Revisiting Collection Development in a Digital Age

For California school libraries, collection development at the district level has been a fond memory. In the late nineties the state funded each district with an amazing $28 per student for library books. Once the funding dried up, library purchases depended on book fair profits and parent club funding. Of course, this patchwork type of collection development made library collections uneven at best and resulted in the proverbial haves and have-nots.

For the first time in years, my office has a healthy budget to create programs and district-level purchasing. We have created the successful Blue Bin and Rapid Read Projects and now can address the pressing issue of district-specific library needs. But  we are facing a new question: How do we blend print and digital collection development so that we are creating balanced collections that meet the curricular and literacy goals of all our students?

For years, we have depended on data from Follett’s Titlewave analyses to create our standard district-based collection maps. However, the Titlewave analysis do not include data from our OverDrive elementary, middle, and high school collections. Do we include digital/audio materials from these collections with shelf-specific print materials in order to have an accurate picture of our district holdings?

Napa Valley USD has always been a technologically nimble district. Since the first New Technology High School in 1995, the administration and school board have always supported the use of digital resources. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that district-wide digital circulations have risen exponentially in the last few years. The most recent library services board report showed that OverDrive digital and audio materials now account for 49% of all middle school circulations. The report also found the three comprehensive high school nonfiction and reference print materials accounted for only 1% of the annual circulations. However, the number of full-text retrievals from the Gale databases was 95% higher. (I know some will say this is comparing apples and oranges, but it is a reality for us.) At the same time this data did not include the new California State Library K-12 Online content (ProQuest e-books) or results from the One Card Program.

Wondering how other school districts were handling this, I contacted Renée Ousley-Swank, School Library Technology Consultant at the California Department of Education, for her input. We both agreed in this increasingly digital age content rather than format should be the criteria. Since the adoption of curriculum with strong digital components and the move to one-to-one student devices, digital materials should become an important part of all district collection development policies.

Currently we are implementing a district-wide library collection development plan that will include collection maps that do not define materials by format. However, there are details to consider such as metered digital materials and the copy count of print, audio, and digital to create a balance that reflects student usage and needs. This is a learning curve for all of us and the success of the plan will always be in those important details. But the first hurdle has been crossed. We must remember that information, story, and words are just the same whether in print, digital, or audio formats…and every student has the right to read a book, read on a device, or read with their ears.  


Author: Kate MacMillan

18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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