Collection Development Policies


Faculty librarians with subject liaison responsibilities serve as selectors for collection development. In making decisions, they often collaborate with their faculty colleagues in the disciplines and in the Libraries. The selectors are also actively engaged in library decision making that influences access to collections like linking software and cataloging priorities. These policies are intended to guide selectors in their work to develop the WSU Libraries collections in all formats, including print, multi-media, and electronic. The policies are reviewed and revised on a regular schedule.

These policies apply to the WSU collections in Pullman. In supporting the Pullman academic programs, the Pullman Libraries also support academic work at the other WSU campuses. Libraries at the other campuses have their own collection policies and are responsible for maintaining core collections to support the academic programs on their campuses.

Collection development is coordinated by the Head of Collections who works with the Collections Management Working Group, the unit Collection Managers, and the selectors.

Collecting Levels

Current WSU Libraries’ collecting levels, by subject

The library collections are intended to support the teaching, learning, and research at Washington State University. In keeping with its mission as a research library, the WSU Libraries acquire primary sources and unique materials. Research level collections are expected in each discipline that offers a Ph.D. and conducts grant-funded research. Study level collections to support Bachelors and/or Masters level work will be collected in other curricular areas.

The actual collecting levels may fall short of the ideal in some years because of inadequacies in the Libraries resources budget. Some reasons for these shortfalls include mandated budget reductions, inadequate allowance for inflation, fluctuations in the foreign exchange rate, increased availability of monograph and serial publications, and establishment of new programs without appropriate additions to the Library resources budget. Acquiring electronic resources creates additional pressures on the materials budget.

In the policies, if the actual collection level does not meet the desired level, both levels are included; the actual level is noted first and the desired level second.

Definitions of collecting levels follow those specified in the Guidelines for Collection Development of the American Library Association/Resources and Technical Services Division (Chicago: ALA, 1979), pp. 3-5. The levels are identified by codes A through E as follows:

A – Comprehensive Level

A collection in which a library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, other forms) for a necessarily defined field. This level of collecting intensity is that which maintains a ‘special collection’: the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness.

B – Research Level

A collection which includes the major published source materials required for dissertations and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It also includes all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as an extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field.

C(1) – Advanced Study Level

A collection which is adequate to support the course work of advanced undergraduates and master’s degree programs, or sustained independent study; that is, which is adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or a wide range of basic monographs both current and retrospective, complete collections of the works of more important writers, a selection of representative journals, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject.

C(2) – Initial Study Level

A collection which is adequate to support undergraduate courses. It includes a judicious selection from currently published basic monographs (as are represented by Choice selections) supported by seminal retrospective monographs (as are represented by Books for College Libraries); a broad selection of works of more important writers; a selection of the most significant works of secondary writers; a selection of the major review journals; and current editions of the most significant reference tools and bibliographies pertaining to the subject.

D – Basic Level

A highly selective collection which serves to introduce and define the subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It includes major dictionaries and encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, important bibliographies, and a few major periodicals in the field.

E – Minimal Level

A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works.

Nature of the Collections

The collections include information resources for which the library invests financial resources—directly or indirectly—to manage, service, or preserve on behalf of library users, regardless of the location of the content. Collections include resources owned by the library and those accessed in remote locations. Physical collections are located at six Pullman libraries; some users will find materials of interest located in several different libraries. Electronic collections are available to authorized users wherever they are located.

The Libraries collect in many formats. Print and electronic information will coexist for the foreseeable future. There is a sure but steady migration from print to electronic collections where appropriate, especially in the journal literature. In general, only one format is collected and, when an electronic archival copy is available, the electronic format is preferred. In licensing electronic information, access for all WSU campuses is the preference.

Library materials meeting the following criteria will be purchased online only (Approved by CMWG 3/2007):

  • Online post-cancellation access will continue, with or without charge, regardless of the status of the current subscription.
  • Archival access terms will be agreed to in a signed license.
  • Open Access title on a reliable platform (i.e. BioMed Central) at publication or within 12 months will be defined as providing perpetual access without a signed license
  • Interlibrary loan rights as part of a signed license will be required. Rights to use secure electronic transmission are preferred.
  • The electronic journal platform should be excellent, providing full text and PDF formats with high reliability.
  • Completeness is critical.
  • Use statistics are strongly preferred.
  • Some reasons to maintain print even if the journal is has an adequate electronic archive.
    • Supplements are not available online
    • Quality of diagrams, etc

In order to maximize access to information, the acquisition of duplicates should be a very rare occurrence.

High quality paperbound books a preferred to hardbound books and are usually bound inexpensively by the principal monograph vendor.

Materials for review received by WSU faculty, staff or students and donated to the library can be added to the collection if the subject specialist determines the materials are complete and accurate enough for inclusion. The addition of test banks or uncorrected proofs is discouraged.

The Libraries strive to maximize buying power by collaborating with consortia and other groups like GWLA, the Orbis Cascade Alliance, the Washington State Cooperative Library Project, and other partners.

Resource Sharing

Increasingly, active programs of library resource sharing provide access to collections that are not owned locally. Summit, a union catalog and borrowing service of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, efficiently provides books to WSU users from over thirty-six academic libraries in Washington and Oregon. Interlibrary loan services increasingly deliver needed resources very quickly, often electronically to the desktop. Strategic library resource sharing is considered as local collecting decisions are made. Cooperative collection development to reduce costly duplication and expand the pool of available resources is important in all disciplines.

Some books requested through interlibrary loan that are not available through Summit borrowing may be obtained faster and at a lower cost if purchased and loaned to the requestor before processing into the collection. Books considered for the Purchase on Demand program will be requested by faculty or graduate student, written in the English language, support research purposes and have a maximum price of $50.00.