The purpose of this post is not to list the ways that librarians use to make selections for collection development. The general rules are taught in library schools and experience with specific communities and collections allows for the refinement of these rules. The goal here is an attempt to define the word “bias” inside the context of collection development.
The main idea behind the collection development is that no library has or can have everything and decisions need to be made on what should be acquired. Different types of libraries (Academic, Public, Special) have different needs. Especially for public libraries, the local community and the popularity of certain items are important factors. The decisions are being made by humans who have opinions and tastes. These humans, called librarians, are supposed to put aside their own opinions and tastes. The question is, would they be considered biased if they chose a few items because they believe they are worth acquiring them? Also, is it possible for the librarians to shut down completely a subconscious tendency to choose some items they like? In my opinion, the answer to both questions is “no”. There is no reason why a librarian should not be allowed to add a few items that he or she likes and believes that they would benefit one way or another the community. There is also no way to avoid some subconscious choices. In both cases, the librarian provides some alternatives to certain community tastes. Don’t be surprised if you witness a number of check outs of the “alternative” materials. There will be, most likely, a number of community members who will be interested in these items. Let’s not forget that a community usually is diverse.
If few personal choices are considered biased, then collection development is always biased. It is a matter of definition. In my opinion, a biased librarian does not take under consideration the community’s needs and general tendencies at all. This would be an extreme and negative approach. The other extreme and negative approach would be to take under consideration only the community’s general tendencies. In this case, the minorities in the community would feel……”abandoned”. Some bias is necessary in order to serve better a diverse community.