What Are Library Acquisitions?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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Library acquisitions refers to the process of selecting and obtaining library resources. An acquisitions or collection development librarian reviews book requests as well as library needs in order to obtain new materials. During the acquisitions process, a librarian will evaluate collection and community needs and, within budgetary limits, purchase materials that enhance the library's collection and further its mission. In some cases, a library may also receive donated materials, which are evaluated by a librarian and, if useful to the library, will be added to its collection.

There are many different types of libraries, each with its own collection needs. A librarian in charge of library acquisitions must have a thorough understanding of the library's needs to develop a collection that is helpful to users. In the context of a public library, an acquisitions librarian will likely monitor various genres, such as popular literature, magazines, and children's books, in order to make sure that the library offers a wide variety of popular and current reading materials. He or she will also monitor patron usage of various collections to be able to select appropriate additions to the library's offerings. Many librarians make decisions about library acquisitions by taking into consideration reviews in professional journals and magazines targeted to collection development librarians.


Library acquisitions departments often receive donations, which need to be processed. Some donations may not be suited to the mission of a particular library, and an acquisitions librarian is typically responsible for making this determination. Although donations are generally encouraged and appreciated, it is not always possible for a library to accommodate all donated materials. Similarly, a collections development librarian may have to periodically weed his library's current collection to make room for more acquisitions. Although weeding collections and rejecting donations can be controversial practices, they are often necessary given the limited space in many libraries as well as concerns about library materials that contain outdated and potentially unsafe health or scientific information.

Acquisition librarians in other types of libraries perform similar tasks. Academic librarians who work in library acquisitions must ensure that the library subscribes to the scholarly and professional journals that are necessary for faculty and student research. Law librarians will need to keep pertinent journals and law books available to members of their law firm and may also be responsible for acquiring and managing legal databases. Corporate librarians may likewise need to acquire a variety of up-to-date business materials, including legal resources as well as industry magazines and reports.


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