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Collection Development

Collection Development-Related Documents

Washington  University  in  St.  Louis

University  Libraries

Collections  Strategy – DRAFT – December  2015


Background  Information


Services that the Libraries provide to the University community continue to grow and change and need do so within given financial, space, and other limitations. 


Historically, print and other physical collections created the heart of the academic research library, and the University Libraries dedicates approximately 50% of its overall space to physical collections.[1]  The Washington University community values print collections even as the overall circulation declined 35% over the past ten years.[2]  Nevertheless, opportunities to engage faculty and students continually arise and the Library will explore those resources that lend themselves to our educational and research environment.


Physical collections remain in demand by the community, particularly in certain subject areas. On-site access to our physical collections play a vital role in the discoverability of materials, especially in areas where online browsing/searching tools cannot currently meet the communities’ needs.  The Libraries endeavor to be good stewards of our resources as we optimize the flexible spaces we inhabit.


Collections Goal


The Libraries will facilitate seamless access to robust and distinctive collections; and, support new models of research and scholarship.

Specifically we will:

  • Develop and manage a balanced collection that meets the needs of the faculty and students regardless of format;

  • Efficiently manage space allocated to campus collections that encourages collaboration and scholarship but also balances current and future needs;

  • Curate the collection as much as possible to ensure the most relevant materials remain easily accessible;

  • Cultivate regional and national library partners to maximize library storage and access to lesser used materials.


Looking Ahead


In order to achieve our goal, the libraries will employ the following strategies:

  1. Improve accessibility of library monographic collections

    Curate a primarily humanities and social-science focused monographic collection in Olin.


  2. Increase dedicated space for distinctive collections and Special Collections

  3. Improve access to, and visibility of, all collections across the libraries

  4. Achieve greater consistency of the user experience with collections across all libraries


  1. Optimize storage options and engage in national (and international) conversations about shared print strategies


    The Libraries is committed to long-term access (see: “Commitment to Long Term Access” and continues to explore options for reducing duplication and enhancing access to needed resources.


  2. Expand opportunities for partnership (for shared collections or shared print repositories, such as our partnership with the Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST)) within the St. Louis region, Missouri, and with other libraries

  3. Balance campus storage options through a combination of increased e-resources (when appropriate), transfer to off-site storage, and de-accessioning in collaboration with faculty

  4. Support trusted digital repositories (such as Portico and HathiTrust), and strive to obtain perpetual e-access rights for our licensed resources to ensure their long-term preservation and access

  5. Participate in, and contribute to, discussions about national networks of print and digital repositories


  1. Efficiently manage library collections space, keeping the most relevant materials on campus.

    Currently, more than 21% of Library collections are held at West Campus.[3]


  2. Keep newer and high-use monographs and, as appropriate, high-use journals that do not have digital equivalents on the Danforth Campus

  3. Balance collections through a combination of increased reliance on e-resources when appropriate, transfer to storage options, and de-accessioning when appropriate

  4. Move low-to-moderate use journals and monographs to the West Campus Library

  5. Enhance scan and delivery service at the West Campus Library to ensure accessibility to resources stored there


  1. Acquire digital/electronic content when appropriate for the community and where acceptable business models exist; as appropriate by subject, purchase fewer print resources.

    The availability and quality of digital content is not consistent across all disciplines.  While there is general acceptance of e-journals in many fields, there are still some fields where print collections are superior.


  2. Transfer journal subscriptions from print to electronic whenever that option is available and the archives of the journal are reliably maintained (either through purchase or through a proven repository)

  3. Increase acquisitions of e-books (current and back files) when the format supports the needs of the faculty and students and is affordable for the Libraries

  4. Collaborate with external partners to limit duplication of print collection when appropriate

  5. Partner with other libraries and with publishers to develop more user-focused business models and point of access for e-content


[1]Data on library space use was calculated for an Association of Research Libraries study in January 2015.  This figure represents collections space allocation across all libraries.  Individual library space allocation is available upon request.

[2] Total library circulation in FY05 was 213,847; in FY14 total circulation 139,649.

[3] 21.1% of our cataloged resources are housed at the West Campus Library.  Also stored at West Campus are Government Documents and some un-cataloged collections that are not reflected in this figure.

Collection Development Policy

Preservation Unit

Washington University Libraries

(draft April 2014, rev Aug. 18, 2014)



For the purpose of this document, collection management covers all of the activities performed in the Washington University Libraries that relate to the management of exiting collections in all formats.
This includes preservation activities.


Washington University Libraries has approximately 3.5 million print books and journals in its general collections, almost 60,000 in its special collections, over 1.2 million eBooks, and hundreds of thousands of media in other formats. This represents considerable expertise in selection over the years and an immense value in replacement cost. At the same time, current selection (and de-accessioning) decisions help guide preservation decisions while preservation decisions have (or must have) a definite influence on many selection decisions. A responsible (or reliable) journal binding policy may involve perpetual access guarantees at the outset when replacing print with digital subscriptions. Print and digital preservation are elements of a balanced preservation strategy and sometimes have a circular relationship.


Preservation decision-making can involve steps taken now to preserve items in existing collections as well as those involving a wider planning horizon that incorporate new options made possible by new technologies. It has also been pointed out that engaging in preservation without clear reference to the level, nature, or use of the target being considered can create substantial problems. A work may be available in several acceptable print editions for a researcher, these may also be available in print or digital versions in a situation where either format will do, but a signed print copy by the author might be the province of special collections and a different preservation/conservation strategy, as might a book with a cover designed by Sarah Whitman in the early part of the 20th century which is in the general collection. While one work may be perfectly fine for research in newer editions, some may not be. Each of the eight editions of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is different as Whitman revised his work, expanding and changing it in the new editions.


Therefore the libraries need to be flexible and in certain ways more intentional when considering preservation options. For general collections, one form of preservation is appropriate at the item level whereas another approach is appropriate for collections considered as a whole. Examples of the former are the practice of conservation techniques while keeping books available on site, sending materials out for commercial binding, and various kinds of processing whether in-house or at the vendor. Examples of the latter include environmental monitoring for storage areas, disaster plans for collections, protecting collections from threats such as pests and mold, providing security measures that maintain collection integrity, and user education concerning the care of materials in various formats.

Preservation decisions can also include expanding options that allow being able to make successful transfers from one format to another, such as takes place in an informed preservation review program for older, damaged materials and in strategies to replace print with digital copy in various other scenarios. The existence of reliable eJournal and eBook options are significant factors in making preservation policy decisions – such as reduced journal binding of paper subscriptions in favor of electronic access.  As part of this, policies as well as item level decisions are influenced by the existence of available copy in memberships such as Portico and HathiTrust, and reliance on CRL/JSTOR and other archives and consortiums. This enhances network thinking in regards to preservation of general collections, collaborative collection management, and other new options.

The same is true for special and distinctive collections. A different approach to preservation is appropriate for special collections such as the absolute value of the artifact in its original form, evaluation by curators and bibliographers of gifts and collections, sophisticated techniques and treatments performed by a conservator, and digital copy at the item level as well as establishing of optimal environmental conditions and disaster plans in special collection storage areas for collections considered more as wholes. Over time and wider planning horizons, item level preservation will become more the province of special collections while ubiquitous e-manifestations of works will predominate in the general collections.

The Preservation Unit has a role in the Libraries’ gift selection policy and practice by drawing attention to the importance of physical-condition-awareness at the time gift decisions are made. Preservation previews gifts and purchased collections when they are received in order to alert bibliographers if specific books have significant problems that require extra handling or treatments.







Government Documents


Washington University in St. Louis

Collection Development Policy


Library/Subject/Collection:   Olin/West Campus Libraries/Government Information

Date Revised: 21 February 2014


  1. General Purpose:

Olin Library is an official depository for publications from the European Union and the U.S. Federal Depository Program (FDLP).  Both programs have rules in place for the proper handling of their materials although the FDLP program is the more stringent of the two. The purpose is to provide a wide array of official documents from the EU and U.S., respectively


  1. Subjects excluded:



  1. Overlap with other collections or subjects:

Collection may be of particular interest to people in history, political science, women & gender studies, economics, business, film and media studies and social work, although no subject is excluded.


The Law Library is also a member of the FDLP program, and quite possibly still a member of the Missouri State Depository Library program.


  1. Languages included and excluded:

No language is excluded.


  1. Geographical limitations:

None, although Missouri and the states surrounding Missouri have priority.


  1. Chronological limits:



  1. Retrospective acquisition:

With respect to the EU program, there are no retrospective acquisitions.  With respect to the FDLP program, we have signed an agreement with our Regional Depository Library (UM-Columbia)  to house the Regional collection of materials related to the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s, as well as materials related to the U.S. Post Office.  Full details of these arrangements may be found elsewhere.  Wherever and whenever possible, we will acquire government documents related to these two areas.


  1. Types of material collected and excluded:

With respect to the EU program, we receive whatever we are sent.  Oftentimes we will find electronic access to the same material, so the electronic record is included in the catalog and the print copy is not retained. Many of the documents sent by the EU are ephemeral, and consequently offered to the Community at the Olin Help Desk for a period of time and then discarded.


With respect to the FDLP program, no format is particularly collected or excluded; however it should be noted that in recent years most government information is in digital form.  Beginning about 2009, we began cataloging monographs received through the program into the LC collection, effectively closing the SuDocs collection.  In December 2013 the physical collection excluding microfiche was moved to West Campus, where it was integrated with the rest of the SuDocs collection. We currently (2014) have a contract with Marcive to receive catalog records for all FDLP content delivered electronically.  There are no plans to archive digital documents from the U.S. government at this time. 


Our responsibility and interest in civil rights and post office documents has been mentioned above.  We also have a number of very fine historic documents from several other agencies, and we particularly mention the War Department and Labor Department and our Serial Set collection in this regard. 


In recent years we have opted to de-accession quite a bit of older agricultural, scientific and technical materials and plan to continue this process.  We have done so in accordance with our responsibilities as an FDLP member. 


  1. Other factors to consider:

For further information about our agreements with the EU, the FDLP, our Regional Depository, or other matters pertaining to the collection, contact the Government Information Specialist.