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Survival Guide for Idaho Librarians: Collection Management

A quick-start ready reference source for the accidental public library director or school librarian in Idaho

Collection Management

The Collection:  Or, Do You Have ....?

There is only one way to learn about your library's collection. You have to use it. The longer you work in your library the better you will know your collection. There are some ways to quickly learn what you have.  Read the following document to gain tips in learning about your collection.

Acquisitions:  or, More Books for the Bucks

Once you know what is in your collection, how do you know what to add to it? The first thing to do is to look at the library's collection development policy. If one exists. This may tell you very specifically about the materials that you are expected to buy. If no such policy exists, ask your board to give you some general guidelines until they can complete a full policy. (Collections – WebJunction:  Explore the document below for more information.

Catalog: Or, I Know We've Got It Somewhere

Integrated Library Systems (ILS):  Get to know and become best friends with your ILS.

As you learn more about the functions and features of your ILS, you will find that it will make tasks in your library faster and easier.  In addition to making circulation a breeze, many ILS systems will speed up tasks like printing spine labels, keeping track of holds, helping you determine the weaker and stronger sections of your collection, and lots more.  If anyone asks questions about the library’s circulation numbers (like your principal or superintendent), there is no need to guess.  Your ILA tracks those numbers for whatever date range is needed. 

For every minute you spend learning about your ILS, many will be saved in the future by automating time-consuming tasks.  If there is no user guide in your library for your ILS, there is probably one online.

The most common ILS is Destiny, made by Follett.  There is quite a bit of support to learn to use Destiny, if you know where to look.  The first place is within the program itself using the help function, which is represented by a question mark.    Another source for help is the Follett Software website.  There are webinars there that are free on-demand.  If you cannot find the answer to your question there, call your support number.  Still can’t find what you need?  Call technical support.    And don’t forget about Titlewave with its collection development analysis and list making tools!

There are many other great packages, too:

Alexandria support can be found at

Koha manuals can be found at

LibraryWorld’s getting started guide is at

LiBRARYSOFT tutorials are ready for you at

SirsiDynix requires a login to access their Support Center content.  Get started at

There are many, many more ILS packages out there, including some open source programs.  Time spent here early, really pays off later.

For background on the ILS parts and functionality, read the Catalog basics information here.

Cataloging is the process used to describe items and add them to the catalog.

Why catalog?

  • So we can find what is in the library.
  • So our users can find what is in the library.
  • So we have an inventory of what is owned by the library.
  • So we can track who has used the items from the library.

Each item in the library collection should be described and inventoried.
Where this was once done using 3 x 5 inch cards, most libraries now use computer software.  The catalog, then, is really more of a database.

A database (the catalog) is made up of records. Each record has fields and, possibly, sub-fields.  The fields each represent a characteristic about the item being described.

Libraries use MARC as the accepted format for the records in library catalogs. MARC is Machine Readable Cataloging. It was developed in the 1960s.  It is a standard – a set of rules that defines the structure of a bibliographic catalog.

The rules create a template so when machines go through the record, the machine always knows that the title is going to be in a consistent location.  In this way, whether the record is in a catalog designed by Koha, Destiny, Sirsi, or another automation vendor, we can rely on the fact that the title is going to be in the 245 field. 

Basic MARC Tags

In MARC,the high level fields are known as "tags."  Tags are 3-digit numbers broken down into the following blocks:

0xx Control Information
Fields that contain standardized numbers that uniquely identify an item. Can also include fields for other coded information.
1xx Main Entry The primary access point in a record. There can be only one in each record.
2xx Titles
Includes the title (245 field), the bibliographic record, translated titles and abbreviated titles. 2xx fields also describe publishing information and edition.
3xx Physical Description May include a description of the physical item including number of pages, physical size, publication, and frequency.
4xx Series Statement If the item is a part of a series, it is recorded here. This does not, however, guarantee that it can be found by the series name in all catalogs. For that, catalogers will want to include the series information in the 8xx fields, too.
5xx Notes Used for notes about the item including summary, chapter listings, and target audience.
6xx Subject Headings Lists the subjects covered by the item.  Most subject headings come from a common subject thesaurus of subject heading system like Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).
7xx Added Entries Additional access points describing an item such as additional author names.
8xx Series Added Entries If an item is part of a series, include the series name here. This can also be used to identify access for electronic records.
9xx Local Fields If a library needs to add more descriptors for an item and a field for that descriptor does not already exist, that can be added here.  This is where a library may want to include local processing information or notes.

Some common tags you will encounter are:

  • 010: LCCN [Library of Congress number (example: 2010007504)]
  • 020: ISBN [10-digit and/or 13-digit number]
  • 022: ISSN
  • 100: Author info
  • 245: Title info
  • 250: Edition info
  • 260: Publishing info
  • 300: Physical description [length; contents; height of material)
  • 490: Series statement [Series name & Volume number]
  • 500: Notes [General]
  • 505: Content notes [multiple chapters; anthology; etc]
  • 520: Summary of the book
  • 600: Subject Added Entry [Personal Name]
  • 700: Personal Name

Options for Cataloging

  • Purchase the records - purchase MARC records from the suppliers when purchasing books or other materials for the library.
  • Original cataloging - using the record template in the ILS (catalog), create a record from scratch for items being added to the library collection.
  • Copy cataloging - acquire the MARC records from other sources, such as OCLC, available through subscription membership.

Book Donations

Resources for donating unwanted or duplicate materials:
Duplicates Exchange Union hosted/maintained by ALA/ALCTS
"The Language Project"  The organization is building English language libraries in Laos and are doing very good work. They are interested in donations of specific books (they have a wish list), book covers and old digital cameras.
LibGuide about book donation programs.