Alternative Collection Development:  The Vermont College/Union Institute Experience



Challenge:  How to build library collections in support of non-traditional comprehensive (bachelor’s through Ph.D academic program) higher education curriculum


Contributing Factors/Stressors


  • very small physical facility (building rated to house no more than 25,000 volumes, now holds 40,000 volumes)
  • geographically dispersed (throughout North America) library users
  • distance learning/no residency/brief residency educational delivery system
  • average age of student body is 38 years
  • no formal curriculum template to provide guiding collection development architecture---only limited to visual arts, literature, humanities, and social sciences
  • self-designed independent study-based pedagogy
  • heavy reliance on interlibrary loan combined with unsuitability of standard interlibrary loan lending polices
  • geographically dispersed faculty who rarely or never are on campus



Acquisitions/Collection Development Strategies Currently Used


  • approximately 50 percent of annual materials acquisition budget set aside for responsive, rush-ordered, case-by-case library acquisitions (annual budget is $50,000)---student based collection development
  • close monitoring of interlibrary loan activity, close/frequent communication between ILL and Acquisitions staff---many ILL requests are intercepted and purchased instead of being borrowed
  • consideration of geographic distance from library when purchasing new materials directly in support of distance learners
  • remaining 50 percent of acquisition budget expended via more traditional collection developing techniques
  • heavy reliance on aggressive weeding of underused print monographs
  • heavy reliance on electronic monographs




Potential Benefits of Student-Based Collection Development


  • a good public relations/marketing tool when seeking to attract new enrollments
  • library builds a more “democratic” permanent monograph collection, directly reflecting the research needs of its users
  • library is able to reduce number of volumes purchased proactively and can maintain much smaller than usual  baseline monograph collection
  • library is assured that purchased materials will circulate



Potential Disadvantages of Student-Based Collection Development


  • can take up to several weeks to get rush-purchased items to requesting students
  • library risks developing unbalanced permanent monograph collection