Redefining Collection Development at University of North Texas Libraries

Laurel Sammonds Crawford, Beth Avery, Karen Harker, Todd Enoch, and Coby Condrey

Traditional collection development philosophy maintains that librarians and faculty should attempt to predict the needs of current and future users. This philosophy has driven both workflows and fund structure. However, for most libraries, funding has not kept pace with inflation or allowed for support of new needs and emerging technologies. Since fiscal year (FY) 2012, the University of North Texas (UNT) Libraries have experienced an approximate 36 percent loss of resources due to budget cuts and inflation, and no new funds have been available to support the increasing number of interdisciplinary areas. This was the tipping point that led UNT library staff to begin discussing ways to make better use of limited funds and improve support for users’ needs.

Proposal: Redefining Collection Development Philosophy

Staff needed to create a sustainable, holistic, and flexible collection development (CD) plan that would account for limited budgets and new models of acquisitions, such as demand-driven acquisitions (DDA) and open-access materials. They envisioned a new approach to CD where the collection is integrated with the total user experience by providing information at the point of need.

We proposed shifting our CD emphasis from a just-in-case collection to a just-in-time (JIT) service. We would continue to focus acquisitions on electronic format for accessibility, discoverability, and to support the needs of distance learners. By recreating our collections into an access-based, JIT service and by using broad, flexible funds, we would be able to provide a wider scope and depth of materials. Gaps in the collection caused by specific selection or by selector bias would be reduced and eventually eliminated. All item types and formats would be combined into a holistic plan, so that all users would have access to what they need, when they need it.

Implementation of the New Model

We proposed an iterative, user-centered model of CD wherein we design, test, and refine as an ongoing process, resulting in more flexible, agile collections geared toward current users’ needs.

Goals of CD as JIT Service

  • Create a service that provides an excellent user experience.
  • Provide access and discoverability to collections that respond nimbly at point-of-need.
  • Transform librarian and faculty involvement from title-by-title selection to big-picture collection design.
  • Apply new technologies and models to the wise stewardship of funding.
  • Increase collaboration both internally and externally.
  • Create sustainable and flexible workflows, models, and policies.

Holistic Design

In each academic department, CD personnel, subject librarians, and faculty collaborate to custom-design a holistic profile using multiple parameters to insure the departmental needs are met.

JIT as Preferred General Collection Development Model

JIT will become our basic means of providing access to general collection items across format and item type. Evidence-based purchasing models, such as DDA, Pay-per-view, and purchasing of ILL requests, will be adopted wherever possible.

Flexible Fund Structure

The previous fund structure, which had more than one hundred funds based on subject area, material type, and other factors, was replaced with a simple structure built around two cost types: ongoing (journals, databases, maintenance fees) and non-ongoing (firm orders, DDA loans and purchases, ILL).

Robust, Targeted Assessment

Traditionally, the test of CD success was measured by whether the funds were expended in a timely manner, by the number of items acquired, and by use data. We will redefine how we assess in order to answer the question, “Do the users have access to what they need?” We will use qualitative and quantitative data to show the extent to which user needs are fulfilled. We will use a rubric-like assessment to assess the effectiveness of this new model.
Benefits include:

  • increased collaboration among library departments and with teaching faculty;
  • data reporting stresses the interdisciplinary nature of purchases;
  • increased frequency of action allows quick shifts in priorities based on evidence; and
  • active participation by subject librarians and faculty to design and apply this philosophy by revising policies and developing subject profiles.

Challenges include:

  • no single model to follow;
  • changes in job responsibilities for librarians;
  • immature evidence-based purchasing models;
  • concerns about the limitations of electronic format;
  • print-to-electronic lag time; and
  • obtaining buy-in from all stakeholders.

Time Frame

Fiscal year 2015 (September 2014–August 2015) will serve as the pilot year. Staff will gather feedback, make assessments, and aim to establish a firm set of policies and procedures for FY16.

Further Reading

For the detailed version of this white paper, including tables and examples and a slideshow presentation to the UNT Libraries Dean’s Council, see

White Paper: Redefining Collection Development at University of North Texas Libraries (May 2014)

Redefining Collection Development at UNT Libraries

About the Authors

Beth Avery is the recently retired head of collection management at the University of North Texas Libraries. Prior to that she was the library director at Western State Colorado University and Lamar University. Avery received her MLS from Drexel University.

Laurel Sammonds Crawford is coordinator of collection development at University of North Texas Libraries. Crawford holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Louisiana State University and has extensive experience in academic library collection development.  She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on collection analysis, organizational strategies, and assessment. Laurel’s research areas include library leadership and collection assessment. She is an active member of ALA-ALCTS and the Texas Library Association.

Karen Harker has been collection assessment librarian at the University of North Texas since joining UNT in 2012. Prior to that, she served at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in a variety of roles, including web developer librarian, research & development librarian, and biostatistician. Harker received her MLS from Texas Woman’s University in 1999, then subsequently her Master in Public Health from University of Texas School of Public Health in 2007. The role of collection assessment librarian has enabled her to apply her research and analytical skills to her passion for quality librarianship.

Coby Condrey is collection development liaison librarian and liaison to philosophy and religion at the University of North Texas Libraries. He completed his MLIS at the University of Texas at Austin and has experience in special and academic libraries. His professional interests include government information, technical services, and open access resources.

Todd Enoch is head of serials and electronic resources for University of North Texas libraries. He received a BA in English from Oklahoma State University and a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas.