I’ve been thinking about library collections and how they’ve changed over the past decade (again, culminating MLIS coursework is full-throttle until December). This week, I thought I would share six propositions for the future of academic library collections. Think of them as mini-Taiga statements that highlight the current state of collection development practices and philosophies but also present crucial factors that may determine the future of collections. Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments!



Proposition 1: In the battle between ownership and access, “access” has become the predominating paradigm.

Miller’s (2000) analysis of the period between 1980 and 2000 shows that the two paradigms that predominated collection management in the late 20th century were “ownership” and “access.” Libraries struggled to find a balance between the storage and preservation of information resources and the ability to provide constant and immediate access to them. This struggle was highlighted by the emergence of electronic resources, increased serials costs, the splintering of the academic publishing landscape, and the ubiquity of personal computers. Whereas libraries once fell decidedly upon the “ownership” side of the equation, the 21st century academic library is driven primarily by the “access” model of collections development, especially when it relates to serials acquisitions. The shift has not been entirely to one side, nor is it likely to ever shift completely to an all access model. However, the preference for ownership still predominates librarian education (Tucker and Torrence, 2004) and there is even some evidence that academic libraries may move back toward increased ownership with regards to digital materials.

Martell (2009) goes a step further to argue that the next paradigm in collection development will be what he calls “sAccess”: a social access model. Martell looks at the predominance of social networks and virtual communities and predicts that the next paradigm shift will focus on finding ways to provide resources to users within these spaces. Current licensing agreement models and format incompatibilities will make this difficult, but if academic libraries continue to push for increased ownership of digital materials, it is likely that we will see librarians trying to find ways to push this material into these spaces.



Proposition 2: Co-operation and collaboration will be even more necessary to maintain collections at a level of access that patrons will accept.

Academic libraries have been working together to share the responsibilities of collection development since the creation of the Farmington Plan at end of World War II (Evans and Saponaro, 2005). Current programs like OHIOLink and Link+ in California are testaments to successful resource sharing. It is generally acknowledged within the literature that libraries will not survive in isolation: resource sharing is a necessary activity. This is especially true for electronic resources. Consortia like SCELC, the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium, established in 1986, bring libraries together to leverage purchasing power and maximize limited financial resources (Atkinson, 2006; Horava, 2010; Kinner and Crosetto, 2009).

While the success of consortia is indispensable, it will not be enough. Collaboration will be necessary in other areas as well. One such area is advocacy. According to authors like McGuigan and Russell (2008) and Atkinson (2006), libraries need to work together “against” publishers, not maliciously, but in order to create a more realistic purchasing market and to make resources more accessible. If librarians do not advocate for standardization of digital material, more affordable pricing models, and increased ownership of e-resources, commercial enterprises like Google or Microsoft will ultimately step in and do the job for them; and librarians risk being excluded from the negotiating table. This is especially true with regards to academic publishers. For the most part, libraries are the only market for scholarly presses. Librarians need to work together above and beyond institutional boundaries rather than functioning as isolated buyers. It will require renewed entrepreneurship and stronger leadership to make this happen.

More to come…




Atkinson, R. (2006). Six key challenges for the future of collection development. Library Resources & Technical Services 50(4), 244-251.

Evans, G.E. & Saponaro, M.Z. (2005). Developing Library and Information Center Collections. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Horava, T. (2010). Challenges and possibilities for collection management in a digital age. Library Resources & Technical Services, 54(3), 142-52.

Kinner, L. & Crosetto, A. (2009). Balancing act for the future: how the academic library engages in collection development at the local and consortial levels. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 419-437.

Martell, C. (2009). sAccess: The social dimension of a new paradigm for academic librarianship. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35(3), 205-206.

McGuigan, G.S. & Russell, R.D. (2008). The business of academic publishing: A strategic analysis of the academic journal publishing industry and its impact on the future of scholarly publishing. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 9(3).

Miller, R.H. (2000). Electronic resources and academic libraries, 1980-2000: A historical perspective. Library Trends, 48(4), 645-70.

Tucker, J.C. & Torrence, M. (2004). Collection development for new librarians: advice from the trenches. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 28(4), 397-409.