Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Book Review: Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management

Fiona MacLellan reviews the third edition of Peggy Johnson’s text focusing on a key area for libraries: collection development.

Collection development is a key skill taught in library schools around the world, it represents one of the business as usual elements in most librarians' roles, certainly in any I have undertaken. Getting your collection development right is a skill that takes lots of practice: like knowing which items to add to enhance your library stock; and which ones to remove to ensure that breadth of collection is not damaged; whilst making the collection inviting and easy to navigate. These aspects form but a small part of the challenge of collection development. At library school ten years ago, we spent time looking at selection techniques for different types of library as well as collection development policies and budgeting. Since graduating, I have been involved in stock selection in public libraries, an independent environmental agency's staff library and a university library. During this period I have learnt much of the practical side of collection development and management; I have also been instrumental in making sure that my places of work had collection development policies. However, I have often felt a need to update my knowledge on the subject; after all, much could have changed in the ten years since I graduated from library school. When this book came up for review it felt as good a time as any to review my knowledge and understanding on the topic and to get a more up-to-date viewpoint on this core area in my professional life.

Contents and Structure

Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management is divided into nine chapters, plus a glossary and appendices; each chapter takes on a different aspect of collection development and management, although there is understandably overlap between some of the chapters.  A large proportion of the book concentrates on the managerial aspects of collection development, covering organisational models, staffing, policies, budgetary responsibility and marketing. However, within each chapter dealing with a largely managerial subject, there are pockets of more practical advice that will benefit a librarian without management responsibilities.  Each chapter concludes with a case study section that provides an activity to complete if you wish to. These activities would be useful for students reading without a practical application; however as a practitioner or manager I would not find these activities beneficial.

Johnson’s target audience for the book is quite varied which makes the pitching of the book quite difficult:

Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management is intended as a comprehensive introduction to the topic for students, a primer for experienced librarians with new collection development and management responsibilities, and a handy reference resource for practitioners as they go about their day-to-day work.[1]

To create a book that can give information for students, experienced staff and practitioners is tricky, as each of these groups of readers will have a different basic knowledge and varying levels of need in terms of the information they require. I think that Johnson manages to give the right level of information for the student and also offer a primer for the experienced librarian with new collection management responsibilities. However, I am less convinced that she meets her aim of providing a practitioner-friendly reference resource. Whilst some of the information in the appendices may be relevant and the odd chapter looking at the development of e-resources and explaining some of the bundle deal models are probably useful, I don’t think the book is particularly practical for day-to-day work. That said, for practitioners such as myself who want to refresh their knowledge and understanding of the topic, the book does provide a fairly comprehensive overview and therefore has value.

The work begins with an introduction to collection development and management, setting out definitions to ensure shared understanding for the rest of the book, and also giving a brief history of libraries and their collections, with particular reference to the USA. In this history Johnson breaks libraries down into four types: public, academic, school and special. In dividing libraries into these categories, Johnson is then able to give more specific and relevant information reflecting differences in the collection types and missions of the different kinds of organisation. This categorisation by library type is echoed in future chapters where variations in practice need to be highlighted.

Following the introductory chapter, the next two chapters cover the planning and setting up aspects of collection development and management. Chapter two focuses on organisational models and staffing responsibilities, again divided by library type for the initial discussion and then touching on other related aspects such as ethics and censorship. Chapter three covers planning, policy and budgets and is offered in part as a way of ‘increasing organizational efficiency’ [2]. Johnson explains the importance of planning and then focuses specifically on collection development policies, emphasising the importance of the policy for supporting the business decisions that are made. Johnson states ‘selection, deselection and priority setting throughout the library occur in isolation and without coordination if the library has no recorded rationale for decisions’ [3]. Following the discussion of collection development policies, the chapter covers budget setting, fund allocation and monitoring of funds.

Chapter four looks at the development of collections focusing on selection, evaluation and acquisition of library materials, including a section on licensing and supplier choices. Chapter five looks at collections from the management aspect and therefore covers weeding, transfer to storage (where applicable), preservation and conservation, digitisation, serials review and security of collection. Johnson notes good practice relating to weeding:

A library should have established criteria, documented in a written policy, guiding weeding and withdrawal decisions. The library then has a measure of protection in pointing to a systematic plan for not only building but also managing its collection. [4]

Chapter six covers marketing, liaison and outreach activities. It follows a similar format in terms of giving a general overview of the topic before breaking down via library type to give more specific information. Johnson highlights liaison as one mechanism for assisting with collection development:

A significant benefit that comes through liaison and outreach work is the information necessary to develop a collection that meets the needs of constituents. [5]

The final three chapters of the book deal with subjects that are perhaps more suitable for strategic-level managers to understand and implement. Chapter seven covered collection analysis from a theoretical viewpoint and offered some practical techniques on how to carry out a collections analysis. It also provides an historical overview of the topic and offers some tried and tested methods. As you would expect from a book published in 2014, a section of this chapter is devoted to electronic resources, which are covered in detail in each of the relevant chapters dealing with collection development and management as well.

Chapter eight covers co-operative collection development, which appears to be a decision that is usually made at senior-management level rather than collections-librarian level. This appears to be particularly prevalent in the USA, whereas I don’t think shared collections are as common in the UK; co-operatives in the UK are often finance-based rather than collections-based as far as I am aware.

Chapter nine covers scholarly communication and includes discussion of the Open Access movement along with more traditional publishing models. Within this chapter Johnson covers what she believes to be the issues and roles for libraries and librarians within the background context of open access. These roles include education about the changing nature of scholarly communication, open access funds, institutional repositories, discoverability, preservation and publication with a final plea from Johnson for libraries and librarians to get involved in conversations about Open Access and in shaping public policy on the matter [6].

Alongside the nine chapters there are three appendices covering resources for collection development, selection aids and some sample collection development policies. The first two of these appendices are what appear to be fairly comprehensive lists of resources, which whilst potentially useful, will possibly date the book quickly and in my view are not particularly useful. After the appendices Johnson has included a glossary which would be useful for readers who have never been involved in the topics discussed.

The other resource that is mentioned, in very small print at the bottom of the contents page, is a Web supplement to the book [7]. The inclusion of the Web extras is something I have seen with other non-fiction books I have read recently, and, in the main, I am happy to report they have all proven relevant and beneficial; however the extras for this book consist of reading lists and case studies for the two previous editions of this book. I am not sure how useful they will be. Firstly, if the items on further reading were still relevant and appropriate, then presumably they would be used in the latest edition of the book. Secondly, the case studies again must have been updated for this edition. I suspect that the original American publishers felt that they should include a supplementary Web page for the book, but I honestly do not think that this adds anything significant to the work.

Further Thoughts

This book from the start states that it focuses on the USA and Canada [8]. When I first heard about this book I thought that would not cause too many problems, and as a general update of my knowledge that aspect does not matter. However as a student or librarian new to the topic, then it may become slightly more problematic. The discussions relate to USA libraries, jurisdictions and policies. The same basic principles of collection development apply, no matter the geographic location of the library; so I feel it difficult to class this as an issue with the book - perhaps it is more of an irritation for British readers. I appreciate that the book was written and published by the American Library Association initially; however the copy I read was published by Facet Publishing which is a UK-based publisher [9]. To my mind the book would therefore have benefitted from the inclusion of British or European examples. All of that said, I found it interesting to read more about the history of American libraries.

One other area of this book I found frustrating was the referencing. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine; however Johnson is a librarian and according to the information on the back of the book the book has become an authoritative text [10] which therefore leads me to judge, perhaps unfairly. In chapter two there is a reference that has either been typed or simply referenced incorrectly. The reference refers users to 'SNONUL focus', and it should read 'SCONUL focus'. This alongside the inconsistency of one referencing format for the chapter references and a different reference format for the further reading, which I appreciate may not bother any other readers, left me frustrated and disappointed. I also noticed a small editing error in chapter two, which left me feeling that the book simply needed a little bit of care in order to make it a worthy purchase.


This work meets most of its aims: it provides a comprehensive coverage of the topic, and despite the potentially dull nature of the subject is written in an accessible manner. Despite the problems I mentioned with the text, I am glad to have read the book and I feel better informed about collection development than I did. So perhaps my initial expectations were too high. I would recommend that anyone interested in the subject should read the book. However I would not necessarily recommend the book be read in its entirety; instead I would recommend using it as a reference book, dipping in and out of the relevant sections as necessary.


  1. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. ix.
  2. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. 91.
  3. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. 99.
  4. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. 195.
  5. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. 280.
  6. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, pp. 429-437.
  7. Web Extra: Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management
  8. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” 2014, p. ix.
  9. Facet publishing. About us  http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/about_us.php
  10. Johnson, P. “Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management” London: Facet Publishing, 2014, 554 pages, paperback, ISBN 978-1-85604-937-5.

Author Details

Fiona MacLellan
Academic Librarian
University of Northampton

Email: fiona.maclellan@northampton.ac.uk  
Web site: http://www.northampton.ac.uk/directories/people/fiona-maclellan

Fiona MacLellan is an Academic Librarian for the University of Northampton, with responsibility for the Schools of The Arts and Science and Technology.  She has research interests in Reading Groups in a HE setting and referencing systems affecting reading comprehension and fluency.