Convegno internazionale sullo sviluppo delle raccolte
International conference on collection development

Current issues in collection development: Italian and global perspectives

Bologna, 18 febbraio 2005

Anna Maria Brandinelli
Collection Development Policy Statement:
the experience of Biblioteca Sala Borsa in Bologna

People attending today's meeting are of such a qualification as to require no introduction or historical setting about current issues in acquisition and collection development. A very large representative of IFLA Section engaged in these matters is here with us, surrounded by important Italian scholars and librarians. I like to mention especially Giovanni Solimine, whose almost pioneer work on the subject in Italy has been a model for us, with the wide bibliographical knowledge and keen, amicable support of Rino Pensato. Let me refer you to all these knowledgeable people's works for a complete and up-to-date detail of all these matters.

Professional librarians in Italy often declare the adoption of collection development policy statements would be extremely useful, but the practice does not seem to be widely in use. At least, when we have wished to refer to some ongoing model, we have not been able to find any published one in our country. Not even our excellent "sister" libraries in the region - which have produced a hoard of best practices we have liberally pillaged - have been able to give us nothing more than suggestions and warnings.

Why did we choose to write a Collection Development Policy Statement? We could have restrained ourselves to a general outline, expanding more thoroughly on some specific areas or matters. But the project for the new library included:

  1. the fusion of three separate branches, the Central Library at Palazzo Montanari [1], the Children Library [2], the "R. Ruffilli" art section [3];
  2. the definition of a new mission for the new library: Archiginnasio [4] being such an important repository of all cultural heritage of Bologna, Biblioteca Sala Borsa wanted to be complementary to it, emphasizing its character of contemporaneity, friendliness and wide use of electronic media;
  3. the good financial support available for the new library. Biblioteca Sala Borsa, as a top priority project for Bologna European Culture City in 2000, has been endowed with 2,1 billion lire ( 1.084.560) for documents and 1 billion lire ( 516.457) for cataloguing and physical processing (bar-code and call number labels, security strips, covering). The target, set and gained for the opening day, was to make available a collection of 125,000 documents at least: 108,000 books for children and adults, 450 periodicals, 600 cd-roms, 10,000 musical cds, 5,000 videos and 1,000 maps.

Writing a Collection Development Policy Statement was therefore a self-imposed action, derived from an unusual financial availability, the importance of the project and the difficulty to assess and develop, with any other method, three separate collections, each only partially included in three separate online catalogues.


A Collection Development Policy Statement is meant to inform the general public about principles guiding collection establishment, management and development. It presents guidelines and criteria related to selection, acquisition, allocation, removing, weeding of current and historical collections of a library. The group of librarians engaged in it meant to give priority to decisions based on community needs, to express standards to evaluate collection coherence and quality, to make trasparent acquisition choices or exclusions, to guarantee continuity in cultural and bibliographical options.

A Collection Development Policy Statement has also the purpose to inform the public and other libraries about collection scope, and as such is fundamental to cooperation within library systems [5]. It is instrumental to budget allocation, showing what should be updated both in quantity and quality, tendency lines of library use and therefore of subject development. The statement helps reduce personal bias of staff, whose capability, aptitude and even likings must be an asset rather than a danger. Last but not least, a statement is of great help in staff induction, as a quick framework for new librarians to move around the library, understand its documentary profile, and fall in with their duties in reference, collection maintanance, communication, whatever their core subject expertise might be.


The new library is committed to inform, entertain, enrich all members of the community, and to foster personal self-learning process by facilitating access to collections, services, and facilities.

The library will make available a broad spectrum of ideas reflecting diverse points of view and will provide up-to-date collections that reflect the needs and diversity of the community of Bologna.

Biblioteca Sala Borsa profile is of general information and contemporary character, meant to represent today culture by means of free and easy access to information in print, audio, video, electronic and computer formats. Collections, equipment and facilities are for public use, and therefore all obstacles are removed which might hinder easy and friendly contact, apart from restrictions applied for the purpose of protecting from theft or damage.

The city

Let us outline in a nutshell the profile of the city, and therefore of its cultural needs.

Bologna has 374,425 residents; 25,385 are foregneirs (i.e. 6,8%, increasing both in number and diverse nationality). University enrolls 99,200 students, and 47,220 come from other counties and regions, 22,700 live in Bologna county, including 12,000 in Bologna. Foreign students are 2.300. The University employs 5,000 persons, and among them 3,000 are teachers and researchers.

No wonder, then, if Bologna registers one of the highest cultural consumption in Italy. In 2001 SIAE [6] registers 43.30 per head for cinema, 46.71 for music and theatre. 76.3% of the population read newspapers (national average 43% in 2003), while 60.5% read books (Italian average 42%). The use of the Internet is among the highest in Italy: to foster IT environment, the Comune of Bologna created in 1995 a civic network, providing free access to the net for all individuals, associations or firms asking for it.

The general part of the Statement is completed by a collection scheme of use, defining materials for circulation or not for circulation, selection criteria, collection coverage levels and reference sources for acquisitions.

Selection criteria

Relating to different classes, sections or special collections within the library, selection criteria are on the whole as follows:

Coverage levels

The library adopts coverage levels drawn from those which have taken shape in North America especially and have been lately published in Italian professional literature. Original definitions are, however, slightly adapted to Biblioteca Sala Borsa profile and nature. [7]

Coverage level codes follow ALA suggestions, adopting numbers from 1 to 5, representing a ratio between library acquisitions and national publishing production related to the level of serviceability by users, library aims, informational and cultural needs within the community.

Levels are defined as such:


Biblioteca Sala Borsa forms its acquisition lists drawing from most reliable and up-to-date sources of bibliographical information, publishers' or commercial lists, both printed or online, general or special bibliographical guides; Italian and foreign reference works about books and other materials; reviews, critical notes from newspapers, magazines and other media; browsing in bookshops or other libraries; library or bookshop catalogues in Internet; web sites of cultural istitutions, events and research associations; literary forums and discussion lists; professional literature.

Twice a week, by contract, the library main supplier delivers around 50-70 books for approval: this is a very useful routine, required by profile in the tender, and keenly exacted by librarians, eager to make novelties available to readers as soon as they are issued.

The Document illustrates the diverse area collections, marked as Non-fiction, Literature, Fiction; Reference; Local material; Periodicals; Children, Teen and Young Adult. For each section, scope, selection criteria, coverage levels, formats, languages are reintroduced and detailed.

Assessment, weeding, rejection

Collections are periodically revised, to maintain a sense of lively and update offer, consistent with the library mission. Assessment procedures are standard: document use, issue date, quality, nature and value are examined, to decide in a planned, systematic way which material should be kept, substituted, set aside, or rejected.

For weeding, the formula is drawn from the well-kwon MUSTIE [8] (M=Misleading and/or factually inaccurate; U=Ugly, worn out beyond mending or rebinding; S=Superseded by a new edition or a better source; T=Trivial, of no discernable literary or scientific merit; I=Irrelevant to the needs and interests of your community; E=Elsewhere, the material may be easily borrowed from another source), where only the final E is dropped, being Biblioteca Sala Borsa a main library.

Worn out documents are set aside and, if possible, replaced. Rejected ones, if still in good conditions, can be offered to or exchanged with other libraries. A particular agreement has been made with Archiginnasio library, which is in charge of retaining at least one copy of every book ever acquired by Bologna libraries. Biblioteca Sala Borsa means to sell discharged documents, but has not yet implemented the necessary organization.

Decisions about admitted formats, guidelines for recommended number of copies, retention of materials are found either in this section of document or in paragraphs dealing with the diverse areas. For instance, all local periodicals are retained, as well as those which for nature or quality, photos or illustrations, tend to become materials for reference, study or research beyond their chronological scope or date of issue. Again, special care is taken to substitute timely yearbooks or tourist guides, being particularly relevant that their information be up-to-date.

Foreign languages

Biblioteca Sala Borsa acquires documents in foreign languages in the following cases:


The library means to pursue cooperative activities with other public libraries of the area, and particularly pursues a conspectus-like plan of collection development with them, in order to achieve a better coverage by subjects and a more clean-cut profile for each library and its services. Particularly important is the above mentioned agreement with Archiginnasio.

Cooperation is, for instance, fruitful and therefore satisfactory in a indexing project of local serials, which has greatly enriched catalogue recall and therefore exhaustiveness in reference work.

Management responsibility and procedures

The director is responsible for the uniform implementation of the Collection Developmente Policy Statement, and approves yearly development plans, in which budget allocation is defined.

Three senior librarians are responsible of the diverse sections (materials for lending; periodicals and reference services; children). They prepare yearly development proposals, and coordinate as well acquisition lists drawn up by junior librarians, who are in charge each of a single or a group of DDC subjects defined in the table of coverage levels.

Librarians submit to the director development plans for each section, as well as regular reports of results obtained. These proposals form all toghether the yearly development plan, which is therefore both an implementation and a minor adjustment , brought about every year, of the general Collection Development Policy Statement. It is conditioned both by data on document use and by publishing industry trends. It is an internal plan, a result of group work.

Within this framework, a particular experimental work has been brought about for non-fiction, fiction and literature books for lending. To this area, in 2003 went as much as 62% of the budget for document acquisition. The results have been quite satisfactory, and the percentage of acquisitions in the general plan has been confirmed. On the area subjects are at work 19 junior librarians out of 41. They work in shifts, perform diverse jobs, take part to various projects, attend courses and meetings: all this requires sharing the same working instruments and procedures. To manage 2004 development plan and budget, an effort has been made in this direction. We will be able to evaluate how effective these procedures have been in late 2005.

As for the Collection Development Policy Statement, we have taken the move from some "classical" assumptions: first of all, to make good use of statistical data, which are analyzed on the basis of the same DDC groupings of classes used for coverage levels [9] and examined to a considerable depth.

We attach here the MS Excel spreadsheet we have experimented as a mathematical tool to develop and check the budget allocation, following Giovanni Solimine's suggestions of method [10]. The speadsheet is presented split in two for practical reasons. Table (a) points out columns related to mean holdings (number of documents held at the beginninig of previous year + number at the end of year / 2) and circulation indexes (ratio of loan number to mean holdings) of DDC groupings of classes as related both to mean holdings on one side and to items which have circulated at least once a year on the other. The next column reports the mean cost per item -drawn from the electronic acquisition system- in each grouping: the data provides us with a cost per use indicator, in absolute and in percentage value. We have used the indicators to calculate a draft allocation of 2004 budget to non-fiction, fiction and literature areas of adult collections.

Table (b) supplies numbers which have been used to reason about 2003 acquisitions as related to publishers' issues in the same year, looking at the percentage of each grouping. The column "% acquisition on publishing production (estimate)" shows the share of acquisitions, related to production share, represented by the number of books in column "draft acquisition 2004 by number".

Column "modify +/- " introduces some parameters of adjustment, discussed by the director and the senior librarian responsible for the section, with each subject librarians and with their whole group. When applying these parameters to the percentage of acquisitions for the DDC groupings, we look at the scenario of a modified number of volumes to acquire and budget allocations.

Of course, it is no magic formula, but just a tentative experiment to give mathematical expression to long discussions on data, their relation and meaning. The effort sets several objectives:

The adjustment parameter column is the most relevant and telltale instrument introduced, reflecting the director's and librarians' wish to keep the helm amidships, steering slightly clear of trendy subjects, bestseller advertising or an all do-it-yourself manuals library.

Each subject librarian has therefore the responsibility of a portfolio, accompanied by a "log book"(with details about various vendors, contracts and payments, coverage levels, need for materials in foreign language, further copies criteria, advice on the use of children books to diffuse the subject, last weeding date, percentage of non circulating items etc.), to update in the process. Attached here, as an example, is the sports acquisition log book [11].


The Collection Development Policy Statement has been written to guide us in the creation, management and development of our collections.

At the same time, the document shows as well general principles to guide librarians in reassessment activities, in order to maintain collections up-to-date according to the library mission. In our case, mission underlines contemporaneity, multiculturality, multimedia as characters of Biblioteca Sala Borsa. With these factors in mind, the document will undergo every year minor adjustemts represented by the annual acquisition plan, but must also be more attentively revised over a lengthier period, to take into account deeper modifications in publishing, culture and communication, users habits and attitudes.


[1] It was the public library of Bologna, heir of the Popular Library created in 1909 in via Castiglione (in premises formerly hosting the Biblioteca Zambeccari, created by a nobleman for the education of labour) where it remained until 1929, when it was removed in favour of the Casa del Fascio. After WWII, it was reopened next to Archiginnasio (the historical civic library created in 1802 and, since 1846 seated in the palace formerly home of the University, hence its denomination). In 1967 the public library was moved again to another historical palace headquarters. By 1978, when the library gained independent status, the site was already inadequate for the interest it had stirred.

[2] Opened at the end of the Fifties in a pretty, self-contained building inside Giardini Margherita (Bologna main park), the Children Library was "provisionally" closed in 1977. It reopened in 1988, thanks to contributions by Regione Emilia-Romagna and Province of Bologna, in a handsome but out-of-the-way villa.

[3] Formerly a branch library, when these were devolved to boroughs in 1990, it became a separate section of Central Library, with a special agreement with the University for the needs of its students in Art, Music and Performing Arts courses.

[4] Rich with historical documents resulting from the abolition of a large number of convents, endowed by many noble families with their invaluable books and archives, heir of as many important scholars, Archiginnasio has a general chararcter, distinguished primarily by historical, philosophical, political, literary, artistic, biographical and bibliographic disciplines. The section dedicated to Bologna's culture is especially significant. See more at <>.

[5] Public, academic and private libraries in the county of Bologna share the same online catalog system; 3.689.527 documents belonging to 201 libraries can be located by the same Opac (Data of December 2004). Cooperation in collection development would be very useful among 88 public libraries (at least the 23 urban ones).

[6] Società Italiana Autori ed Editori=Italian Society of Authors and Publishers.

[7] The document is available for download, but only in Italian, at <>.

[8] In Italia, SMUSI (S = Scorretto, informazione falsa, M = Mediocre, superficiale, ordinario, U = Usato, deteriorato, di sgradevole presenza, S = Superato, I = Inappropriato, incoerente con la raccolta).

[9] See tables at: <>.

[10] Particularly in his two works: Le raccolte delle biblioteche : progetto e gestione / Giovanni Solimine. - Milano : Bibliografica, 1999 e Dal libro alle collezioni : proposta operativa per una gestione consapevole delle raccolte / testi di Alessandro Agustoni ... et al. ; revisione scientifica di Giovanni Solimine. - Milano : Provincia, 2002.

[11] See attached scheme.

N.B.: disponibile anche la versione italiana.