May 19, 2022

What is a Collection? A New Issue Brief by Ithaka S+R’s Oya Rieger

From an Introductory Blog Post by Oya Reiger:

Regardless of the rapidly changing information and technology landscape, collections continue to be at the heart of academic libraries, signifying their role in providing access to our cultural heritage. But in an increasingly networked, distributed, licensed environment, how do we define the library collection? What do collections imply? What is involved in building a collection?  The purpose of the brief published today  is to characterize the evolving nature of collections and to highlight some of the factors behind these changes  and their impact on the notion of collections. It is a reflection on how collections are defined and what it means to build a collection or develop a collection policy given the current information ecology and trends in research and pedagogy.


In response to the new information ecology, there is increasing interest in curating unique and special materials and envisioning collections without institutional boundaries. Beyond licensing or purchasing digital resources, library staff now need to consider and plan for access contingencies to ensure that new content can be put in use and integrated with scholarly workflow tools. For instance, what would be the value of licensing a new database unless the library puts in place a support system with the required software for analysis and user assistance? Although still valued, the prominence of print collections are declining as a vast majority of academic library materials budgets are spent on licensing ebooks, ejournals, databases, and other online content. These are just some of the factors that contribute to the existentialist questions about the future of collection programs.

Read the Complete Blog Post

Direct to Full Text Issue Brief: “What is a Collection Anyway”

Direct to PDF Version of Issue Brief (19 pages)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.