Collection development can’t stop just because public libraries are temporarily physically closed.  We need to plan!

I did a little collection development in my early career but that was in a specialized library (accounting, finance, HR, and consulting).  You have local professionals doing your collection development so they’re likely already on to what an “OPENING DAY” collection and display should look like when we’re ready to open our doors to the public again.  It will likely be accompanied with many restrictions and safety precautions but there’s no reason to suspect that we can’t continue to offer new books, great displays, and topical advice upon re-opening.

However, I’ve got (as usual) a few ideas based on some things I’m watching on behalf of public libraries in Ontario.

I’ll try to add to this list as I think of new ideas, but feel free to add ideas into the comments too.  All of these ideas aren’t just temporary improvements but have lasting value in your public library collections.

Good Stuff:

Evidence: Bread Makers are sold out.

Idea: Add bread cookbooks and cover all types of bread.  People will be looking to expand their repertoire from Sourdough!

Evidence: Freezers are selling out.  Preserving is next during the summer since so many people will be seeking to save money with so many incomes are affected!

Idea: Look into up-to-date books that advise your readers on how to freeze, preserve, and store food.

Evidence: By the end of at least 3 months of self-isolation or stay at home work, people will be sick and tired of their usual go-to recipes.

Idea: Expand your cookbook collections with more variety – especially ethnic foods and quick meals.  Some Millennials are cooking often for the first time.  Lots of opportunity here.

Evidence: Nurseries are likely to be among the first local businesses to re-open (given their perishable products and spring selling / planting season).

Idea: Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies anyway but there will be some changes.  Expect that vegetable gardening will be BIG like wartime Victory Gardens.  For those of you with seed banks, expect to promote this but run out, depending on the timing!  Don’t forget indoor herb gardening and balcony gardening too.  Everyone will be looking for something creative and fun to do while having the lure of saving money.  Remember your collection is special since it is tuned to you climate zone.

Evidence: It is likely that concerts, plays, theatre and movies will be among the last venues to re-open – maybe not this year?

Idea: Promote your DVD’s that have concerts, plays, and movies.  Non-fiction and documentaries too.  Choose when you introduce outdoor physically distanced movie nights on your parking lots/parks/grounds.

Evidence: Home wine and beer brewing will be big.  They save money and who knows when the bars and restaurants will re-open?

Idea:  To be repetitive, expand these collections!

Evidence: Our local parks will re-open eventually!

Idea:  Look for books on outdoor kid’s games and activities.

Evidence: With air travel being disrupted and people being short on cash for vacation during the summer season, we can expect our provincial parks to re-open for camping and this to be a big and popular thing to do – while continuing to practice physical distancing.

Idea:  Look for books on camping, cooking over a fire, bivouac, and more.

Evidence:  Every parent has exhausted their activity toolkit.  Your staff have excellent affordable craft ideas.

Idea:  Review your arts and crafts collections and upgrade as necessary focusing on activities that can be done at home with kids with easily available supplies (dollar stores, Michaels, etc.)

Evidence: With Stay-At-Home people have been doing photography – a lot and posting it to social media and sharing it with friends and family.  You’ll note that it’s largely family shots and backyard or local walk photos.  People will be striving to stretch their wings and want tips and tricks.

Idea: This hobby (and career for some) will burgeon as people get more into digital photos and sharing.  Now is the time to review your photography collections.  Ensure that it’s current and digital-focused.  Just about everyone from tween to senior has a digital camera phone and video camera in the purse/pocket! Don’t neglect to collect books on videography too.  Maybe now is the time to make sure your maker space is up-to-date on photo and video editing software and good printers (possibly for a fee for great paper).

Evidence: Kids have read every picture book they own multiple times!

Idea: Promote your best kid’s books.  Now may be the time to reorganize the picture book collection into great topical rummage baskets – alphabet, numbers, vehicles, trucks, dinosaurs, princesses, space, animals, etc.  Create a giant exploration space where every basket is 6-feet part (since your story area will likely go unused for a while!  Use toys that you have or pick a few up at second hand stores to label these topical baskets for the pre-reader set. Use this space for picture book discovery.

Evidence: You may ask, “What about fiction?”

Idea: Fiction will continue to be vital to public library success.  That said have a long hard review over time about the impact of fiction e-books behaviour on circulation in your community.  Indeed, e-book readers and tablets are selling very well during the pandemic and we can probably predict a permanent re-set of the bar as some return to print and some become hybrid print/ebook users.  Also, many libraries will have a backlog of pre-processed orders of new books that have arrived and sat there during the lock-down or arrive as soon as your loading docks re-open.  Library members should be thrilled with a very refreshed collection of new print fiction!

Where to (temporarily) delay collecting: There are some obvious fronts here: i.e.

  • Travel
  • Some fiction
  • Homework support over the summer of 2020.

Difficult Stuff:

Evidence: People have been self-isolating for quite a while.  This has likely resulted in a delay for some break-ups.

Idea: Ensure that your collections are up-to-date on separation and divorce.

Evidence: Many people have encountered, sadly, the deaths of friends, family, and acquaintances.

Idea: Ensure that your legal section has good books on writing your own will and planning for your estate.

Evidence: The financial issues are affecting everyone including small businesses – some desperately.

Idea:  You may want to consider that your personal bankruptcy, financial rearrangements, and business bankruptcy are up-to-date for Ontario user needs.

Evidence: I think the majority of people have suffered some income hits or know someone who has.

Idea: Any books that can be added to the collection on personal financial planning, saving money ideas, etc. would circulate!

Evidence: Many people will be on some form of subsidy, welfare, food bank, etc.

Idea: Ensure your reference desks and pamphlet racks are full of stigma-free advice and direction for you local services.  Ensure that all staff are trained in offering direction and advice to resources.  Ensure up to date linkso your website for in-person staff to direct people to government personal and business support programs.

Evidence: No matter how great a parent you are, Most young parents didn’t sign up (if there ever was a sign-up list) to have their kids at hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week and out of school, sports, and activities.

Idea:  Be gentle but your parenting books may be popular right now!  A display for parenting school-age kids and activities to keep kids engaged and happy is in order.


All of the above are worthy of a display targeted to your Opening Day/Month Celebrations and your community’s needs.

Mine your partners for ideas.  Public libraries get more foot traffic than nearly anyone.  All of your local partners may want to display or communicate as well.  This is a great opportunity.

Please note that you’ll likely have a lot of extra space for displays!  Maybe sitting at tables will be temporarily disallowed.  Maybe your meeting rooms need some enlivenment if meetings are rare.  If you, by chance, have to line people up outside six feet apart, due to occupancy restrictions, consider creating book truck displays outside in the good weather to make the lining-up experience less dreary.

Plan ahead!  You and you colleagues are very creative and talented.  Your community will appreciate the effort.

Thank you!