Hive Mind: Collection Development Policies

If you’re looking to host gaming at your library, you probably have questions. GameRT is here to help!

In the Hive Mind blog series, once a month we’ll take a commonly asked “nut-and-bolts” question and share our different perspectives on it!

Curating a circulating collection of games can be a daunting prospect. With books there are core references, professional review publications, and decades of circulation data to refer to when determining your selection criteria. With 3D items, many librarians are discovering the path as they go along, adapting their collection development policy as their collection expands. While this is an intimidating prospect, it can also be a very exciting one! 

This month, collection development is the focus of our Hive Mind’s collective knowledge. Which selection criteria do you use when deciding to add a game to your collection? Do you accept donations, and, if so, what determines which games you add and which you pass on? 

Olivia H., League of Librarian Gamers Facebook User

I will get info/reviews from BGG, the internet at large, and YouTube reviews, tutorials or play throughs. I’m looking at general game premise, quality of components, etc. Our collection focus is on designer games, which can be cost prohibitive and hard to find (although that is somewhat less true now than when we launched years ago) so we don’t collect things like Monopoly, which are generally cheap and easy to find. We will add donations if they fit that criteria, are complete and in good shape. We have a number of game companies in my area and we have occasionally skipped games that are marked for demo only or things of that nature. Donors are warned what we don’t add goes onto our sale cart, proceeds of which will still benefit the library. 

Jaime D.M, League of Librarian Gamers Facebook User

I purchase for the children’s department so age range is a big one for me, along with durability. My patrons like cooperative games a lot. I do accept donations if all of the pieces are there and in good condition. It is a bonus if there aren’t too many small pieces to lose.

Emma Fish, GameRT Outreach Co-Chair

Collection development for the games at my library is very informed by circulation policies and budget. We count every game when it is returned, we generally only have one copy of each game, and if an item is damaged, we don’t usually have the budget to replace it. My collection thrives on donations, particularly from patrons. If a donated game is 100% complete, in good condition with no visible damage, and fits the following criteria, it is usually added.

  • Preference is given to games that are easy to inventory. Games with 200+ individual tokens to count and store are likely not feasible for our collection.
  • The collection should consist of a variety of games with a wide spectrum of inner-game mechanisms, themes, and art. Preference is given to games with educational or cultural merit, games that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, and games that tie into other areas of our collections.
  • Preference is given to games that have easily replicable pieces, or are produced by companies with clear replacement piece policies. A game that cannot be played if a specific and difficult to obtain element goes missing is advised against.
  • Preference is given to games that have received superior professional reviews, as well as awards in the industry (such as Mensa Select, Spiel des Jahres, or Golden Geek Awards). 
  • Games should be of a reasonable difficulty level for the target age range, and the theme should clearly advertise the age range (example: A bright and colorful game about unicorns that is made for adults and has an expert difficulty level may leave families with young kids frustrated, and discourage them from checking out games in the future.)
  • Games that include bilingual rulesets, or that include rules in a language not currently represented in the collection, are highly encouraged.

Kellen F., League of Librarian Gamers Facebook User

We don’t pick solo only games, though we do favor games that have solo variants. The original goal of the collection was to foster face to face gaming opportunities for patrons, so we didn’t want just solo. We don’t do licensed content when a standard version exists (Labyrinth vs Pokemon Labyrinth) however a game like Villainous which was created that way from the ground up would be fine. Goal of that was to provide the most widespread theming for a game as possible. 

We try to have a variety of games for all ages, complexities, and time to play. This usually is accomplished every so often by doing a “balancing” order where I look and go, oh we are low on kids games or low on heavy 3hr Euro games and order a bunch within that category. We accept donations, but I‘m pretty strict on them. They need to be in very good condition and be the most recent edition available. I know games get new editions, but I want the games when they enter the collection to reflect the current version for sale, so if someone enjoys it, they would get the same one off the shelf. No Kickstarters until they hit retail. No deluxe editions. And I 100% reserve the right to break any of these rules as I see fit if the game is a particular stand out. 

For instance, thinking of adding a few solo only games, we have Adventure Time Love Letter, and there’s a donated copy of Pokemon Labyrinth on my desk I keep staring at trying to decide if I’ll add it or not. In a lot of ways, our collection development comes down to a gut call by me, though I tried to get rules in place should I leave the library and someone else has to pick up where I left off.

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