journal’s 2011 survey testifies to e-books’ popularity in academic libraries
  • e-books are popular for quick lookup; deep reading remains “print focused”
  • students using e-books suggest that libraries are engaging in a “forced adoption”
  • surveys at University of Illinois reveal students prefer print but see advantages of e; College of Mount St. Joseph indicates more than half (50%) opt for print when available (Gregory 2008)
  • other research confirms strong preference for print for “reading whole book or extensive sections” (Foote& Rupp-Serrano 2010) due to a “lack of e-book ease of use; incompatibility; unrealistic pricing, restrictive access; limited discovery; interlibrary lending options”
  • Ithaka faculty survey concluded a majority of 3,000+ respondents (faculty, students) did not use e-books for research or teaching (Schonfeld and Housewright 2010, 23)
  • " remains essential librarians adopt best practices in acquiring, cataloging, maintaining, and promoting e-books to foster their integration and use in library collections. Librarians should also seek to enhance the attraction of these resources to users by lobbying e-book providers for changes in the design and delivery of these resources..."
  • many researchers concluded that e-books would not replace print books but would offer new research tools for the academic environment


Personal tools