LITT: Collection Development

Selecting and purchasing materials for libraries is an art. Share your experiences building and evaluating your library’s collection during LITT: Collection Development chats. Great for academic, school, public, and special libraries.

Our next LITT: Collection Development chat will be held in August 2024, and we will talk about AI-generated books.

Notes from Past LITT: Collection Development Chats

Here are the notes from our LITT chat on Diversity Audits :

  • We talked about what exactly a Diversity Audit it. One attendee said, “As the name suggests, a diversity audit is meant to make sure that you have a diverse collection. Diverse can mean so many things. For example, I do a lot of ordering of cozy mysteries. Are all of my cozy mysteries from white, female authors? I have recently discovered some great Asian culinary mysteries like the Noodle Shop Mysteries by Vivien Chien.” Want to know more?  Check out this article from School Library Journal.
  • We discussed tools to do a diversity audit. Some vendors, like Ingram, offer a diversity audit tool (that you pay for). The Diverse Book Finder database also has a collection analysis tool that can help you get started. If auditing your whole collection seems overwhelming, one strategy is to start with a smaller sub-group or even just one shelf – here is a 2-page tool that can help you audit a shelf in your collection. The ICfL has curated additional resources for diversity audits in the Welcoming Libraries section of our Niche Academy platform (you do need to create a login and password to access this, if you don’t already have one):
  • A few other things that came up in the discussion:
    • One strategy is to review purchases for your collection and make sure that you include diversity when buying items for your collection.
    • With some electronic tools, your audit will only be as good as your catalog records.
    • Understanding the various identities of your community will help you understand the needs for your collection.
    • Change does not happen overnight – it can take years to build a diverse collection.
    • Sometimes it can be challenging to get some diverse books to circulate – try different marketing and display strategies to help them get checked out and let your community know that the books are in the collection.
    • The Cooperative Children’s Book Center keeps statistics on diversity in book publishing.

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend yesterday’s LITT: Collection Development chat on weeding. We recorded most of our discussion (everything except introductions), and you can view the recording here:

These are some of the highlights:

  • Most of the people on the call liked weeding…when it was done.
  • Weeding helps you circulate more books and makes room for newer books in your collection.
    • Sometimes weeding can help you better arrange your collection. After a weed, you may be better able to genre-fy your books, grouping similar genres together. One library had success circulating classics after pulling them out during a weed and putting them on a shelf together.
  • There are several different ways to find new homes for weeded books:
    • Sometimes they will need to be placed in the garbage.
    • If you have a Friends group, they can take charge of the books and sell them.
    • One of your community partners may be able to use the books.
    • Books also make great craft supplies.
    • Try using a free table or shelf for library patrons to take the books.
  • One library is “combing” their shelves by pulling each book off the shelf and inspecting it for damage, checking its usage stats, and weeding as needed.
  • Once your collection has been thoroughly weeded, you can implement a schedule to weed it regularly. This will help you stay on top of the deselection process and make it less overwhelming. A good rule of thumb is that for every book your library purchases or acquires during a year, you should also weed one book.
  • Here are some additional weeding resources to look at:

We had a great discussion, and a main takeaway is that most libraries fill patron requests whenever possible. For libraries in smaller communities, most of their collection development is driven by patron requests. Here are some of the other highlights:

  • Request Forms. Most libraries have some sort of paper or digital form (or both!) to record patron requests. Most of those forms include basic info about the requested item (title, author, etc.) and info about the requester (usually name and contact info). One library uses the request form for both purchases and ILL requests.
  • Who and How Many. Most libraries will only fill requests for library patrons. The patron’s name can be looked up in the ILS from the request form or the patron library card number can be included on the form for easy location. One library’s patron request form can be accessed when a patron logs into their library account, ensuring that only library patrons can make requests.
  • What to Purchase. We had a really good conversation about what to purchase. As mentioned above, for the most part libraries will fill a patron request whenever possible. But sometimes that can be challenging when patrons request unpopular books or series that are not likely to circulate. Or when they request items that are out of print and difficult to obtain. Series can be especially tricky when a patron requests the entire series and decides that they don’t want to read it after finishing the first book. Some libraries will only purchase a few books from a series to see how it does and then purchase more if they are popular. Some libraries limit how many requests a patron can send each week.
  • Some advice from the folks on the Zoom:
    • Check Libby to see if the item is available there. Did you know that Libby users in Idaho have expanded access to other libraries in the state through IDEA? Here is a list of all of the libraries that participate (you can show your patrons how to add these libraries to their Libby app):
      • Blackfoot Public Library
      • Boise Public Library
      • Cooperative Information Network
      • East Bonner County Library District
      • ID8 Digital Library (formerly called LYNX Consortium on Libby)
      • Idaho Digital Consortium
      • Idaho Falls Public Library
      • IDEA by ICfL
      • Kuna Library District
      • LIBRI System, Inc.
      • Meridian Library District
      • Valnet
    • You can do an advanced search on Libby for self-published books (which can be hard to find in the general search).
    • In general, libraries are okay with purchasing self-published books from neighbors in the community or who are local. Libraries are less likely to purchase self-published books from out-of-state.
    • Check out the 1-star reviews of items on Amazon.
    • If you think a series might not be popular, you could look for a less-expensive used copy to add to the collection to see how it does.
    • Some libraries have written policies about patron requests, but many do not. For many libraries, procedures around what to purchase change over time.
  • Budget. Regardless of a libraries budget, most libraries seem to prioritize patron requests. Some libraries have more flexibility in spending in this area. For some libraries, patron requests make up 50% – 90% of their collection. Unless a book is cost prohibitively expensive, a library will likely purchase it.
  • One final thought from the group: Having a collection built mostly on patron request may mitigate future book challenges. It is difficult to challenge a book that was provided at the request of a community member. Consider adding a book plate at the front of a book indicating that it was purchased from a request from a library patron.

Here are the notes from our discussion:

  • Purchasing. We talked things to consider when purchasing graphic novels, including whether to purchase cheaper paperbacks or invest in hardbound items that may be more durable. Purchasing from Bound to Stay Bound or Perma-Bound will ensure that you get a good binding and they typically only offer graphic novels that are popular and will circulate well. Some have had luck purchasing boxsets of series graphic novels off Amazon. Bookriot has a weekly graphic novels email to help you know what is available. The Comics Plus database and Hoopla are great options for digital access for graphic novels.
  • Collection Development. Graphic novel collection development relies heavily on patron and staff requests and recommendations. A Junior Library Guild subscription can be helpful at automating purchasing and ensure that series books keep getting purchased.
  • Shelving. Some libraries separate Manga from other graphic novels to help with shelving (Manga are usually smaller and denser than traditional graphic novels). Some libraries use bins to help keep graphic novels organized, and patrons can flip through the titles (like a record store). Some libraries shelve all graphic novels in the 741’s (comics section in Dewey). Some libraries have a separate section for graphic novels that is adjacent to the traditional collection.
  • Tips & Talking Points. It can be hard to persuade some people that graphic novels are worth reading. Here are some tips and talking points shared during the chat:
    • If you take away the images, you are left with some context text, dialog, and action cues – very much like a play. If a play is worth reading, so is a graphic novel.
    • Graphic novels contain lots of rare vocabulary words.
    • The words and images can help kids understand puns and plays on words.
    • Can help kids understand and identify emotions better.
    • Can be a way to introduce kids to classic literature – many classics have been reissued as graphic novels.
    • Graphic novels help struggling readers build confidence in their reading. The text is less dense and the story can be read quicker.
    • Kids that read graphic novels read more than the average adult.
    • Graphic novels are FULL of literary elements.
    • It can be easier to start and stop reading graphic novels. If your mind wanders off, or you don’t want to read for very long at once, it’s lots more appealing than text
    • Reading graphic novels encourages a different mode of imagining and sequencing events.
    • Interpreting graphic novel panels encourages a new way of reading.
    • Graphic novels can level the playing field for struggling readers and offer another option for reading comprehension (because not everyone learns the same way).
    • Make reading a graphic novel part of your library’s reading challenges.
    • Let kids take the lead on choosing what to read.
  • Adult Graphic Novels. Graphic novels for adults aren’t as generally popular as those for teens and kids. It can be hard to justify buying too many if they don’t circulate. One person in the discussion noted that the small size of the font on many graphic novels can be a barrier. Many popular graphic novels for adults fall in the horror genre (such as The Walking Dead) and some may not be appropriate for young audiences. Some libraries have had requests for memoirs and biographies that are graphic novels.
  • Graphic Novel Suggestions and Favorite Recommendations:
  • Things we don’t love about graphic novels. Sometimes acquiring them is difficult. It can take a long time to get them, and ordering can be challenging. Some graphic novels are flashpoints for controversy.
  • Links shared in the chat:

We had a small but mighty group attend last Friday’s LITT: Collection Development chat. We discussed the advantages of different ILS’s, the tech support needed to maintain your system, the importance of good catalog records, how to effectively train new staff on using the ILS, and so much more!

There are a lot of free Collection Development and Cataloging trainings available for free:

Thanks to everyone who attended today’s LITT: Collection Development – Policy Check chat. We reviewed the basic parts of a collection development policy and procedures for a reconsideration of materials. Here is a summary of the resources we shared during the discussion:

Here are some general tips that were shared during the chat:

  • Include language that indicates that someone who wants to challenge materials from the collection must be a patron/community member
  • Check your website and make sure that the most recent version of your policy is posted and do post your policy if it isn’t on your website
  • There was interest in emphasizing language that supports the role of parents in selecting books for children (i.e. it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that children read appropriate materials)
  • Some libraries have had patrons or community members come into the library or repeatedly call to ask if the library carried certain books
  • Some libraries have had patrons or community members request that the library purchase challenged books
  • You should regularly review your policies with your board or administration and update them as needed
  • Some policies also include a statement on weeding and methods for deselection of materials

Some of the libraries at the chat agreed to share their policies, in case you would like to look at them:

Other Sample Policies:

Finally, check out the testimony from the House Oversight Committee hearings on Free Speech and Censorship (from April 2022):

We had a great time discussing donations and doing a live unboxing. Here some of the topics that we discussed:

  • General donation policies
    • Some libraries ask that materials be boxed up and clean
    • Some libraries do not accept textbooks
    • Nearly all libraries have some sort of policy about determining what to do with donations (i.e. they are not automatically added to the collection, the library can dispose of them, if needed, etc.)
  • Attendees shared most notable items donated – one library received a donation of a coin collection!
    • Many receive empty DVD or VHS boxes that can be reused
    • Some received items infected with insects
  • What do libraries do with donations they can’t use?
    • Put them in a book sale
    • Put them on a free shelf/table (especially popular for romance paperbacks)
    • Use them in little free libraries
    • Offer them to adult care centers, childcare centers, or schools
    • Use them in a library craft
    • Sell them on Amazon or Biblio (thanks to Micheal from East Bonner for the recommendation!)
    • Trash/recycle (if possible)
  • We also had an interesting conversation about how to de-odor books that come in smelly:
    • Baking soda tub
    • Dryer sheets
    • Dry spray from Demco
    • Baggie with essential oils
    • From West Bonner: “I have a plastic bin with a screen in the bottom that sits on top of charcoal bags. We call the box Smokey. When books come back with smoke smell they get checked out to Smokey and go into the bin. It take a week or so and they come out smelling clean.”
  • Some advice on donations:
    • Use volunteers to help with the initial triage of materials and prepping anything for recycling

I was inspired by the amount of care that libraries around Idaho put into materials donated by their community. Adding donations to the collection is a LOT more work than it seems. While many donations don’t make it to the shelves, every once in a while you get that one new book that you need to complete a series or shorten your holds list.

Thanks to everyone who was able to join us for the LITT: Collection Development “B” Movies chat earlier today. We had a fun discussion about the best worst movies. Here are the highlights:

Thanks to everyone who attended the LITT: Collection Development chat in July. We had a great discussion about how we track usage statistics and use them to inform collection development practices at our libraries. Elaine Sloane from Boise Public Library shared her library’s yearly snapshot spreadsheet, which helps her library track trends over time.

Thanks to all of you who were able to attend the LITT: Collection Development virtual chat earlier this month. We discussed/debated physical vs. streaming media. Our verdict: physical media is not going away, but it is becoming increasingly hard to collect. Some popular shows aren’t available on DVD and, until there is greater access to broadband in rural areas, streaming isn’t an option for all Idahoans. The Ada Community Library shared a unique idea of circulating Roku devices loaded with the Netflix and Disney+ apps. The library pays for the subscription services, which travel with the Roku Device as it circulates. Cool!

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend the LITT: Collection Development chat earlier this week. We had a great discussion on how to build collections with equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Here are some of the resources that we shared during the Zoom:

A collection of EDI resources, including information on doing a collection audit (resources near the bottom of the page):

ICfL’s professional development portal for EDI (and more!):

A resource for finding diverse books:

Librarians from around the state shared their strategy for selecting and purchasing eBooks.

Questions or comments about LITT: Collection Development chats? Contact Jennifer.


Early Learning LITT Discussion

August 15, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

LITT: On the Move – Summer Outreach Successes!

August 20, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

October 17, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

December 19, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MST

Jennifer Redford

Youth Services Consultant
Email / 208-639-4147
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