Collection Development and the "List"

Jim Scholtz (jscholtz@sdln.net)
Fri, 7 Jan 2000 11:39:02 -0800 (PST)

Hi All, I was going to remain a virtual lurker in this matter of the core
list (a contributor to titles, but a lurker to the discussion), but I like
a bit of controversy just as much as the next person so here's my 2 worth.

In giving libraries free collections of the "Everyman's Library," evrn
Andrew Carnegie struggled with the "give-em what they want vs the give-em
what they need philosophy - and that's what we're talking about here. In
the 40-50's public libraries really had literary classics and nonfiction
titles. General novel fiction and multiple copies supplying patron demand
didn't really come into vogue until the mid-60's. Remember Valley of the
Dolls!?
The very purpose of a core list - be it Sheehy's Reference Guide, Videos
for Small and Medium-Sized Libraries, Video Movies, etc. is to provide the
cream of the crop (based on objective criteria such as outstanding
technical qualities, awards, etc.) I don't believe that high circulation
(past circulation performance) or general popularity, and low price should
be MAIN considerations on this list - 200 titles or 5000 - the number makes
no difference!

Let me give an example - I think in the 16 years that I've been
professionally reviewing videos (I've seen over 40,000 titles Milos and
I've got the computer data/review cards to prove it + titles at NMM, AFVA,
EFLA, and NFVA not counted), the four "educational" titles that stick out
in my mind as being better than anything else I've EVER SEEN are "The Man
Who Planted Trees, World Without Walls (Beryl Markham), The Gingerbread
Revolution and America's cup (sailboat racing). These titles are like fine
wine, aging only makes them better; they speak volumes in words/pictures
about the entire scope of humanity, the use the video format is the only
way these stories could be told (and the best way). when I watch videos
such as these I'm thrilled that I'm an AV librarian and get a chance to
"hawk" these titles to patrons. I get a chill up and down my spine when I
view them - I cry, laugh, etc. - they are what the Greeks meant when they
defined the word Pathos. But, the Man who Planted Trees is a difficult
film to sell to patrons/use. It can be used as a religious piece, a
literary piece, an art piece, a humanist piece, etc. - on so many levels
but it is difficult to describe/label. There are many feature films that
break this barrier also - such as "Schindler's List," "The Shawshank
Redemption," - heck, I even get "pathotic - new word" when viewing Rocky I
and The Natural, etc. That lightning bolt as Robert Redford hits a home
run that crashes into the windows in the stadium is a tear-jerker!!

These titles may/may not be popular - libraries may not own them (because
of price or not being able to "sell" them to the general public). It
doesn't mean a library collection is not "good" if they don't have them.
what is good anyway? Does good mean well-circulating, well-used, etc. or
does it mean have a great collection defined by buying every title in a
bibliography but that doesn't met any local community criteria (filling a
need) and doesn't circulate. A true core collection shouldn't be that
esoteric in nature but should espouse loftier inclusion criteria - a
certain goal of libraries is to educate and widen intellect and that can't
be done with a steady diet of Arnold S. films (although I did cry when
viewing Terminator II!!). Also, the core collection groups films together
in categories and provides a good marketing method - books, movies - table
displays, posters, book marks, etc.

In short, I think that the list needs to be exclusive with some rigid
inclusion criteria but "useability" by patrons needs to be one of the
criteria - not necessarily popularity. Librarians will take what they
need/want from the list. Let us "pronounce from the pulpit" so to speak
rather than "throw peanuts on the floor" as we make the list.

So much for my 2 Jim Scholtz.