Collection development and management

Last updated:  14 March 2024

Collection development and management is a key area of public library services.

Public library staff develop and manage a broad collection which meets the needs of the community, inspires intellectual curiosity and anticipates future need. Collections provide information and reference resources, recreational reading, literacy development and education support materials.

A public library collection should comprise a rich and diverse mix of content including fiction, non-fiction, reference (including internet resources), multiple formats (including monographs, serials, ebooks, e-audio, graphic novels), databases, digital formats and large print), age-appropriate collections (including picture books, children’s books and young adult), collections in community languages and local studies.

Collection development

Stock quality health check tool

The Stock Quality Health Check (SQHC) is a practical tool which enables public libraries to undertake an assessment of the relevance, depth and range of collection stock in relation to the communities they serve. The spreadsheets suggest an indicative range of authors and titles across a variety of genres.

Diverse picture book collections

The diverse picture book lists assist library staff to assess and improve the diversity of their picture book collections.

Collection management

Outsourcing of acquisitions, cataloguing and processing

A Benefit Cost Analysis: Outsourcing of Acquisitions, Cataloguing and Processing in NSW public libraries provides an evidence-based framework and a practical tool which will assist public libraries and local councils to make informed choices about the most effective use of available resources.

Download evaluation tool


Public libraries can use this business case framework to ascertain the most effective and cost-efficient service model for circulation and stock management in a variety of contexts.

Download the business case framework for RFID in NSW public libraries

Best practice resources


Each year the State Library collects statistics from public libraries about collections. Statistics about the size, composition, turnover and circulation of public library collections are included in the annual NSW public library statistics publication.

Guidelines and benchmarks

The Library Council of NSW guideline on Access to Information in NSW Public Libraries provides guidance to NSW public libraries on the selection of library materials.

The following collection standards in Living Learning Libraries: standards and guidelines for NSW public libraries are recommended quality levels and best practice goals for NSW public libraries:

  • S9 Expenditure on library materials per capita
  • S10 Items per capita
  • S11 Acquisitions per capita
  • S12 Age of collection
  • S13 Turnover of stock
  • S14 Circulation per capita

Guideline 9. Collection development and management in Living Learning Libraries: standards and guidelines for NSW public libraries provides guidance to public libraries to develop and manage a broad collection which meets the needs of the community, inspires intellectual curiosity and anticipates future need.  

Guideline 11. Cataloguing provides guidance for NSW public libraries to ensure consistency and uniformity for bibliographic description of library materials and the exchange of bibliographic data. 

People Places provides guidance for collection layout to provide user-friendly collections and engaging browsing environments in public libraries.   

The Indigenous spaces in library places tool kit provides information about building vibrant collections and services that are shaped by Indigenous needs and aspirations.

Benchmark 3. Quality of multicultural services and collections in Benchmarking NSW public library services to multicultural communities is a tool for library staff to measure the quality of their multicultural collections.

Professional development

  • Sign up to the PL Portal online training platform to access a range of short courses and mini modules.
  • Visit our YouTube channel to access webinars and training videos on a range of topics relating to public libraries.


Join the collecting email list to connect with other NSW public library staff who are interested or involved in collection management in public libraries.

The Public Library Services team is available to provide advice to NSW public libraries on collection development and management.

Contact us to discuss how we can assist your library.