ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

Developing an Approval Plan / Mary Seem (seem@frick.org)

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As a member of the Book Department at the Frick Art Reference Library, I came into this job with a general understanding of our scope that became more developed as I began to purchase desired titles. A relative newcomer to the Book Department, I was very excited to develop a new approval plan with Yankee Book Peddler (YBP). We had used YBP as a vendor previously and decided to rekindle our approval plan with them in hopes of finding more American and UK titles to order that we might have missed otherwise. Our new approval plan with YBP has done just that and had the added benefit of increasing my understanding of our collection development policy. It is also the type of new experience I believe others that are new to the field will benefit from hearing about. I find reading through this blog to be a nice peek into the inner workings of other libraries. However, I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts on a process that is likely old hat for most established acquisitionists yet I found to be very exciting and eye-opening.

YBP’s approval plan was quite lengthy – a spreadsheet with multiple sheets that addressed scope from a variety of angles. One sheet broke down each Library of Congress classification allowing for very granular distinctions in title preferences. For instance, we do not collect generally on Numismatics (LC classification CJ) but do collect titles about medals and medallions (CJ 5501 – 6661) (See Figure 1). The approval plan also included a sheet of additional “non-subject parameters” that clarified our desire for binding type, format, content level, and so on. Completing this approval plan was time consuming but ultimately presented a very thorough interpretation of our collecting policy. Some of the decisions proved to be obvious, such as the decision to not include titles with a juvenile content level. Others pointed to potential fluidity in the edges of our collecting policy. For example, we don’t collect short stories but may collect novels depending on the content (See Figure 2). Parsing through these individual decisions allows for a very close look at what our scope truly includes and pointed to some parameters that I had previously never considered.

Establishing an approval plan does not end with the arrival of the first approval slips; rather, an approval plan needs to be further tweaked to ensure that potentially desired titles are included while those that are out of scope are not. Our approval plan with YBP is one that will develop over time as areas of study are added or removed from our scope. The development of this approval plan has provided a look at the inner workings of our relationships with vendors and has given me greater confidence in my decisions as an acquisitionist.

YBP Approval Classification spreadsheet
Figure 1

YBP Non-subject parameters
Figure 2

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