What and why and when, and how and where

Libraries are democracy projects. One of the pillars of building a democracy is education, another is libraries. By safeguarding freedom of speech and freedom of information for all, libraries contribute to the maintenance of a living democracy. This forms the basis for starting a collection development policy.Sometimes it is necessary to weed and Madelein Enström knows how to get started. Photo: CC0

“The collection development policy must relate to other policies, such as the library law, manifestos, the local political frame of tasks and to the library’s target group. The collection must be set in a context; it integrates e-resources and e-books. I recommend publishing the collection policy on the library’s web page so the public can see how the library operates,” says Madelein Enström, department manager at Sveriges depåbibliotek och lånecentral (National Repository Library and Interlibrary Lending Centre) located in Umeå.

The Repository Library is a governmentfinanced library, providing access through interlibrary lending (ILL) to old, rare or seldom used literature in Swedish. The library receives weeded media mostly from public libraries, but also from university libraries, special libraries, institutions and private persons.

“We catalogue the media in the national catalogue Libris and make it available for both national and international interlibrary loans. Part of our mission is to advise and support libraries with collection management plans and policies. We offer seminars and courses to promote the process with the whole plan, from selection, purchases, lending and storage to sorting.”

A library for the future

Collection development policy should function as a guide and support in thinking ahead. Madelein Enström is of the opinion that the policy should be updated every year, or at least every second year. Currently, not all Swedish libraries have complete collection policies, but they are becoming increasingly common, and since not all libraries publish their policies online, it is difficult to know exactly how many of them are complete.

“How do we become significant in present times? Which operations are relevant and interesting? How can we reach the socalled neglected and prioritised target groups? What does our new profession need? Madelein Enström asks and continues, ”we want to create a library that can keep up-to-date and at the same time address the future.”

In order to write a collection plan, it is indeed necessary to have knowledge about books and media, but Madelein Enström thinks it is even more necessary to have knowledge about the local community, surrounding society and the world at large – and about the target groups of the specific library.

“The collection plan should function as support for the work with selection, purchases, lending, storing and weeding and therefore it should contain basic data about the local community, changes in society, development and changes in the surrounding world – such as population changes brought on – that affect the library’s target groups.”

Focus on user, market and mission

She believes that the general need for useroriented collections is growing whilst the need for accumulation-oriented collections is decreasing. Today, libraries are more perceptive to what the reader wants.

“Long ago, say in the 1950s, libraries were the place you went to to find literature and to educate yourself. Nowadays the tools to find literature and information are available everywhere on the internet and the collections in the library is becoming more diversified. Before, all libraries strove to have the same content in their collections, but lately, libraries are trying to adapt their collections to their local com munity because nowadays there are more ways to find information,” she explains.

Libraries need to market themselves to reach outside of their own walls; they need to be more concerned with their mission and understand the diversity of society.

Tendencies in university libraries

“Today libraries have a more distinct mission to reach out in the community. In former times the library was an institution that people visited. Today, libraries want to highlight the unusual aspects of their collections. Talking books are no longer placed in a back corner – media for people with reading impairments are on display and libraries have special shelves for LGBT-literature.”

This describes the development of public libraries, but Madelein Enström has also noticed tendencies in research and university libraries.

“They do not recruit new subject specialists; they no longer expand their physical book collections; they are abandoning printed media in favour of digital and are more concerned than before with their own universities’ local mission; their purchases are very clearly guided by demand and users’ needs.”

Editor-in-chief National Library of Sweden
Weeding tips from Madelein
  • It is important to be subjective, to have knowledge about books, literature and users.
  • It is important to be objective, to have knowledge about use – such as circulation statistics – topicality and physical condition.
  • Make a mutual/common evaluation of how the circulation statistics should be used. Look at what the statistics say about the material in question and in what way it can be used as guidance.
  • Consider topicality.
  • Consider physical condition.
  • Consider trends.
  • Consider literary quality – do not confuse quality with personal taste.
  • Consider status in both literary history and as future classics.
  • Consider temporary trends and “must-have” authors.
Literature for children and young people:
  • Topicality and attractiveness is very relevant, rather an empty shelf than antiquated content.
  • No responsibility to preserve, do not over estimate the value of keeping complete authorships.
  • Classics – rather new editions than old ones with old fashioned covers – exposure is important.
  • Quoting Rudyard Kipling: “I keep six honest serving men, (They taught me all I knew), Their names are What and Why and When, and How and Where and Who.”Ask yourself, what do we store? Why, for whom, how, where and when is it available?
Madelein Enström. Photo: Bertine Pol Sundström