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Developing a public library collection

Kris Wiley For The News-ReviewMay 26, 2019

The community visits Roseburg Public Library for many reasons — to attend programs, use the computers or connect to wifi, just to name a few. Overwhelmingly, visitors want materials, and library staff is responding in a number of ways.

Library staff is guided by a Collection Policy, which states that the library will provide modern services and resources to meet the changing educational, recreational, informational and inspirational needs of the public. The emphasis is on current, popular materials as well as stimulating children’s interest in and appreciation for reading.

Practically, that means Youth Services Librarian Aurora Oberg and I spend a great deal of time developing the collection. In fact, one of my first projects last summer was fitting the collection into our new footprint; fortunately, much of that work was completed by about a dozen professional librarians from around the state who have subject matter expertise. I specifically analyzed a portion of the adult nonfiction area, and I worked with library and city staff to create the layout of materials in the entire building.

How do librarians decide what to retain? There are several factors to consider when assessing the value of an item in a public library collection, including age, condition, number of checkouts and accuracy of information.

For example, we would not keep a book published in 1980 that presents facts and figures on the USSR as though it were current information. Countries change names, new and updated editions are published and authors fall out of favor, and it’s our job to ensure our collection reflects the changing times.

That’s not to say we don’t value classic literature and historically significant work. We absolutely do, and that means we have a significant collection of library standards (think John Steinbeck, Jane Austen, Roald Dahl and Robert McCloskey) as well as local and regional history that patrons can check out.

When it comes to selecting new items, our guiding principle is relevancy. We do not have the space or budget to purchase every item on the market, and that means tough decisions are made every time an order is placed.

We consider criteria such as local interest, reputation of the author, significance of the subject matter and price. We use selection sources such as reviews, patron requests, staff recommendations and donations.

Aurora and I use our knowledge and skills to select material, remembering that we are adding items for an entire community, one that has varied interests. Selecting a book for the collection does not constitute an endorsement of its contents. We recognize that not every book is for every person; however, the library supports everyone’s freedom to read by providing materials that cover a variety of subjects and interests.

I invite you to read the library’s Collection Policy at www.roseburgpubliclibrary.org or stop in to talk with us about collection development. See you at the library!

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