Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

Summer 8-29-2015


The idea that academic libraries acquire a great many books that are never used, and that this is because traditional collection development – i.e., professional librarians purchasing books based on subject expertise and local knowledge of student and faculty needs and interests – is ineffective, has been repeated frequently during the last decade. This claim has been used as justification to change collection practices and to bolster ideas about new organizational models for libraries and their work. A closer look at the literature, however, reveals that the data being cited to support this claim has been communicated, for the most part, in an inaccurate and misleading way by its proponents and that a great deal of data exists, in fact, to refute it. This article outlines the genesis and propagation of this idea in the context of the actual findings of libraries’ collection use studies to both refute a claim that librarians seem to have been unduly uncritical in accepting and repeating, and also to question why we have done so.