Papadakos, Janet, et al. “What criteria do consumer health librarians use to develop library collections? a phenomenological study.” Journal of the Medical Library Association, 102.2  (2014): 78-84.

In this study, the authors used interviews and an analysis of CDPs to determine what actually happens during the collection development process in consumer health libraries. The researchers recruited four librarians from libraries at two institutions: University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto, Canada, and the Centro di Riferimento Oncologico (CRO) in Aviano, Italy. They employed a phenomenological approach, which tries “to capture and understand the lived experience of a group or an individual in the context in which the experience occurs.” This was carried out through multiple methods. First, the librarians were given 4 consumer-oriented pamphlets about cancer, and asked to determine whether or not they were suitable to be added to their library’s collection. After a week allotted for going through and documenting the review process for the materials, the researchers used 60 minute interviews to talk to all the librarians about the process. Librarians also filled out an online survey about their collection development process, and the CDPs (collection development policy) of both libraries were examined. Researchers identified significant statements in the interview transcripts, grouped them into themes, compared the CDPs, then grouped and summarized the study results. Results revealed many similarities (and several distinct differences) between collection development strategies. Librarians from both libraries found 80% of their admitted materials by searching for new material, which generally came from recommendations from cancer-related organizations. The other 20% were made up of book donations from recommended sources. Interestingly, the UHN librarians had formal training, while the CRO librarians were paraprofessionals. Both CDPs’ major criteria included relevance, credibility, currency, and accessibility (CRO also had interaction). When choosing, all the librarians used the criteria in the CDPs as well as 8 additional criteria. These were practicality, duplication, content review, disclaimer, limitations & leniency, proximity, and certification label. The UHN librarians only picked 2 of the 4 pamphlets to put in their collection, while CRO librarians said all of them would go in. Overall, the study found that the libraries’ CDPs had similar qualifications, but both sets of librarians followed unwritten rules. Although CDPs aren’t the complete picture, the authors concluded that they could become more valuable if they are altered to include information accrued through librarians’ experience of choosing materials.

I liked this study a good deal. The researchers used thorough and reasonable methods to discover how the processes of collection development operate. It could have been improved by a larger sample group, however.