The most important part of collection development is awareness of the population being served. In accepting a position a librarian has thus accepted the community being served by that position. This population is whom the librarian must be thinking about when developing a collection. It is not the likes and dislikes of the librarian that should denote what is added or weeded but the interests of the community and their material needs. The best way to explore the wants and needs of a population is engagement. Statistics are fine but no community can be defined wholly by its numbers. By actively listening to a populace and delving into the needs and interests of individuals a librarian will be able to create a collection that meets the values of the community.
Hand in hand with population awareness is representation. People are empowered by the materials the library holds. Part of this empowerment is seeing others like themselves succeed in their own stories, whether fiction or non-fiction. Therefore it is important that a library is stocked with materials that represent the different varieties of people that make up the population. This may be difficult to do for some populations as it is a known fact that literature is overwhelmingly, white, straight, cis, and abled, along with many other inappropriately ingrained societal “norms”. Regardless of difficulty it is a librarian’s position to curate a collection that is varietal and representative of all of the different individuals in the community.
However, representation is not only a door that swings one way. Even in populations that are overwhelmingly white, straight, cis, abled, etc. it is still important to add different viewpoints to the collection. It is empowering to learn about oneself but to explore the worldviews of others is an indispensable experience. This aids a population in being whole and gives them a window through which to view others.
These materials that do not reflect the worldviews of the general population may come under scrutiny during a librarian’s career. The values of the position require that a librarian must not back down when pressured with censorship or avoid adding materials to the collection that may provoke challenges. In being challenged the value of these materials has been proven. They have been shown to defy individuals’ viewpoints and cause discomfort. We, as people, learn from discomfort. Asking ourselves why something makes us uncomfortable and exploring that why we are able to glean not only information about something foreign but also information about ourselves. This is a difficult but important life experience, one which a librarian has the potential to rob of a community by adhering to self-censorship or failing to adequately protect the materials from challengers.