General Collection Development Policy

General Policies

Guiding Principles | Archiving | Audiovisual media | Binding | Books/monographs | Databases | Dissertations | Faculty publications | Festschriften | Gifts | Journals | Languages collected | Maps | Multiple formats | Newspapers | Number of copies acquired | Off-campus storage | Out-of-print materials and retrospective collection development | Readership level | Recreational reading | Replacements | Standing orders | Weeding/removing items from the collection | Workbooks | Not Acquired


The general collections of the Wellesley College Library have been built through the effort of generations of librarians, faculty, students, alumnae and donors who have shared the vision of building a premier collection, one that provides the range of resources needed to support teaching and learning at Wellesley. With over 1.5 million print volumes, 200,000 electronic books, 55,000 electronic journals, and access to digital images, online music, and electronic databases, Wellesley enjoys one of the finest undergraduate library collections in the country.

In building the collections, the library seeks to achieve a rich mix of print and online resources, drawing on the strengths of each format to meet the needs of Wellesley scholars. As scholarship and publishing change, we adapt our strategies to ensure that we are providing resources in the forms and formats that are the most accessible and useful to our users. For some disciplines, print continues to define the record of scholarship; in other disciplines a rapid shift from print to digital is underway, while for others the shift to electronic is coming soon. We acquire collections resources which reflect this range of needs, seeking to provide both a core set of reliable resources and a selection of more specialized ones that expose our students to the most important titles in the disciplines that they study. To meet advanced student, faculty and staff research needs, the library fosters and participates in a number of mutually-advantageous cooperative relationships with other libraries. Through arrangements with our partner libraries, we cooperatively build subject collections of depth, provide for onsite access to other collections and supply research material through interlibrary loan and journal article delivery services.

To ensure that the collections grow in a thoughtful and purposeful way, the current generation of collection specialists has developed a set of principles and practices to guide in decision making. These principles form a Collection Development Policy for Wellesley College Library. These principles undergo continual assessment and adjustment to ensure that the collection responds to changes in the curriculum and in the forms and formats of scholarly information needed to support the needs of the community.

Collection Development Policy

The overall collection development policy of the Wellesley College Library comprises those of the Archives, Special Collections, Government Documents, and the General Collections.

The General Collections policies described below are supplemented by individual statements regarding collecting priorities for the various subject disciplines included in the curriculum of the College.

General Policies

While the increasing availability of electronic resources in all disciplines has called for continual reassessment of our format preferences, the overriding policies guiding acquisitions have not changed:

  • We acquire materials based on demonstrated need, anticipated use and available funding.
  • We support intellectual freedom by representing a diversity of opinions and viewpoints; we seek to represent scholarship from both mainstream and alternative domestic and foreign presses.
  • In selecting and retaining resources, we seek authoritative scholarship, quality and durability, accessibility, sustainable pricing and acceptable licensing terms.
  • We collect materials in the most useful format for the content and intended use, bearing in mind the institutional technical infrastructure and the staff expertise available to support patron use of specialized resources.
  • We participate in cooperative initiatives with other libraries and cultural organizations to ensure the widest and most stable access to scholarly resources as possible.


Guiding principles : 

A number of principles guide the selection of material added to the collection, primary among them are equity, diversity, scope, balance and freedom of intellectual pursuit. These are outlined in the following statements, devised by the library community, which the Wellesley College Library endorses;

Archiving :

As a member of the community of scholars, Wellesley shares with other institutions and cultural organizations an interest in the preservation of the record of scholarship. With this interest comes the obligation to do our part to retain and preserve the intellectual assets that we acquire on behalf of the College.

For print resources, we will determine the most appropriate conservation and preservation treatments, given available fiscal resources and anticipated use of the items treated. In implementing digital preservation techniques for print titles, we will seek out cooperative efforts with other entities to ensure that redundant efforts are minimized and to permit us to focus on Wellesley’s unique resources.

When licensing or acquiring electronic resources, we will seek contractual assurances that Wellesley will retain archival access to the data licensed in perpetuity. We acknowledge that digital archiving is at best an untested assurance at this time, yet Wellesley will make sure that its publishing partners understand its importance as a criterion for acquiring or licensing an electronic resource. Evidence of Wellesley’s commitment to this principle is its participation in the LOCKSS Alliance and Portico journal archiving programs.

Audiovisual media :

Consult the Collection Development Policy for Audiovisual Materials.

Binding :

Paperback editions are preferred when available simultaneously with the hardbound edition. When high use is anticipated the title will be commercially rebound before shelving. For reference works the hardbound edition is preferred unless the price difference between it and the paperback edition is prohibitive.

Books/monographs :

The library maintains an active program to acquire recently-published materials for the general collections. The most intense collecting of books is in the humanities, with more selective acquisitions in the social sciences and very selective ones in the sciences. Decisions about which books we will acquire are increasingly influenced by the holdings of nearby libraries and the ease with which patrons can borrow books that they need for research purposes. While print remains the preferred format for monographs at present, we monitor closely developments in electronic book publishing and ebook reader technology. These hold promise for the future in terms of the portability and enhanced usability that our users require to be successful learners. But they will most likely not replace print, at least not in the near-term future, so we proceed in this direction with interest and caution. We prefer digital editions for course reserve and for reference works that are updated regularly. We prefer electronic book collections that support multiple simultaneous users.

Databases :

Databases which support the areas of the curriculum are licensed if they have appropriate content – with sufficient depth and scope – are searchable, and are reasonably-priced. Remotely accessible full-text web resources, which permit multiple simultaneous users and support citation-linking, are preferred. Preference is given to electronic resources that provide for downloading and manipulation of statistical data.

Dissertations :

from institutions in the US and Canada are generally acquired via ILL only to support specific student research requests. Once used by students the dissertations are reviewed by library staff and may be added to the collection if the topic or the scope of coverage is broad enough to suggest that it will be used by others.

Faculty publications :

The library will acquire faculty publications that meet other general and subject collection development criteria. A sampling of faculty publications is displayed in the Brackett Reading Room in Clapp Library.

Festschriften :

Due to their generally highly-specialized content, festschriften are added rarely and only when the content is suitable for undergraduate use.

Gifts : Gifts are added to the collection when they meet the general and subject collection development criteria. Consult the Gift Policy.

Journals : Subscriptions to print or electronic journals are maintained for the key titles in the disciplines in Wellesley’s curriculum. The library’s journal collection is a mix of print and digital titles, as well as aggregated electronic journal collections. Since no library – including Wellesley’s – can possibly subscribe to all of the journals that its researchers will find referenced in indexing sources and citations, the local collection relies on ILL and document delivery services as supplements. We are very selective when starting new journal subscriptions, not only because they represent a significant long-term commitment of institutional resources, but also because we provide online access to a large number of periodicals and can secure and supply individual articles from other specialized publications on an as-needed basis. For decades, journal prices, even as they move from print to digital, have risen at annual rates that exceed inflation and we continually struggle to with the need to add subscriptions while maintaining our other acquisitions programs. In recent years we have had to place a freeze on starting new subscriptions unless existing titles can be canceled to release funds. Our agreements with other libraries to supply articles via interlibrary loan require rapid response, which has significantly reduced the timeframes within which they are delivered, thus making this an acceptable alternative to subscribing. Increasingly we rely on other libraries – or commercial document suppliers – to supply articles from specialized journals rather that starting subscriptions.

While print is still the predominant and preferred format in the humanities, electronic journals are now preferred in the sciences and social sciences. For disciplines where the early literature provides essential background for current study, we attempt to maintain uninterrupted access to earlier issues, either in print or electronic form. If backfile access is not critical – or if the costs are prohibitive – we will allow gaps in coverage to develop, filling them when needed by document delivery or ILL. All or portions of the print backfile of journals that are available online from a reliable source may be withdrawn or moved to off-campus storage to free up on-campus shelf space for new acquisitions.

Languages collected :

We acquire materials in all languages that are taught within the curriculum of the College. While English translations of foreign-language originals are acquired, we acquire foreign-language translations of English-language originals only if there is a compelling pedagogic need. Dictionaries for languages not taught at Wellesley are added selectively to the reference collection.

Maps :

The library collects maps that support the curriculum. The print map collections are located mainly in the classroom map collection, located in the Clapp Library Brackett Reading Room, the GPO/CIA maps in the Government Documents collection at Clapp and the USGS collection housed at the Science Library. In acquiring new titles, we prefer those that are portable and suitable for classroom use.

Multiple formats :

We will acquire a title in the most appropriate format(s) needed to support the curriculum and the intended use of the resource. Increasingly, remotely accessible full-text web resources are becoming preferred for core journals and core reference works. A subscription title will normally not be acquired in both print and digital form. Both editions will be acquired only if the online does not fully replicate the print, if there is uncertainty that the content of the online version will be stable over time, if there is uncertainty that the cost can be sustained over time, or where the print is needed to ensure access to high-quality graphics.

Newspapers :

The online availability of news and newspapers has substantially supplanted use of print newspapers at Wellesley. In recent years the number of print subscriptions has declined as we have added subscriptions to online newspapers. We maintain print subscriptions only to the major domestic and foreign newspapers if their online surrogate is too expensive in relation to potential use, is incomplete or is unreliable. Microfilm subscriptions to titles that we get in print or electronically are maintained only when the online archive is incomplete and/or when access to historic content cannot be effectively met through ILL.

Number of copies acquired :

A single copy of a work is acquired, with the exception of titles where high demand can be anticipated in advance. For physical items (books, DVDs, CDs) ordered for course reserve, multiple copies will be acquired at the instructor’s request and generally in the ratio of one copy for every 10-12 students enrolled in the course.

Off-campus storage :

The library maintains a small collection of low-use books, documents and journals housed in an off-campus storage facility. The titles located there have been identified as ones that are not likely to be used frequently enough to warrant consuming the on-campus shelf space needed for new acquisitions. Many of the journals shelved there now are available electronically, reducing the need for access to the print copies. Records in the library catalog indicate this location and provide library users with a mechanism to request that an item be brought back to Wellesley for their use. Recalled books are reclassified and reshelved in the campus collection while journal issues or volumes that are recalled are returned to storage

Out-of-print materials and retrospective collection development :

Material that is no longer in print will be acquired for the general collections if it fills an important gap in the existing subject collection, if the price is reasonable in light of anticipated use, and if resources are not available for loan from local libraries. When new majors or programs are introduced into the curriculum the library will endeavor to build a collection of retrospective depth sufficient to sustain course work and basic research. In most instances this will call for a new source of funding or a reallocation of departmental library allocations to cover these costs.

Readership level :

Our primary obligation is to acquire material that is accessible to undergraduates, both at the introductory and advanced level. Given the nature and extent of faculty-student research collaborations at Wellesley, we will occasionally acquire material at a more advanced or specialized level when interlibrary loan access is inadequate to meet persistent needs.

Recreational reading :

The Recreational Reading Collection is located in the Brackett Reading Room in Clapp Library. Built by requests from students, faculty and staff - and by selections from best seller lists - it reflects the interests of the Wellesley community. The collection includes books (fiction and non-fiction) but no games, audio books, or other formats. Since funding for this collection is very limited, preference is given to purchasing paperbacks. The collection does not duplicate the stacks collection and is frequently weeded to reflect reader interests and to contain its size.

Replacements :

Titles are not automatically replaced. collections librarians review lists of lost and missing titles as well as those that become damaged beyond repair and determine if replacements should be acquired. Replacement is warranted if the title is still needed to support the curriculum and ILL is not sufficient to meet sustained local need, if the original circulated frequently before it was lost or damaged beyond repair, it if fills a niche within the existing subject collection, if it is still in print and if the funding is available. If a damaged title cannot be repaired and is no longer commercially available, it may be replaced by a preservation photocopy or a digital surrogate.

Standing orders :

The library maintains a very selective list of standing orders for monographic sets-in-progress. Publisher standing orders are rarely established. Preference is given, instead, to acquiring the most relevant newly-published titles from key publishers via the approval plan.

Weeding/removing items from the collection :

As a general rule, items added to the general print collections will not be removed unless they are too damaged to use, are too out-of-date to be used effectively, are no longer relevant to the curriculum, or have been replaced by digital or microform surrogates. As a practical matter, titles held in multiple copies or formats will be evaluated periodically and reduced to two or fewer copies to retain the content while preserving on-campus shelf space. Items that only Wellesley holds (confirmed via WorldCat search) will be evaluated before being withdrawn to determine if they should be retained or reformatted to preserve the record of scholarship. As on-campus shelf space constraints arise, material that is determined to be of low potential use – due to content, date of publication, low circulation – may be moved to retrievable off-campus storage to release shelf space for new acquisitions.

Workbooks :

Acquired only on request of faculty when they include sufficient explanatory matter to serve as a reference work or basic introduction to a field. Items that are intended to be ‘consumed’ by the student through use are generally not acquired.

Not Acquired

  • Foreign dissertations
  • Highly specialized databases and alerting/clipping services that are intended for use by advanced scholars and that are too specialized or sophisticated for use by undergraduates.
  • Instructional materials, except those that are appropriate for the Education Curriculum Collection. Instructional resources are generally acquired by the academic departments to support faculty in course development.'
  • Juvenile or young adult titles unless acquired as exemplars for the Education Curriculum Resource Collection.
  • Language instruction recordings are selected and acquired by the foreign language departments for use in classroom instruction and for language lab use in the Knapp Media Technology Center.
  • Non-curricula languages: Works written in languages that are not included in the curriculum of the College are not acquired; translations into English are preferred. Dictionaries of languages that are not included in the curriculum are, however, acquired for the reference collection
  • Pamphlets
  • Popular treatments, of the kind generally intended for retail sale to a broad readership beyond colleges and universities, are not collected except for the Recreational Reading Collection in Clapp Library. This includes genre fiction (mysteries, science fiction) unless needed to support courses on these genre; devotional religion/spirituality, inspirational poetry, cookbooks, travel guides, popular biographies, individual self-help or instruction (as opposed to academic study), books on tape.
  • Some journals: Single issues of journals, unless they have a distinctive title can be cataloged as a book; Back runs of journals that we never subscribed to are generally not acquired or accepted as gifts
  • Study guides