Reading and Research

What is Collection Development?; or, How Books are Selected


Collection Development: Ordering a Book


     Often, we are asked by members, “How are books ordered at the Redwood library?”; or, “what happens when I request a title?”. We rely on an efficient, consistently streamlined process for providing new circulating books and it begins, generally, with evaluating book reviews. Staff members are tasked with critiquing general review publications, as well as more specialized sources such as the New England Quarterly. We also encourage reviews from members.

      Collection development as both art and science must be noted. At the Redwood library, collection development requires, among other factors, maintaining historic collection coherence based on subject strengths, the quality of writing and level of scholarship while also appealing to current members’ interests. Traditionally, literary, biographical, American art, architecture, and American history titles are comprehensively collected, with a more exhaustive acquisition level for works about - and by authors associated with - Newport and Acquidneck Island. Similarly, a focus on those works about 18th and 19th century American studies dominates the collection. These are the conditions followed when evaluating all donations as well. If you are interested in donating much-needed titles to the circulating collections library, please consult our “wish lists” available at the circulation desk; they have been selected as books of great importance that will add to the richness of our collection.

     As we cannot possibly order every item of interest, we transfer a selection of the more important titles to the ordering database and archive the other, less needed titles, ordering them if and when funds become available. Specific information is added to the database including vendor selection, the appropriated book fund and any notes of interest. We also include all member purchase requests published within the last six months of the request; we interlibrary loan older titles. As we cannot possibly store, ad infinitum, every book requested and selected - well over 1,500 last year - we lease most popular fiction and general nonfiction titles, then buy back those books of exceptional quality or scholarship from the vendor after six months to a year and return titles that may be easily interlibrary loaned. As we neither lease paperbacks (typically produced six months to year after initial publication) due to our lease contract nor outright purchase paperbacks (there are often exceptions to this rule), we interlibrary loan these older titles. But whether we interlibrary loan a title or not, we aim for a 100% member request fulfillment rate. A staff member orders titles every Friday morning, and the information is retained for year-end statistics.  

   Between ordering and receiving a title, an electronic record is downloaded for our online catalog. After the title is received, it is then processed with due state slips, book covers if needed, a patron comment card, and the inclusion of the “Redwood stamp”. Minor changes to the cataloged electronic record may occur and finally the titles are shelved and member requests set aside for a courtesy call. A monthly “new book list” is always available at the circulation desk or from our website.


    If you have any questions regarding acquisitions, please contact the collections librarian, Robert Kelly at