Collection Development Policy

DIVISION: Library and Instructional Support
UNIT: Olson Library
DATE: July 27, 1989; revised August 10, 2006; December 16, 2011; August 19, 2015
PURPOSE: To articulate criteria for selecting and managing access to information resources.
APPLICABILITY: Library and Instructional Support faculty and staff are guided by this policy in selecting new material and managing existing resources.


  1. Philosophy and Audience
    1. Clientele 

      As described in its mission statement, the Library provides resources to support University programs and the University community. The Library's primary aim is to support the instructional curricula of the University, both undergraduate and graduate, and to support faculty research and scholarship. In accord with the University's role as a regional center for higher education, the Library also considers the interests of the general community. Recreational interests are considered to a lesser degree.

    2. Responsibility

      The Dean bears responsibility for collection development and materials selection. The Dean has delegated overall coordination and selection to the Collection Management Librarian. Participation in collection development and material selection are the responsibility of all members of the Library faculty, who serve as liaisons to departments. Departmental faculty are invited to recommend materials to support their instructional programs and research interests.

    3. Regional Resources

      Librarians will strive to remain informed of other library collections in the region and refer its clientele to them. Olson Library will not duplicate the special collections of local libraries or general popular collections provided by public libraries.

    4. Scope of the Collection

      Current-year publishing will be the primary focus of selection, defined as the current fiscal year plus the preceding full calendar year. While materials may be purchased in any format according to the needs and practices of various scholarly disciplines, electronic format is generally preferred. The Library seeks representative and standard works for its collection, not comprehensive coverage.

      Principal limitations:

      A more complete list of limitations appears in Section II. B. 

      In selection, consideration will be given to available alternative means of access, including statewide cooperative lending programs (e.g., MeLCat), interlibrary loan, and online availability via the open Web.
      1. Textbooks are not typically selected but may be purchased if they are:  
        1. Of outstanding quality and usefulness;

        2. Published in fields where the literature largely appears in that form; or
        3. For use in the Pre-K-12 Collection in support of teacher-education curricula.
      2. Materials will not be purchased solely for the purpose of course reserves, nor to substitute for required classroom reading, which is provided by the sales of texts from the NMU Bookstore.
      3. Finely printed books, rare books, or other unusual and expensive materials will be purchased only with strong justification, when program need is very great (further detailed in the library's Special Collections Policy). Popular books will be avoided, except where they meet other selection criteria or support the Pre-K-12 collection.
      4. Non-English-language material will be purchased only to support courses in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and International Studies or Native American Studies, or to meet regional research needs.
      5. Generally, only one copy of a book will be purchased. A second or third copy may be added only if warranted by heavy use.
      6. Electronic formats are preferred over print, with quality paperbound editions preferred over hardbound whenever possible, with exceptions for durability on print items with high anticipated usage.
    5. Location of Library Material

      The Olson Library collection is housed in the Elizabeth and Edgar Harden Hall. For the main collection, location is determined by type, material format, or usage. Olson Library may create separate locations for some materials, such as pre-K-12 materials, audiovisual material, special collections, the Tyler Collection, and microforms.

      Olson Library participates in creating and contributing bibliographic data to national databases and adheres to national cataloging and classification standards. The classification of materials does not necessarily match curricular or departmental definitions.

    6. Controversial Materials

      Olson Library supports the concept of intellectual freedom and the idea of "freedom of expression" as guaranteed by the First Amendment. It further subscribes to the Library Bill of Rights, as approved and adopted by the American Library Association. Thus, the Library bears a responsibility to collect materials with content representing various points of view without endorsement, restriction, or prejudice.

      A library user who deems material to be objectionable may register a complaint by completing a  Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials. This form must be completed and signed by the person who initiates the request. The form and the material will be forwarded to the Collection Management Librarian, who will be responsible for reviewing the material in accordance with present selection criteria and collection-development objectives. The Collection Management Librarian may consult reviews and outside advice and will review the request with the Dean. The person who has placed the complaint will receive a reply from the Collection Management Librarian in writing indicating the Library's position and any action planned or taken.

      Challenged materials meeting the Library's selection criteria will not be removed as a result of pressure. The Library Bill of Rights states in Article I that "materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background or views of those contributing to their creation," and in Article II, that "materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval."

  2. Selection Criteria

    1. Principles

      1. The primary aim is to support University instructional curricula, both undergraduate and graduate, and faculty research and scholarship. To a lesser degree, consideration is given to recreational interests of the University community and to regional educational needs.
      2. The aim of selection is the development of a collection of representative and standard works in fields of study, not a comprehensive collection.
      3. Materials may be acquired in all formats; electronic format is preferred except in those fields in which print has special prominence or significance.
      4. Materials may be placed in the general collection or designated for assignment to separate locations within the Library, such as Reference.
      5. All materials purchased with Library funds are processed and cataloged for the Library's collection. Materials owned or purchased by other departments will be accepted for inclusion in the Library's collection if they meet the criteria in the Collection Development Policy. Materials then become property of the Library.
      6. Materials will be incorporated into the collection so as to be accessible to all students and faculty in accordance with Circulation policies and procedures.
      7. Both cost and potential usage are considerations.
    2. General Guidelines

      The following questions are considered in selection:
      1. Does the subject matter and scope of the material suit the purposes of the curriculum for which it is intended? Will it serve students and faculty in more than one curriculum?
      2. Does the treatment of the subject match the needs of the students studying the discipline? Is it an introductory work? Is it speculative? Is it scholarly, technical, or popular? Is it partial or complete in coverage? Is it contemporary or retrospective in nature?
      3. Is the material accurate? Is it indexed? What is the publication date? What is the reputation of the publisher? Is the item based on primary or secondary sources? Is it based on observation or research?
      4. Does it present fact or opinion? What are the author's qualifications? What is the point of view? Is it fair? Is it partisan/sectarian? Does it challenge and promote thought? Is it substantially biased? If it is partisan, does it counterbalance other material in the collection or represent an important perspective on the topic?
      5. How well does the material fit into the Library's existing collection? Does it fill a gap?
      6. Does it duplicate or complement other material?
      7. How well does the material add to the understanding of the subject? Is it representative of an author, genre, or perspective of current and/or lasting interest?
      8. Is the format appropriate to its expected usage and users? Is it unusual in size? If the material is in print format, what is the quality of the paper, illustrations, and binding?
      9. Is the cost of the material reasonable when compared to other items in the subject area? Might material of lower cost substitute?
      10. For electronic materials, is access based on a subscription or one-time purchase? If by subscription, what license terms govern continuing access? For purchases, what are the archiving/permanent access terms?
      11. For electronic materials, what is the quality and usability of the interface?
      12. Specific Material Formats
        1. Serials, including periodicals and standing orders: 

          In addition to considerations listed above, periodical titles are strongly preferred that are indexed in standard sources. Olson Library aggressively pursues opportunities to increase access to electronic journals by partnering with consortia and other Michigan academic libraries to negotiate as a group with publishers and other providers. The library provides access to high-quality collections of open-access journals and supports enterprises that make journals accessible online at reasonable cost. The library closely monitors usage statistics to inform decisions on selection and renewal of print and electronic serials.

        2. Media resources: 

          In addition to considerations listed above, hardware and software requirements and the Library's ability to support them are considered.
        3. Microforms: 

          Print and electronic materials are preferred over microfiche, microfilm, and microcards. Materials unavailable or prohibitively priced in print or electronic format may be considered for microform.
        4. Internet Resources: 
          In addition to considerations listed above, selection of Internet resources considers the following:
          • Quality and reliability of content
          • Credibility as indicated by:
            • Authority and expertise of author(s) and/or producer(s).
            • Domain name (.edu for educational institution, .com for commercial enterprise, .gov for government agency and .org for organization, such as the United Nations).
            • Objectives mission or purpose of the host organization. Noncommercial resources providing access to information suitable for research are strongly preferred.
            • Sponsorship. Some host organizations are not responsible for content on their sites; e.g., personal pages identified by a tilde (~) in the URL may be hosted by a university or internet service provider.
          • Currency of information and update frequency.
          • Comprehensiveness or selectivity of coverage, as appropriate.
          • Longevity (i.e., how long will the information remain relevant and accessible?).
          • Anonymity of access (i.e., without requiring individual account or login).
          • Site organization, ease of navigation, reliability, stability, and response speed.
          • Search capabilities and print/download options.
          • Special features.
          • Change(s) required in standard hardware or software resources.
          • Comparison to similar Web sites treating the topic.
          • Feasibility of complying with any specified restrictions (e.g., on duplication, authentication, or dissemination, including interlibrary loan).
          • Value of a fee-based title weighed against other possible acquisitions.
          • Legality of site (e.g., does the site make illegal use of copyrighted material?).
          • Presence of advertising.
      13. Selection Limitations

        The Library avoids acquiring the following types of materials:
        • General anthologies, except those treating a unique theme or specific geographic area.
        • Texts to replace classroom required reading.
        • Collected works, except those of major writers.
        • Correspondence, except where additional critical material contributes to the disciplinary literature, or where the material provides primary sources on locally important subjects (e.g., the library's Holocaust Collection).
        • Collected articles, except those not previously printed in journals or other sources.
        • Abstracts, extracts, or abridged editions, except for the Pre-K-12 collection.
        • Dissertations or reprinted dissertations.
        • Manuscripts, except NMU theses and Forest Roberts plays in Special Collections.
        • Rare books or other expensive material, except if greatly needed or received as a donation.
        • Archival materials.
        • Self-published materials.
        • Legal case books.
        • Government or legal documents, except those received as a depository library or selected by the government-documents librarian.
        • Symposia and proceedings.
        • Spiral or ring notebooks.
        • Non-English materials, except in languages taught by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and International Studies or translations into English.
        • Highly specialized material.
      14. Gifts:

        Gifts are welcome if they meet criteria governing purchased materials. Monetary appraisals or receipts stating value cannot legally be given. The Library must be free to dispose of material not needed. Gifts accepted for inclusion in the collection will be cataloged, processed, and made available to students and faculty according to standard Library procedures. Gift Policy.
      15. Replacement:

        Worn, damaged, or lost materials may be replaced with new copies, updated editions, or alternative formats, with electronic formats preferred. Other material from within the same discipline may be substituted.

      16. Deselection:

        Removing outdated, superseded, damaged, or duplicated material from the collection is a vital part of collection development. Retaining material that is no longer useful can diminish the vitality and appeal of a library collection; valuable materials can easily be overlooked if marginal material is allowed to accumulate. Weeding makes a higher proportion of materials visible to users, and participation in commercial redistribution projects can generate revenue for access to current and future information resources.

        1. Deselection Criteria:

          While the following general criteria are used to deselect library material, differences are recognized among disciplines and subjects. Materials in the humanities or mathematics retain value much longer than materials in the hard sciences, medicine, or technology, which can become outdated quickly.

          1. Chronological and usage criteria. In general, materials more than 25 years old or that have not circulated or been used electronically in the last 10 years are considered for withdrawal; materials in scientific or technological disciplines may be considered for withdrawal earlier. Exceptions:

            • The author is so prominent that marginal works have value.
            • The material contains valuable illustrations or unique historical data.
            • The treatment is historical or of historical importance.
            • The material has an extensive bibliography which is still useful.
            • The material is a volume in a series and other volumes are still being used or purchased.
            • The material concerns the local area or is written by a local author.
          2. Additional Criteria. Library material meeting the following criteria may be withdrawn if usage has ceased or there is little evidence of use:
            • Quality. The material lacks intrinsic merit (i.e., it would not now be added to the collection).
            • Scope. Materials that no longer pertain to the university's programs.
            • Physical condition. Materials that are worn, frail, or beyond repair, and whose value to the collection does not warrant replacement.

            • Obsolescence. Materials with substantial outdated or incorrect information likely to mislead the reader. Obsolescence does not sanction the removal of materials because of controversy. Further, historical materials with viewpoints currently considered inaccurate or offensive, but representative of their time and place, are not withdrawn on that basis alone. Obsolescent general anthologies, ephemeral fiction, and outmoded translations will be withdrawn if not of research interest.

            • Redundancy. Superfluous copies of materials when the need for them has passed. Reprints of titles where the original is held in the collection and in good condition. Older editions are withdrawn as revised editions of the same work are added to the collection. A previous edition may be kept depending on the subject, length of time between editions, circulation, extent of revision, or other research significance.

            • Language. Materials in languages other than Chinese, Latin, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and the central Algonquian family of Native American languages.

            • Technical bulletins and conference proceedings more than 10 years old.

            • Series. Isolated volumes in a series and broken runs of older series that are no longer purchased or published.

            • Format. Copies of media superseded by newer formats. Non-print materials requiring obsolete or unsupported equipment or software for access.

            • Conventional textbooks.

            • Biography or personal narratives of an obscure person.

            • Dissertations and theses from other universities which are outside the University's curricular foci or faculty research areas.

        2. Deselection Procedures:

          • The Collection Management Librarian determines areas to be reviewed for weeding in consultation with the Collection Development Group and liaison librarians.
          • Deselection criteria are drafted in consultation with departmental faculty when appropriate and possible. Criteria and procedures are shared with departmental faculty and/or posted on individual liaison librarians' Web pages.
          • Librarians use the criteria to deselect materials in consultation with the Collection Management Librarian. Primary responsibility lies with the librarians; advice from other faculty may be sought.
          • Circulation and Technical Services staff withdraw the materials.
          • Deselected items with market value and in fair condition are offered to other libraries or to vendors. Items in poor physical condition or that do not qualify for redistribution are recycled.
    3. Selection Procedures
      1. Liaison librarians, in consultation with the Collection Management Librarian, take primary responsibility for selecting new materials.

      2. User requests are given special priority. Purchase-request forms are provided on the Library's web page for recommending titles for purchase. Consultation with a librarian is encouraged.

      3. Normally, only a single copy of a title will be purchased. When demand is very great, as measured by circulation data, a second or third copy may be purchased.

      4. Textbooks designated for current courses are not purchased. Other types of materials required for current courses may be considered if they meet existing selection criteria.

      5. Requests may be rushed to meet immediate needs.

    4. Supporting Library Policies

      1. Gift Policy
      2. Special Collections Policy

CONTACT: Leslie Warren, Dean of Library and Instructional Support, (906) 227-2217, or

Ask Us