Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Collection Development Policy

I work in a library as a library assistant and am quite familiar with the useful purposes of a collection development policy.  Essentially a collection development policy guides a library's purchasing choices and also assists with weeding.  Collection Development policies ensure that a collection meets the needs and desires of users.  I can't believe I didn't think to write a policy for my own book-buying until a few months ago.  And it has taken me until last week to go about actually writing it down.

This is how I knew it was time:

Summertime.  The night of the Harry Potter 7.2  midnight movie.  In Barnes and Noble.  $25 in my pocket.  Absolutely panicked.  Finally I have a chance to buy books.... but what?  I can only buy one or two items and there's so much!  Fiction? Classics? Non-Fiction?  Ack!!!!!!!  I finally chose a novel, but the process was disconcerting.  I was overwhelmed with choices, limited with funds, and had no idea what I even wanted.  I had a title or two in my head, but when I couldn't find those on the shelves I felt severe anxiety.  Booknerd Anxiety.

A few weeks later, a repeat.  Same summer, but this time a used bookstore.  $20 in my books and too many choices.  Same issue.

Then this fall a completely different problem.  I blew $20 at the charity library sale and came home with close to 40 books.  I just grabbed what looked interesting and now I don't know where to put them all. 

Okay.  Seriously.  I need a collection development policy. 

Amanda's Collection Development Policy

General Scope:  Mostly British / Classics / Women Writers / Historical Fiction

Collected Presses:  Virago / Persephone / NYRB

Areas of Collection Growth:

Poets:  Sylvia Plath / Anne Sexton / Edna St. Vincent Millay / T.S. Eliot / W.B. Yeats

Story Collections:  From collected authors (see Authors list) / Mystery / Gothic and Ghostly / Historical / Fables and Fairy Tales

Historical Periods and Interests (for topical fiction and non-fiction collection):  Victorian / History of the Book / Memoirs and Biographies by and/or about writers / British History 1400-1600 / Bohemian Leftbank / WWI, WW2, and in between / Classic Art / Fables and Fairy Tales

Authors:  Sharon Kay Penman / The Brontes / Elizabeth Gaskell / Charles Dickens / Wilkie Collins / Evelyn Waugh / Angela Carter / Elizabeth Bowen / Shirley Jackson / Margaret George / Simone de Beauvoir / Virginia Woolf / George Eliot / E M Forster / John Galsworthy / Sylvia Townsend Warner / Rebecca West / Emile Zola / Iris Murdoch / Barbara Pym / Patricia Highsmith / A S Byatt / H P Lovecraft / M R James / Margaret Atwood

Those are the basic parameters. 

Here are essential questions to ask before buying a book:
  • Is this item in good shape?
  • Is it from a press I collect or an area of collection growth?
Questions to Ask After Reading (must answer "yes" to at least four of the following questions to keep the book:
  • Will I read this again?
  • Will I wish to consult this item again?
  • Do I wish to lend this title to friends/family or save it for my children?
  • Is this a press I collect?
  • Does this fall within the areas of collection growth?
  • Is this a quality item (in good shape, excellent translation, etc....)?
Now I have a plan when I shop.  First check for the presses I collect, second check my author list, third check for poetry and short stories, and fourth check for non-fiction titles.

This really really really makes me want to buy more books just to check out the policy.  My next book-nerd clean up task is to do a massive book reorganizing, create a plan of attack for reading my books that I'm not sure I'll keep, and then updating my LibraryThing (which is vastly incorrect and hasn't been updated in two years). 

Cheers for my nerdy OCD! 

Give me some feedback?  What do you think of my policy? Do you have a policy?


christina said...

This is the best post of the day! I don't really have a collection policy but since I'm on my first TRUE book buying ban, I really should consider coming up with one before I am allowed to purchase those nerdcracks again. (My ban ends April 1st and let me tell you, my wishlist is HUGE!)

Catherine said...

i don't have a book collection policy, per se, but i do have a thrifting collection policy. :)

although mine is not quite as organized as yours, it's something like this:
midcentury - furniture, lamps, accessories

60's-70's - art, prints, ceramic tschotskes, fabric

textiles - doilies, vintage sheets, decorator fabric, vintage embroidery, non embroidered linen, linen tea towels.

decorative objects - ceramic animals, antlers, candle holders, vintage planters, vintage glassware, and absurd pictures.

i can't even imagine trying to apply this to a book collection policy - although i do purchase atwood, eliot, cummings, pound, plath, asimov, and bradbury every time i see them.

Susan in TX said...

Oh my! If ever I had a need, it would be to come up with a collection development policy. It would probably help me to thin out some books that are taking up precious shelf space. I love these "nerdy" posts, btw - they provide much food for thought.

Allie said...

I think this is a phenomenal idea! My book habits were a lot worse before I started my project. I collected books just to collect them...many ended up neglected on my shelves. Now I have a master list of books I want to own, so I add titles on there when I think of them, and have a copy in my purse when i go book shopping. This prevents my impulse buys. :)

Lindsey Sparks said...

I love this idea! I've sort of done this, unofficially, over the past year. I own sooooo many books that I haven't read already, so it just seems so wasteful to keep buying books when I have unread bookcases full of books and a library on my way to and from work. I now try not to buy books I can get at the library unless they are non-fiction/reference type books I would use regularly or are classics. I can also buy fiction that's not easily accessible through the library, such as Persephones. Plus, I'd just like to own that whole collection. I also usually buy books as souveniers when I travel, but I've tried to be more conscious about picking items I can't get at home or that have a lot of meaning, just just a giant stack at whatever used bookstore I wonder into.

Amanda said...

Thanks guys! It is nice to know that I'm not the only one with odd OCD like tendencies. hurray for organization!

Thomas at My Porch said...

I've been having the same conversation with myself in recent days. While we were on vacation I went to many used bookstores and not really needing to buy anything I thought it might be time to decide on on a new collection/obsession. I think I came up with a good one. Thankfully it will be a cheap. As soon as the first books arrive I am going to post about it.