Collection Development Policy

Revised April 2017

Table of contents



Purpose of the Policy

The Collection Development Policy identifies and communicates the long- and short-term collection goals and policies of James Madison University (JMU) Libraries and Educational Technologies (LET). The Policy states the principles and guidelines to be followed by librarians and departmental faculty in developing and maintaining balanced collections across disciplines. It also takes into account the mission and goals of the University while being responsive to the changing needs of a dynamic institution. When this policy refers to “collections,” it implies all library resourceswhether owned, leased, or borrowed, physical or electronic. The Collection Development policy will be periodically reviewed in order to ensure that its provisions continue to reflect the current requirements of academic programs, collection needs, and the allocation of resources.

University Profile

JMU is a predominantly undergraduate, public, comprehensive university. The University comprises six colleges and a graduate school and more than 75 academic programs. JMU offers a robust general education core curriculum and more than 100 degrees on the bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. The university mission is to prepare students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.

LET Profile

JMU LET positions campus library operations and instructional technologies together under the same leadership. The mission of LET is to engage with JMU’s diverse communities in their creation and search for knowledge through academic resources, physical and virtual spaces, and educational and research services. LET, consisting of Academic Engagement, Innovation Services, and Scholarly Resources & Technology, supports the mission and future vision of the University through its services and collections. LET Collections and services are contained within a number of facilities across campus, including Carrier Library, Rose Library, the Music Library (Music), the Education Technology & Media Center (Memorial), and the Visual Resources Center (Duke). Through collection development, JMU Libraries provides access to appropriate and diverse knowledge that facilitates and promotes scholarly inquiry.

Scope of Collections

To assure the prudent allocation and expenditure of monies for collections and other information resources, the libraries are viewed as a coordinated whole rather than individual or autonomous entities developing collections without regard for need or duplication.

  • Carrier Library collections consist of books, journals, and media collections supporting study and scholarship primarily in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Carrier Library also houses Special Collections.
  • Rose Library collections consist of books, journals, and videos supporting study and scholarship primarily in the sciences, health sciences, engineering, and technology.
  • The Music Library supports the unique study and scholarship needs of the School of Music. It provides reference, media playback, scores, journals, sound recordings, videos, software titles, and several special collections. Books and selected other materials supporting the School of Music are housed at Carrier Library.
  • LET supports study and scholarship in the College of Education by maintaining a children’s and young adult literature collection, housed in the Educational Technology and Media Center in Memorial Hall.
  • LET supports the School of Art, Design, and Art History (SADAH) by staffing the Visual Resources Center (VRC) in Duke Hall. In addition to serving as a library material delivery site, the VRC contains print library journals and reference materials, as well as equipment, for use by faculty and students.

LET is dedicated to providing information for students and faculty at the point of need. Placement of physical collections is generally based on perceived needs and campus proximity of library facilities to academic department locations. In order to support online and distance learning activities, where students and faculty may be located away from campus, LET exercises a preference for selection of and access to digital resources thereby increasing user accessibility, regardless of physical location.

Library collections are substantially supported by electronic resources acquired through the state consortium, the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA). JMU also participates in VIVA collection initiatives and resource sharing, as well, as other cooperative agreements, to maximize purchasing power and leverage information resource holdings across the state.

Collection Priorities and Intellectual Freedom

The library collections will directly reflect and support its mission and the goals of the University. Specifically, the priorities for building balanced collections across disciplines include:

  • providing university-level scholarly resources that support the academic programs and faculty research interests. Collections will reflect diverse viewpoints and areas of scholarship.
  • affirming LET’s commitment to enabling every person to engage in the lifelong pursuit of knowledge by supporting the open exchange of ideas, innovation, intellectual freedom, diversity, and equitable access to information.
  • continuing LET’s’ tradition of meeting curricular changes and intellectual demands with thoughtful innovations that respectfully build on past achievements.

In carrying out its collection development activities, LET adheres to the principles expressed in the following statements from the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights.

Selection Responsibility

In building and managing collections, LET relies on the expertise of its liaison librarians, who are responsible for the full life-cycle of collection management from point of selection to withdrawal. Each liaison librarian is responsible for primary selection in one or more subject areas. Liaison librarians interact with departmental faculty and students in selecting materials that reflect and anticipate changing curriculum needs, faculty research interests, interdisciplinary trends, and scholarly communication paths.

The Collection Development Committee (CDC) plans, organizes, and monitors activities related to all aspects of collection development and management for all types of information resources. The committee is committed to a “holistic collections” model[1] and develops policies and guidelines for collections development, management, promotion, assessment, and preservation accordingly.  The CDC has the primary responsibility for managing continuing expenditure commitments (e.g., periodicals, licensed electronic resources) and makes decisions on major purchases and licenses in response to recommendations from librarians, university faculty, and Scholarly Resources & Discovery. The CDC operates using the Guiding Principles for Collection Priorities.

 Collecting Guidelines

The libraries collect resources in print and electronic formats, with an emphasis on electronic formats for journal collections, media collections, and reference resources. LET evaluates potential acquisitions on numerous criteria, including but not limited to:

  • quality of material
  • readership level
  • curriculum relevance
  • authority
  • currency
  • language
  • historical value
  • price
  • user demand
  • impact to the entire collection

LET secures access to information through direct licensing from authorized providers and by utilizing connections to free resources. In addition, selection criteria specifically applicable to digital formats will be considered, including but not limited to:

  • Uniqueness and comprehensiveness of information
  • Currency and validity of information and frequency of updates
  • Enhanced content, additional functionality, availability of site license
  • Cost effectiveness of access
  • Archival access
  • Copyright and fair use, including interlibrary loan privileges
  • Confidentiality and privacy provisions for all library patrons
  • Availability of usage statistics based on accepted standards
  • Legal issues, including licensing requirements and restrictions
  • Reliability of vendor or publisher in providing customer and technical support, training, etc.
  • Reputation and authority of publisher
  • Technical support for storage and delivery of locally hosted content.

All acquisitions of resources must adhere to Commonwealth of Virginia and JMU Procurement guidelines and audit requirements.


JMU Libraries welcomes gifts that enhance the existing collection. Selection standards and guidelines for both purchased and donated materials are the same. Once accepted, LET reserves the right to decide on the final disposition of gifts. For more information, please refer to the more on the JMU LET gift policy.

Collection Management

Liaison librarians and the Director of Scholarly Resources & Discovery, with primary support provided by Resource Access, will conduct ongoing assessment of the collection to ensure availability of adequate and appropriate resources to support the curriculum.


LET normally will acquire only one copy of a title. Non-circulating titles will be added to the collection in the location where they best serve the needs of the JMU community. Faculty and/or liaison librarians should be prepared to justify requests for duplicate copies.


Lost, damaged, or missing items are not automatically replaced but instead are evaluated based on the collecting guidelines and usage data. If damaged or lost materials in obsolete formats are determined to be important to the collection, LET will attempt to replace such materials. If no exact replacement can be found, a similar but not exact item may be purchased as a substitute.

Withdrawal of Materials

Periodic review and withdrawal of materials from the collection ensures that collections remain both current and authoritative, and match user needs at JMU.

Liaisons will use the following criteria when evaluating material to be weeded:

  1. Collection level: How vital is the item for JMU coursework and research?
  2. Intrinsic value: Is the item a seminal work in its field?
  3. Format: Is the format obsolete?
  4. Duplication: Is demand sufficient for multiple copies of the item?
  5. Physical condition: Can a damaged item be repaired? Should it be replaced?
  6. Research value: Are older materials still valuable for research interests?
  7. Edition: Is the edition of an item held by the library superseded by a newer edition or format (e.g. electronic or online/networked)?
  8. Completeness: Is the item part of a set or series of which the library does not have a complete run?
  9. Uniqueness: Is the item held only by JMU?
  10. Usage: Has the item been checked out frequently or recently?

Withdrawal of library materials must be authorized by the librarians responsible for the portion of the collection containing potential withdrawals and/or the Collection Development Committee. Withdrawals will be disposed in accordance with Commonwealth of Virginia guidelines.

Cooperative Collection Development

LET supplements and enhances its collections through cooperative collection development, resource sharing, and licensing of digital resources. It is essential that institutions share collection resources to ensure broad access to all necessary scholarly resources. JMU Libraries is an active participant in the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) consortium and fully supports VIVA’s Mission “… to provide, in an equitable, cooperative and cost effective manner, enhanced access to library and information resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s non-profit academic libraries serving the higher education community.” VIVA provides core digital resources essential to JMU users. VIVA promotes resource sharing among its members and encourages the quick delivery of infrequently-used materials needed by JMU faculty and students from other institutions of higher learning through the interlibrary loan service. Interlibrary loan is also used to borrow materials from non-VIVA libraries.

[1] Holistic Collections: The development, management, promotion, and assessment of responsive, user-focused collections in all formats and spaces, both virtual and physical, and across all disciplines to meet the evolving needs of scholars and faculty at JMU in accordance with LET’s mission “To engage with JMU’s diverse communities in their creation and search for knowledge through academic resources, physical and virtual spaces, and educational and research services.”


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Appendix 1: Levels of Collection Density and Collecting Intensity


The code levels defined below are designed for use in identifying both the extent of existing collections in given subject fields (collection density) and the extent of current collection activity in the field (collection intensity.)

1.  Minimal Level

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

1a. Minimal Level, Uneven Coverage:  Few selections are made; there is unsystematic representation of the subject.1b. Minimal Level, Even Coverage:  Few selections are made; basic authors, some core works, and a spectrum of ideological views are presented. Can support fundamental inquiries.

2.  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.

2a. Basic Level, Introductory: The emphasis at this level is on providing resources that introduce and define a subject. A collection at this level includes basic reference tools and explanatory works, historical descriptions of the subject’s development, general works devoted to major topics and figures in the field, and selective major periodicals. This level is only sufficient to support patrons attempting to locate general information about a subject or students enrolled in introductory level classes.2b. Basic Level, Advanced: At the advanced level, basic information about a subject is provided on a wider range of topics and with more depth. There is a broader selection of basic explanatory works, historical descriptions, reference tools, and periodicals and indexes that serve to introduce and define a subject. Access to appropriate electronic bibliographic databases, a selection of editions of important works, and a greater quantity and variety of materials is typical.

3. Study Level

A collection that is adequate to impart and maintain knowledge about a subject in a systematic way but at a level of less than research intensity. The collection includes a wide range of basic works in appropriate formats, a significant number of classic retrospective materials, complete collections of the works of more important writers, selections from works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals, access to appropriate electronic resources, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographic apparatus pertaining to the subject. At this level, the collection is adequate to support independent study and most learning needs of undergraduate and some graduate instruction.

3a. Basic Study Level: A collection at this level provides resources adequate for imparting and maintaining knowledge about the basic or primary topics of a subject area. The collection includes the most important primary and secondary literature, a selection of basic representative journals/periodicals, and subject-based indexes, which are the fundamental reference and bibliographical tools pertaining to the subject. Collections at the basic study level support lower division undergraduate classes, as well as some of the basic independent study needs of the lifelong learner.3b. Intermediate Study Level: A collection at this level provides resources adequate for imparting and maintaining knowledge about the basic or primary topics of a subject area. The collection includes a broad range of basic works in appropriate formats, classic retrospective materials, all key journals on primary topics, selected journals and seminal works on secondary topics, access to appropriate machine-readable data files, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographic apparatus pertaining to the subject. These materials are adequate to support advanced undergraduate course work. It is not adequate to support master’s degree programs.

3c. Advanced Study Level: The advanced subdivision of level 3 provides resources adequate for imparting and maintaining knowledge about the primary and secondary topics of a subject area. The collection includes a significant number of seminal works and journals on the primary and secondary topics in the field, a significant number of retrospective materials, a substantial collection of works by secondary figures, and works that provide more in-depth discussions of research, techniques, and evaluation. This collection level can support master’s degree programs.

4. Research Level

A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertation and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information important to researchers. It is intended to include all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as a very extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field. Pertinent foreign language materials are included. Older material is usually retained for historical research and actively preserved. A collection at this level supports doctoral and other original research.

5. Comprehensive Level

A collection in which the library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, and other forms), in all applicable languages, for a necessarily defined and limited field. This level of collection intensity is one that maintains a “special collection”; the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness. Older material is retained for historical research with active preservation efforts.

This appendix is based on the “WLN Collection Assessment Manual, 4th ed.” by Nancy Powell, published by WLN in 1992.

Source(s) of Authority: Collection Development Committee, Director of Scholarly Resources & Discovery

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