4.4 Selecting materials

The collection policy (see Section 4.1), which is based on an analysis of users’ needs, should be used to help select materials. A range of materials including books, newsletters and videos should be collected, according to the needs of users. Information about other organisations working in related areas should also be collected. It is important to keep in regular contact with other organisations that provide information services.

Selecting materials requires a good knowledge of the existing collection, the subject area, and users’ needs. If the resource centre has an advisory committee representing users, selection of new materials should be discussed and agreed with the committee. Other staff and users should pass suggestions to the resource centre officer, who can present them to the committee.

4.4.1 How to select materials

To decide whether to add a particular book, video, article or other material to the collection, ask yourself:

  • What is the content? If you have a copy of the material, look at the contents page if it is a publication, or summary information if it is a cassette, etc. If you are using a resource list, look at the list of keywords. The title does not always give a clear indication of what the material contains.
  • Who is the material for? If you have a copy of the material, look at the foreword or introduction, summary information if it is a cassette, or accompanying description. If you are using a resource list, look at the description of the material. Decide whether the material is intended for the people your resource centre is serving. For example, an academic textbook on drug abuse would not be useful for a nurse who wanted practical information about drug abuse for health education work in a secondary school. Similarly, a video on disabled people’s rights which was filmed in Africa might not be useful for an Asian audience.
  • Is the information accurate and up-to-date? Look at the date of publication. If it was more than five years ago, think carefully before ordering it. As a general rule, avoid purchasing anything more than five years old. The exception may be some key textbooks or audiovisual materials.
  • How much does it cost? Look at the price, if shown. Consider whether the material is worth the money and whether funds are available. Consider whether you may be able to request a free copy (see Section 4.5: Obtaining materials).
  • Does the resource centre lack materials on this subject? Look at what else you have in your resource centre on the same subject. Does the material fill a gap? Will it improve the collection on this subject?