The responsiveness of collection development to community needs in the City of Cape Town Library and Information Service
The debate about the role of libraries has been on-going for more than 100 years. Huynh (2004:20) states that, initially, the purpose of public libraries was to educate or teach the public. Over time there has been a gradual shift away from this perspective to that of providing information to all groups in a community. Increasingly a clearer focus has emerged through documents such as the ‘Public Library Manifesto’ and the ‘Library and Information Services (LIS) Transformation Charter’. The Public Library Manifesto (IFLA and UNESCO 1994) addresses the need for a clear policy, “defining objectives, priorities and services in relation to the local community needs”. The Library and Information Services Transformation Charter states that there must be processes in place to gauge and analyse the library services needs of specific communities so that the library can become an information and cultural hub, responsive to the needs of the local community (South African Department of Arts and Culture 2009:20). This research examined the responsiveness of collection development initiatives and processes to the needs of communities served by the City of Cape Town Library and Information Services (COCTLIS), to assess if this constitutes a community driven approach to collection development. The following research questions were investigated: • What does a community-driven approach to collection development entail? • How does the collection development plan (CDP) of COCTLIS support a community-driven approach to collection development? • How are community needs established and assessed? • What other collection development tools and methods are librarians using? A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods were used to gather the necessary data to achieve the research objectives of this study. In particular content and thematic analysis was performed on the collection development plan (CDP) of the COCTLIS. This analysis revealed the frequency and context in which key terms, in the CDP, identify and support COCTLIS’ approach to collection development. In addition a questionnaire survey of a sample of the 104 libraries in COCTLIS was undertaken. The questionnaire was designed to examine librarians’ understanding of the philosophy underpinning collection development in COCTLIS and the extent to which the activities they employ facilitate the achievement of these collection development goals and objectives. It is hoped that this research might lead to identifying a set of principles or guidelines for community responsiveness in collection development by looking at current best practices on the ground in relation to the “old ways”. This research has found that the approach to collection development as practiced in COCTLIS conforms to the ‘textbook’ description of a community or patron-driven approach discussed in the literature. This approach requires a clear focus on establishing and meeting the needs of the communities served by libraries. The focus on community needs is evident as an underlying theme in statements in the CDP of COCTLIS, such as their vision statement. This conclusion is further supported by the understanding displayed by their staff in the practical application of the principles of this approach.