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Collection development or data-driven content curation? An exploratory project in Manchester

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– Collection development in a post-subject librarian age needs to be done differently; utilising data, metadata, analytical tools and automation more fully may offer new possibilities. The purpose of this paper is to report and evaluate an exploratory project into new techniques for collection development at the University of Manchester Library.


– The project employed a cross-team approach where a relatively large number of staff tried some innovative and experimental approaches to individual aspects of a large and complex task in a large, research-intensive university library. The overriding aim was to exploit data to support decision making and to push automation as far as possible.


– The quality of (meta)data remains a huge hindrance to data-driven approaches. A proper understanding of usage data is an urgent but intractable issue. Human input and relationships are still important. Data are nothing without analysis, and many librarians currently lack the data fluency to work confidently in a world of dynamic content curation.

Practical implications

– Librarians need both to re-skill and to change their self-identification and the philosophy that underlies it if they are to achieve confident, data fluency.


– The University of Manchester Library was one of the first libraries in the UK to make a thoroughgoing structural change from subject-based to functional teams. This paper will be of value to other libraries moving in this direction, and to those looking to make more use of data-driven decision making in collections management.
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Keywords: Collection development; Collections strategy; Cooperative collections ventures; Data-driven content curation; Librarianship; Libraries

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Publication date: June 13, 2016

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