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A Guide to Engineering Resources

Collection Development Policy

Washington University in St. Louis

Collection Development Policy

Library: Olin

Subject: Engineering 

Collection: General

Date Revised: April 24, 2014

Subject Librarian: Lauren Todd


1. General purpose:

  • The purpose or goal of collection building as a means to support the teaching and research within the School of Engineering is still a primary focus.  The teaching and research within the School is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative with virtually all other STEM departments at Washington University.  Most of what was said in the Chemistry Collection Development policy is applicable to Engineering as well.
  • In Engineering, as in Chemistry, we are not really “collecting” anything.  Practically, all resources (Journals, Books, Databases) purchased for Departments in the School of Engineering are initiated upon request by our faculty and PhD Graduate Students.   In other words, collection building is user driven and not collection policy driven.
  • In recent years, I am no longer able to purchase resources driven strictly by policy.  There are a number of reasons forcing this change…but it is primarily driven by the high cost of the resources in these subject areas.
  • The resources in Engineering, as in other STEM disciplines, are extremely expensive relative to other disciplines.The annual cost of an average scholarly journal is $5-6,000, the average book cost is >$200/book, and the STEM databases range in cost from $15,000 to >$100,000 per year.The extremely high cost for these resources almost mandates that purchases of Engineering/STEM resources be user driven.
  • The move toward, Patron Driven Book purchases has all but take the selection process out of the hands of the librarians.
  • Below are some demographics for the School of Engineering.  But please keep in mind that faculty and students across all STEM departments are heavily dependent upon the resources purchased across all major sub-disciplines in both Engineering and Chemistry.
    • School of Engineering:
      • Number of undergraduates1,215
      • Number of Master’s students231
      • Number of Doctoral students340
      • Number of full-time tenure track faculty90
  • The following paragraph taken from the School of Engineering’s website serves to highlight the enormous financial and staff investment that Washington University has made in their School of Engineering.  Currently there are about 100 full-time tenure track faculty among 5 Departments and 3 programs.  Undergraduate majors in the School of Engineering comprise between 20% and 25% of the entire Wash U student body.  Needless to say, Engineering at Washington University is a big deal!
  • Over the past decade, WUSTL, the School of Engineering & Applied Science and several generous donors have invested more than $150 million in new and renovated engineering space. With about half of the new engineering complex complete, the school plans to build another 350,000 square feet of space distributed through two or three new buildings that will house the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, additional classrooms and student services, interdisciplinary centers and institutes, and administrative offices. The additional buildings will provide the necessary research and instructional space to expand the size of the faculty, increase the number of students, encourage and enable interdisciplinary activities, help smaller departments grow and improve rankings, and house most of the engineering school within one complex.
  • Engineering Buildings:
    • More than $150 million invested since 2001 in new and renovated engineering space
    • Seven buildings totaling 595,000 square feet (265,000 net assignable square feet for research)
    • Stephen F. & Camilla T. Brauer Hall
    • Charles W. Bryan Hall
    • Preston M. Green Hall
    • Harold D. Jolley Hall
    • Stanley & Lucy Lopata Hall
    • Hugo & Ina Champ Urbauer Hall
    • Uncas A. Whitaker Hall


2. Subjects excluded:

  • Civil Engineering – The School no longer has a Department of Civil Engineering.  We do not purchase a lot of resources for Aerospace Engineering and Nuclear Engineering.


3. Overlap with other collections or subjects 

  • All STEM departments and disciplines are heavily dependent to one degree or another on many of the resources purchased for the School of Engineering. 
  • Including:
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Materials Science
    • Computer Science
    • Energy
    • Environment
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Electrical & Systems Engineering. 
    • There is extensive overlap between the above Engineering Disciplines and all other STEM disciplines at Washington University.


4. Languages included and excluded:

English – for current acquisitions


5. Geographical limitations:



6. Chronological limits:

None – historical subjects on basic or introductory level


7. Retrospective Acquisition:

Older materials are not actively acquired in engineering since they will be grossly out of date.  This holds for gift acquisitions as well.


8. Types of material collected and excluded:

  • I do not make purchases based on undergraduate requests
  • I typically do not buy undergraduate text books.I have even had faculty ask that I purchase 20 copies of a text book for the students in his class!I may buy one copy of a text book to be placed or course reserve but that is it.
  • I will purchase books based upon recommendations of Ph.D. students and tenure track faculty.Again, these would have to be upper division or graduate level books.
  • I only purchase scholarly journals and databases upon written request by tenure track faculty.Even with this request, I ask why they need it, who will be the primary users, will other faculty either within or external to their department make use of the resource.
  • I typically do not make purchases requested by adjunct or temporary faculty appointments.
  • For all resources, I ask whether they want it in print or online.While most prefer the resource to be online there are still instances where they want it in print.
  • For online resources, Iinsist on the following
  • Campus-wide IP access.This must include the Medical School campus as well
  • Multiple simultaneous users
  • In perpetuity access to volumes of content we already paid for (Scholarly journals)
  • Purchase of individual books through approval has diminished substantially with the initiation of Patron Driven Request of books.
  • Book purchases in Engineering are primarily through vendor aggregators.For example, all Computer Science books come through an aggregator call Safari.Most Engineering Reference books come through an aggregator called Knovel.There are numerous other STEM ebooks acquired online through online aggregators.  The downside to the purchase of books through aggregators is that we “lease” the content as opposed to “own” the content.  If we cancel our subscription we lose access to all content.
  • Purchase of individual eBooks is still slow to take hold among faculty and students.For book requests from faculty they still, more often than not, prefer the print format.
  • Traditional books and scholarly journals still play a critical role in what the library purchases in the areas of Engineering.But, with increasing frequency, the requests from science & engineering faculty have move toward resources comprised of large datasets and databases comprised of specific types of information.Recent examples include databases of Engineering Standards, IEEE Xplore, ACS Digital Library.Other databases recently purchased focus on Electronic Laboratory Notebooks and programs that facilitate data analysis, archiving, storage, retrieval and reuse.
  • The long-term “collection” goals in Engineering are to purchase resources that can gradually be integrated into and within resources purchased by individual faculty or departments.  Two very expensive recently purchased datasets and databases by the library do exactly this….seamlessly integrate with existing Engineering resources.


9. Other factors to consider:



10. Subjects and Collecting Levels:

  • Some QP’s
  • A lot of R-RK
  • Most T-TX