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Collection Development and RA: Purchasing & Processing

Getting Started

Budget: Get a hold of your budget and see how much you have to work with. Be sure to include replacements as part of your budget - you will occasionally need to pay for lost or damaged items.

Policy: Make sure your library has a collection development policy - this will be your guiding document when it comes to selecting the best books to meet your community's needs.

Sample Policies

The Big Three

When buying books for the collection, library book vendors offer discounts, MARC records, pre-pub shipping, processing, and more.

Here are three of the biggest companies used by public libraries: Baker & Taylor; Brodart; and Ingram.

Journey of a Book

Selection: Keep your finger on the pulse of what's being published. Follow authors and publishers on social media; read professional reviews. Based on your collection development policy, knowledge of the community, and budget, you'll make decisions on what to add to the collection.

Ordering: Place your orders in advance of the publication date so that your library will be ready to circ when your patrons are ready to read. Just be sure not to circulate them before the pub date!

Cataloging: Contact the NCLS Tech Services department for information about cataloging.

Barcoding: Once you've received the item, then you you can add it to our catalog through the barcoding process.

Promotion: Once your items are ready to circulate, it's up to you to make sure they get out into the world! Displays (both in-person and digital) and good readers advisory conversations are two ways to keep your books in people's hands.

Maintenance/Repair: Public library books are not meant to last forever, but we do like to keep them in good shape for as long as we can. For items that need major repair, simply replacing them may be the best course of action. For minor repairs, check out Demco or other library vendors for professional supplies.

Weeding: Allows library staff to remove items that are damaged, worn, outdated, or no longer relevant and makes room for new materials. (Or to quote Axl Rose, nothing lasts forever.) Weeding on a rolling basis helps keep the task manageable and makes evaluation of the collection less daunting.


Covers/Cases: Library materials see more handling than books or DVDs in one's home library, and in order to maximize their usefulness, they need to be processed accordingly. For hardcover books, this means Mylar covers; for audiobooks and DVDs, this means sturdy plastic cases that can stand up to being opened and closed repeatedly.

Spine labels/call numbers: Spine labels and call numbers help patrons (and shelvers) find the books more easily. If your books aren't coming from the vendor with spine labels, there are easy ways to create your own. When it comes to call numbers, most public libraries use the Dewey decimal system for nonfiction, and organize fiction alphabetically by author's last name. If you have questions, please contact Pam.

Audio and DVDs

Midwest Tape: Midwest Tape is a full-service media distributor offering a wide variety of work-flow solutions, shelf-ready content, and customized services for our libraries.

Recorded Books: Recorded Books is RBmedia’s flagship audio brand for bestselling authors and major fiction and nonfiction content.

Large Print

Center Point: The second leading large print book publishing company in the country, focusing on publishing Large Print fiction and nonfiction titles which, are distributed mainly to the public library market.

Thorndike Press (Gale): Thorndike Press publishes large print books — including the most bestsellers and bestselling authors — in fiction genres like romance, mystery, and western to nonfiction sub-genres such as biography, history, and lifestyle in an easy-to-read format.