Saturday, 17 May 2014

Analysing Collection Management Policies

I reviewed 2 Library Collection Management policies for a Catholic Diocese in Australia and the guidelines produced by the CEO in that diocese against Barbara Braxton’s Sample Collection Policy (2014).

Policy A is dated 2008.
Policy B is dated 2013.
The CEO guidelines outlines the recommendations for what should be included in a school library policy and suggested policy structure including sub-section headings.

I am purposely not naming the school’s these policies belong to, nor the diocese these schools are in, as I do not have permission to publish these documents.

Rationale / Purpose
Braxton’s sample policy begins with a rationale – which is very comprehensive – probably much more so that what would be expected for most policy documents. From experience, I know that there has been a push in this diocese to streamline policy documents and a rationale as comprehensive as Braxton’s’ would probably be considered too involved.  The CEO guidelines list their first sub-section as Purpose.

Both Policy A does begin with a rationale that outlines the libraries position with the school, the experiences of the students and where it fits in with the State curriculum (which would now be superseded by the Australian Curriculum). Students are the only stakeholders mentioned there is no discussion about the purpose or nature of the collection.
Policy B does not begin with a rationale. Instead it begins with goals of the library, which appear to probably address the school’s mission statement (although that is not made explicit as the mission statement is not included). It outlines the beliefs that the decision and actions of the school library are based on, who the library provides assistance to, and how it serves to provide that assistance.

Mission Statement
Braxton provides a copy of the school’s mission statement because it is the platform for all decisions and actions. Neither policy A or B include this, and it is not required according the CEO guidelines. This is because it would be included at the beginning of the school’s core document for easy referral, rather than inclusion in all policies.

The nature of the users
In this section Braxton provides a situational analysis of the school demographic and current curriculum needs. The CEO guidelines do not require this, though I believe it to be an important aspect in defining the purpose and direction and goals of the library collection.  Neither Policy A or B provide a situational analysis of their schools demographics.

The purpose and role of the collection
Braxton uses this section to establish what the purpose of the collection is in order to guide future decisions and actions. Braxton’s list is comprehensive, addressing teaching, learning and recreational needs of the staff and student body, the range of resources provided and for what purpose. Although the CEO guidelines have sub-sections titled Purpose and The Role of the Resource Library, neither policy A or B specifically refer to the purpose or role of their collection but some understanding of the purpose and role of their libraries can be drawn out from other sections.

The nature of the collection
Braxton uses this section to provide a snapshot of the current collection to serve as a benchmark for measurement. Braxton indicates that this is an area in which the goals and priorities should be included. There are details regarding the acquisition of resources, what is contained in the current collection e.g. fiction in a variety of formats, and the priorities and goals of the collection for the life of that policy. These goals are quite specific and tailored towards the acquisition, evaluation and maintenance of the collection.  The CEO guidelines cover this area through the sub-sections titled ‘The Scope of the Collection’ and ‘Priorities’.
Policy A has a small section ‘Collection Profile’ which gives a list of what the current collection contains. Being 6 years old, there is minimal information on the variety of resource formats. The goals listed in the policy document are not specific to the acquisition, management and evaluation of the collection. Nor does it have a section on Priorities as suggested by the CEO guidelines.
Policy B has a section titled ‘Collection description’ which outlines what the collection comprises of.  While this section is fairly comprehensive, it is interesting to note that there is no mention of e-resources, of which there are many being utilized throughout the school.  This policy also does not have goals listed that are specific to the acquisition, management and evaluation of the collection. Nor does it have a section on Priorities as suggested by the CEO guidelines.

The selection of the collection
In this section, Braxton establishes the general and specific criteria used for selection, including a list of selection aids, and cross curriculum perspectives and considerations for the development of a digital collection. The CEO guidelines are vague with their sections regarding this – providing for subsections on ‘Procedures’, ‘Responsibility for selection’ and ‘Objectives of selection’. None of these titles are used in the actual policy documents. .
Both Policy A and B list some selection criteria in their collection development section under the section Collection Development, but these are listed in dot points and not grouped together in areas e.g. accuracy, authenticity etc. Policy A, despite its age does provide a list of some specific criteria for e-resources, yet Policy B dated 2013 does not. Both provide a list of selection aids. Neither policy provides selection criteria lists in their Appendix.

Braxton suggests that this section identify the need for a budget, outline the authority for purchasing, funding priorities, gifts and donations and accountability measures. The CEO guidelines do not address the issue and procedures for funding or budget.
Policy A does not address funding or budget, and only briefly mentions library budgeting as one of the roles of the teacher librarian.  Donations are discussed in a separate sub-section.
Policy B has a section titled ‘Library funding’ outlining where the library funding comes from, what the current budget is and what that budget is aimed to be used for in very broad terms. It does not address funding priorities. Gifts and donations are discussed in a separate sub-section.

In this section, Braxton identifies acquisition procedures, selection criteria for suppliers, supplier preferences and considerations for acquisition of both print and non-print resources. 
Although the CEO guidelines provide for a sub-section on acquisition procedures, neither Policy A nor Policy B provide any details on acquisition procedures, suppliers or acquisition considerations.

Collection Evaluation
Here, Braxton provides details on criteria and methods used to evaluate the collection. The CEO guidelines have a sub-section ‘Collection Review’ with brackets (weeding) following it, but no specific sub-sections for evaluating the collection beyond de-selection.
Both Policies contain a title ‘Evaluation of the Library’ which is a generic statement about the teacher librarian promoting and analyzing the collection. No specific details or methods are described as to how the collection shall be evaluated.

Deselection of resources
Braxton acknowledges this can be a contentious issue, and therefore advocates for the need for establishing the purpose, authority and criteria for the deselection of resources. This section is very detailed, providing criteria for deselection of print and non-print resources, a guidelines for age of non-fiction resources, information regarding the disposal of culled materials.
The CEO guidelines provide for deselection of resources under the sub-section ‘Collection Review (weeding).
Policy A has a section titled ‘Weeding’ and provides some details regarding the weeding process and some de-selectioncriteria for both print and non-print resources. Policy B contains Discard Criteria under their collection development section. This is a short list of criteria.
Neither policy establishing the purpose for deselection, have limited details about the deselection process and have no information listed for disposal of culled materials.

Challenged Materials
Braxton provides a detailed policy for Challenged materials, contained as an appendix within the Collection Management document.  This provides all the necessary information and forms needed for clear understanding by all parties concerning challenges to library materials. The CEO guidelines provide a Challenged Materials Policy for use by schools.
Both Policy A and B provide a form for completion by the parties challenging materials in the library, but do not provide a Challenged Materials policy, any information regarding challenged materials procedures for their school nor do they refer in anyway to the CEO’s Challenged Materials Policy.

Other Inclusion
Both policies had other information included in their policies that was not address by Braxton’s sample policy.
Policy A addresses:
the issue of equitable access in some detail
library staffing and the specific role of the teacher-librarian in that school
stocktaking procedures
details the particular Collection Management software used
explains how the library program meets the curriculum needs of the school; borrowing procedures and library supervision. 
Provides an appendix of a scope and sequence for inquiry based learning skills for each year level

Policy B addresses:
library staffing and the specific role of the teacher-librarian, library assistant  and volunteers in that school
copyright guidelines
stocktaking procedures and stocktaking timetable
explains how the library program meets the curriculum needs of the school; borrowing procedures and library supervision. 
Provides an appendix of a scope and sequence for inquiry based learning skills for each year level

What I learned from this analysis
While both of these policy documents contained some valuable information, there was a lack of information regarding the purpose and goals of many aspects of the management of the collection. The CEO guidelines are, from my perspective, lacking in providing a firm enough direction through brevity of information in their guidelines. Instead, they have a list of links to other websites providing information on writing library policies. Although each school situation is different and therefore the policy documents of each school will be different, one would expect that the guidelines would be more detailed to encourage more consistency in the information provided. 

Debowski (2001) states that ‘a major concern of the collection policy is to delineate the issues that need to be addressed if the actual library collection is to be well maintained and managed in its selection and growth’ (p. 126). Neither policy analysed here fully addressed who the users of the library were, nor did they provide a perspective on the school’s situational anaylsis, which would impact at a local level to way the collection is built and maintained, and the goals for the acquisition and maintenance of the collection. Neither policy provided an outline of specific goals for the short term and long term management of the library collection, which would make the funding and selection decisions for the collection difficult.

The acquisition aspect of both policies was non-existent. As there was no reference to a separate selection policy, it can be assumed one does not exist (although this might not necessarily be true). As this was not addressed, there is no clear direction for how the selection criteria are used for the purpose of acquisition, where the school acquires their resources and who selects, approves and purchases resources.

While both policies attempted to address the area of resource selection, the selection criteria listed lacked sufficient details, did not clearly outline responsibility for selection, the formats considered for inclusion in the collection and selection limitations.  Both policies lacked sufficient detail to ensure the collection selection addressed the many different aspects of selection for both print and non-print resources.

Both policies included a form for use regarding challenged materials, but neither policy ‘established a rational and professional process for reviewing the resource’ (Debowski, 2001, p. 133). Debowski states that policies should cover three aspects:
The lodgement of the complaint
The review process
The actions to be taken after the review of the work(s)
and that a standardized process should be established and made clear in the policy document (p. 135).

There also seemed to be a lack of understanding of what was involved with evaluation of the collection, as in both policies this area was very general, almost to the point of being vague.

I found this process time consuming but very valuable. It would be interesting to go back to the schools these policies came from to see if a library procedures manual exists that might provide more information about that library and how it’s collection is managed. In both policies there were aspects that would be useful, but there is also significant information missing, that would be necessary for an incoming librarian to know.


Braxton, B. (2014). Sample Collection Policy. In 500 hats – the teacher librarian in the 21st century. Retrieved from

Debowski, S. (2001). Collection management policies. In K. Dillon, J. Henri & J. McGregor (Eds.), Providing more with less : collection management for school libraries (2nd ed.) (pp. 126-136). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University. (on e-reserve).


  1. Wow! What an enormous amount of work. I have spent a lot of time reading Barbara's Policy and have found your analysis very useful. I was able to correlate some of my thoughts and critiques with yours. I really enjoyed reading this.
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks Jenny!
      I found it very interesting to compare the theory with the reality. At least I might be somewhat prepared for what I might find when I start working back in the 'real world' again :)