How is Your Collection Behaving?


A Guest Blog Post by Mary Kelly 

Let’s be honest, 2020 will go down in history for a lot of us as the worst year ever. World-wide pandemic, political strife, economic crisis, and of course our long-time players: racism and sexism. If you are working in a public library, these topics have probably been dropped into the lives of your patrons, co-workers, and community. Patron and needs have changed. What has changed in your library?

World events, even if they are far away and not of immediate concern, can have repercussions in your collection and your library. Large scale events, such as the economic crisis of 2008, or Hurricane Katrina, or wildfires in California will affect your community’s information needs, even if it is not in your back yard. COVID is a global event that is in everyone’s back yard.

Let’s dig deeper into what topics COVID may influence as far as collection choices. Caveat: I am basing these speculations on my own experience with reference questions or talking to patrons. Let’s start with the obvious INCREASING needs.

Health information: Information needed on COVID.

Reliable books are probably not going to be written about COVID yet, but there maybe articles. Be date conscious. What was known back in March, might need updating. Since this is a constantly changing situation, currency is your best friend. Finding reliable information appropriate for your audience could be found in the Proquest Coronavirus Database or in the EBSCO COVID-19 portal.

Mental Health Information

More resources might be needed for some of the effects of the pandemic, isolation, and uncertainty for these trying times. I have also seen related problems such as home organization as people develop home offices. Information on exercise, journal keeping, and other self-care materials could also be in demand.

Job Resources

The pandemic has thrown many people into reduced hours or unemployment. Career resources are going to be needed. The pandemic has also brought about changes in technology for how we interview. Along with the traditional resources, you might think about resources on things like Zoom, Video Interviewing, Facetime, etc. Being able to support patrons needing technology while they job hunt is going to be important. This also goes beyond a few books about technology, I have seen an interest in coding, web technologies, Microsoft Office, data science, etc., as people try to upgrade their skill set. Watch for spikes in other related areas like small business planning, professional testing materials, crafting, etc., as people try and develop other income sources.

Parenting/Teaching Resources

Many families have had to adapt to online school or partial online school. This requires more hands on for parents and presents new challenges to teachers. Materials that address education needs, as well as the technology required to make this work will be areas of concern for many families.

The other consideration, especially when it comes to resources, is what topics might see LESS activity during this time.

Travel and Tourism

Since I am in Michigan, there are stricter guidelines on travel. My employer requires us to quarantine at home for 2 weeks if we leave the state. Currently, foreign travel is off the table as well due to quarantine issues with other countries. I doubt any libraries travel collection is seeing too much action. The exception at my library is Michigan based travel. These have always done well, but the summer and fall had many people thinking about in-state choices.

Catering/Party Planning/Events

The restrictions on large gatherings has shut down the party industry. No graduation, weddings, showers and other special events where there might be large groups of people involved has probably decreased demand for these materials.

There are real ebbs and flows to library collection issues. Even if COVID-19 never showed up, the elections always flood with what I call the “I hate the president/I love the president” publications. They are on our radar for a hot minute and then fade into obscurity less than a year later. Collection development requires enough knowledge of world events as well as your own community.

I also want to reiterate that collections vary from library to library. What I have noticed in my library is not going to be the same in other libraries. Over the years, when I have given presentations about collections, invariably someone will ask me if they should weed/buy something. I can’t comment on a specific topic or tell someone what will work or not work for their library. What I can do is say be mindful about what is happening to your community and make sure your collection is all about what they need or want. Look at your data for your library. Think about the impact of local and world events and be deliberate in how you tailor your collections.


About the Author

Mary Kelly received an MLIS and an MBA from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Mary’s day job is Digital Services and Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, Michigan where they use Innovative SkyRiver. When not serving her customers at the reference desk, she is often seen trying to wrestle e-books and the Internet into submission. She is passionate about collection quality, library management, and loves a good reference question. Mary is co-creator of the popular blog “Awful Library Books.” along with her long-time co-worker, Holly Hibner.