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Collection Development Policy

Our Research Mission

In support of teaching, learning, and research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Libraries communicate with members of the University community to identify materials essential to curricular and research needs. 

This policy provides a framework for the underlying principles and guidelines in the selection, acquisition, evaluation, and maintenance of information resources collected or created by the Libraries.  It also articulates the Libraries’ policies to faculty, students, staff, and other users, including the Libraries’ commitment to provide access to materials we do not own through resource sharing and cooperative collection development agreements, and fostering open-access and discovery of open-access materials.  As academic programs, information needs, and technology change, the Libraries remain committed to meeting new information demands. 

Collection Guidelines

The Libraries follow these parameters:

  • Develop high-quality, relevant, and balanced collections, regardless of format, that support and strengthen teaching, learning, and research.
  • Acquire scholarly material normally in a single format.
  • Implement collection management policies to build and maintain those collections.
  • Provide leadership in a team-based environment to plan, manage, and formulate policies, and to prioritize resources to develop balanced collections that meet new demands and evolving technologies.
  • Communicate with faculty to identify existing collection strengths that align with current research and curricular needs and to develop awareness of new and evolving areas of scholarship. 
  • Expand access to information through resource sharing and other cooperative agreements with libraries locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide.
  • Share with faculty how they can make a difference with new scholarly communication models.

General Considerations for Selection and Acquisition

The following considerations apply to all materials, regardless of format, recognizing the format and content of the material under consideration may affect the degree to which individual criteria apply.

  • Utility in teaching, learning or research
  • Scope and content – comprehensiveness and depth of coverage
  • Scholarly value
  • Reputation of source
  • Currency and timeliness
    • Computer books, especially computer manuals, published four years or prior are generally not purchased
    • Newer editions are generally preferred to older.
  • Relevance to existing collections
  • Physical quality and/or special features
  • Inclusion in major indexing and abstracting tools or professional organization indexes
  • Ease of use for users and accessibility for persons with disabilities
  • Suitability for use on available hardware and platforms
  • Consistently reliable response time and overall technical performance
  • Cost, including both purchase price and on-going expenses for maintenance and continued access. 
  • Mode of access available from the vendor; e.g., Internet, LAN, single workstation
  • Size of the potential audience
  • Ability of the library to support and provide access to the resource (e.g., foreign language materials, technical demands)
  • Convenience for users: electronic resources can typically be used by multiple simultaneous users
  • Consideration of licensing restrictions on normal library activities such as Interlibrary Loan, walk-in user access, electronic reserves linking, etc.
  • Versatility for users: electronic resources can often be repurposed and manipulated by users to aid in research
  • Availability of material via patron driven acquisition programs
  • Availability of standards compliant (for example, COUNTER) use statistics

Exception: As a general policy, the Libraries do not purchase textbooks. The Libraries endeavor to purchase materials that supplement and support the curriculum, but do not have the financial resources to provide textbooks, many of which are soon out of date and replaced by new editions.  Faculty are welcome to place copies of textbooks on reserve for students’ use.  The Libraries will gladly work with any faculty member to help them identify or create Open Education Resources as an alternative to high-cost textbooks.

Format Selection Considerations

With the understanding that the most desirable format for library resources will vary according to user preference and specific needs within disciplines, the Libraries primary format when selecting materials is digital.  The Libraries will weigh the following factors in making format decisions:

  • Faculty recommendation
  • Comparative cost, including the cost of acquisition, licensing, maintenance, service, and preservation
  • Comparative impact due to greater distribution
  • Comparative impact due to enhanced searching, manipulation, etc.
  • Value added to the resource by the presence of added features
  • Technical and other support necessary for maintenance, storage, and public access
  • Technical and other support necessary for long-term preservation

Considerations for Creating Unique Digital Collections

The visibility of collections of unique digital material is rapidly growing. The Libraries also actively create unique collections of digital content that are of high academic value or community significance.  The creation and management of digital collections of unique or rare content represent a significant investment of resources. As a result, the UMass Amherst Libraries have established careful selection processes to ensure projects align with campus teaching, learning and research needs and our ability to provide long-term access and support.



Collection Maintenance and Evaluation


The collections of the UMass Amherst Libraries represent a substantial intellectual effort and economic investment.  The responsibility of building research collections carries with it the obligation to assess and ensure that these collections are permanently accessible.  The Libraries are committed to the retention, preservation, and long-term access of the collections they hold in perpetuity, regardless of format.

Active participation and leadership in preserving the Libraries’ collections is the responsibility of Library staff.  Decisions on the repair of damaged materials and replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged materials are made within the overall context of the Libraries’ Collection Development Policy and based upon an estimate of potential use, the condition of the materials, and the availability of the information in the same or other formats.  Preservation decisions seek to balance the constraints of cost; historical, aesthetic, and scholarly value; and user accessibility.

The preservation of library material is accomplished through storage under proper conditions, careful handling and housing, the use of security systems designed to eliminate mutilation and theft, commercial binding and rebinding, commercial microfilming, refreshment and migration of electronic files, repair or replacement of damaged materials, and the provision of appropriate metadata.  The Libraries’ disaster response plan is reviewed and updated annually and a team of library personnel is trained for disaster response and salvage.

The original form of materials of unique aesthetic or historical value should be preserved if possible..  Where cost, scarcity, deterioration, or damage prevent the preservation of original materials, attempts will be made selectively to replace items valuable to the collection in reprinted editions or alternative formats.  Continuing access to electronic titles cannot be guaranteed once the format in which they are published becomes technically obsolete.  The Libraries support and participate in digital preservation research programs in order to address this issue in the longer term.


Multiple copies are purchased only in cases of heavy demand, either present or anticipated, due to class assignments, course reserves, status of a title or author, or high circulation of a title.



Library liaisons are responsible for making decisions regarding the replacement of lost, damaged, missing, or worn-out monographs, as funds permit.  The appropriate subject selector decides, within the guidelines of this policy, whether to replace a specific monograph or purchase a comparable one, and selects the most appropriate format for the replacement.

Replacement is always preferred over rebinding for inexpensive in-print titles.  Current editions are preferred over previous ones, unless the earlier edition has special distinguishing characteristics.  It is usually desirable to replace monographs or serials in the same format; however, electronic or microform versions should be considered for extensive serial replacements. 


Decisions to replace annual, biennial, and irregular serials will be handled according to criteria set forth in this policy.  The following serial items will not be replaced unless a special need has been demonstrated:

  • Newspapers or newsletters
  • Titles that are not retained permanently
  • Titles that are not indexed
  • Titles routinely replaced by microfilm

Deselection (Weeding)

Weeding is an integral part of the collection development process.  It helps keep the collection up to date by removing older editions, and ensures that the collection remains responsive to user needs while optimizing the use of space.  The following considerations apply to the weeding of library materials:

  • History of usage
  • Value for historical and other research
  • Last copy in serviceable condition
    • Retention agreements with consortial partners, for example, Five College Libraries and the Boston Library Consortium
  • Availability in multiple copies or in other formats

Withdrawal of Materials

Library materials are withdrawn from the collection upon being declared missing or lost by a borrower, or after they have been discarded by Library staff.  An item is discarded by Library staff when the item is so extensively damaged as to be beyond effective repair, or is identified as an unnecessary duplicate to other Library material. 

Off-site storage

Due to lack of sufficient space, the UMass Amherst Libraries periodically review materials and designate them for off-site storage.  The following factors are generally considered when moving material to off-site storage:

  • The primary criterion is use, defined as actual and anticipated use, not just the number of times an item has circulated.
  • Language itself is not a consideration.  All materials, regardless of language, should be selected based on use.
  • Date of publication by itself is not a consideration.
  • Teaching and research needs of faculty.
  • Availability of the material in another medium, such as electronic or microform.
  • How easily the format or size of an item, an oversized book or items other than printed monographs and serials, may be accommodated.
  • The availability of online records or other adequate bibliographic access.
  • Physical condition: fragile materials may be damaged by the move to off-site storage and delivery to campus.  Conversely, the environmental conditions in off-site storage may be beneficial for other materials that are not housed in optimum conditions.
  • The retention of duplicate copies for materials sent to off-site storage should be avoided. 
  • Staffing, hours of operation, and users being able to consult materials onsite at the off-site storage facility.
  • Some selection decisions may result in moving library materials to off-site storage that are more appropriately shelved on campus.  Such assignments will be addressed as they are identified.


The Libraries welcome materials that support, broaden, and advance the teaching and research activities of the University in accordance with the Gift Policy.


Approved by SMG, September 11, 2013

Reviewed and endorsed by Research Library Council, March 7, 2014