Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Document Type


Date of this Version

January 2001


Published in Electronic Collection Management, McGinnis, Suzan D., Editor, 67-96. Book Chapter Co-published in Collection Management 25(1/2) (2001), pp. 67-96. Copyright 2001 Haworth Press. Used by permission.


The literature of the early 1990s suggested changes in the structure of collection management itself in order to accommodate the changes both now occurring and those foreseen. Sheila Creth wrote in 1991 "Until recently, the primary focus of collection development has been on building collections." She outlined the functions of collection management in academic libraries to include: selection of materials, weeding, preservation, liaison with faculty and academic departments, reference and user education, fiscal responsibility, and policy development. Creth saw the necessity for a basic change in the library’s organization structure. "According to the principles of organizational design, the traditional structure of the university library is functional in nature . . . Change has become the common denominator for the university library." Therefore, Creth called for a collection management team structure of subject librarians with subject expertise to provide the basis for accommodating these changes. In 1989 Atkinson foresaw the need to soften the emphasis on division of responsibilities by subject in favor of subdividing subjects according to functions.

The functions suggested by Atkinson were notification, documentation, instructional, historical, and bibliographical. These correspond to five information sources:
1. Notification sources–journal articles and monographs written by scholars for other scholars.
2. Documentation sources–all primary materials. These will differ by discipline.
3. Instructional sources–summaries of knowledge such as textbooks or manuals.
4. Historical sources–sources that may be needed one day for historical research.
5. Bibliographical sources–those that organize and provide access to the other sources.

In the year 2000 and beyond, we can most certainly see an impact from electronic resources on all five functional areas on Atkinson’s list, with historical sources being an especially elusive one considering the ever-increasing quantity of non-archived electronic information. Creth’s team approach is one frequently used as we see more and more libraries tackle the function of providing organized access to web resources using teams consisting of subject librarians, computer specialists, educational technologists, and graduate students.