Last revised: May 12, 2020
Western Libraries follows a system-wide collections strategy that guides purposeful, user-centred development, management, and evaluation of content in support of research, scholarship, and teaching. This work is informed by a deep understanding of the current information needs of users, knowledge of how users interact with resources, awareness of changing modes of access to information resources, and the need to ensure preservation for future scholars. This document outlines the principles and strategies adopted by Western Libraries for developing and managing the general collections at Western University.
Questions regarding Western Libraries collections can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As discussed in the Western Libraries Strategic Plan, the main purposes of collections activities are to provide resources that directly support the current research, teaching, and learning needs of Western’s students, faculty, and researchers, and to offer an array of research materials in a diversity of formats. Policies and strategies will be reviewed and adjusted as these needs change over time.
Collections decisions, whether for management or development purposes, are based on the needs of Western Libraries users, best practices, expertise of library staff, and evidence, such as usage data and evidence-based research.
This document informs the work of librarians as they:
- Acquire and maintain resources that are relevant to the research, teaching, and learning needs of Western University;
- Steward the expanding collection;
- Identify and implement strategies that support the mission and goals of Western University.
Western Libraries supports a user-centred, general collection in all disciplinary areas aligned with teaching and research at Western University, including new, developing, and interdisciplinary subject areas.
Western Libraries also recognizes the value its archives, special collections, and rare books bring to the institution. Policies informing the development and maintenance of these collections can be found in the Western Archives and Special Collections acquisitions policy.
Western Libraries collections strategy is informed by best practices in academic libraries, including ACRL’s Standards for Libraries in Higher Education:
Libraries provide access to collections sufficient in quality, depth, diversity, format, and currency to support the research and teaching missions of the institution.
5.1 The library provides access to collections aligned with areas of research, curricular foci, or institutional strengths.
5.2 The library provides collections that incorporate resources in a variety of formats, accessible virtually and physically.
5.3 The library builds and ensures access to unique materials, including digital collections.
5.4 The library has the infrastructure to collect, organize, provide access to, disseminate, and preserve collections needed by users.
5.5 The library educates users on issues related to economic and sustainable models of scholarly communication.
5.6 The library ensures long-term access to the scholarly and cultural record.
Western Libraries Collections
The Western Libraries website provides an overview of the Western Libraries collections. For more information regarding the history of the collection, we recommend The Libraries at Western, 1970 to 1987: With Summaries of Their Earlier History by Margaret A. Banks.
Regional and Global Trends
Academic libraries across Canada and internationally are in a period of transition. More scholarly information is available in digital formats making many library resources available 24/7. Changing user needs and expectations continue to drive demand for increased learning and study space, and we have moved from an era of information scarcity to one of information over-abundance. These factors combined with unsustainable pricing models imposed by a few powerful academic publishers make it impossible for a library to collect and preserve material comprehensively. Libraries must consider not only ownership, but alternative forms of access as well in order to find efficiencies in how the collections budget is spent.1
Within this context, Western Libraries provides students and researchers with the materials they need to fulfill their teaching, learning, and research goals. Collaboration through consortia provides opportunities for Western Libraries to meet this goal. Western Libraries is a member of Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) and Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN). These consortia, similar to organizations in the United States and Europe, improve each member library’s ability to enhance access to resources through shared services and initiatives and improved negotiating power with publishers and vendors.
Many consortia members also collaborate to leverage technology and increase access to library materials across institutions. For example, Collaborative Futures is an OCUL initiative that supports a shared library management system and a discovery layer named Omni that enables access to the holdings of 14 Ontario institutions. More broadly, academic libraries have a long history of sharing resources globally, and Western Libraries offers interlibrary loan as an avenue for providing access to resources that are owned by other libraries around the world. Similarly, Keep@Downsview is a partnership of five Ontario institutions seeking to preserve the print scholarly record in Ontario using a shared high-density storage and preservation facility. As a result of these collaborations, Western Libraries is better positioned to meet the University’s research, teaching, and learning needs while stewarding the collection responsibly.
Collections & Content Strategies Team
The Collections & Content Strategies (CCS) team of librarians and library staff manages current resources, selects new print and electronic materials, and works towards developing new ways of collecting, such as articles on demand, Demand-Driven Acquisitions, and Evidence-Based Acquisitions. CCS librarians make collection decisions informed by a blend of subject knowledge, consultation, user feedback, purchase requests, format preferences, and usage trends while remaining mindful of the research, teaching, and learning needs of various user groups. The team is divided into disciplinary clusters that represent the various faculties of Western University.
Western’s Collections & Content Strategies librarians are members of the Content Management, Discovery & Access unit. They build the University’s collections in support of the work of students, faculty, and researchers. With current curricular needs as well as emerging scholarly needs in mind, librarians collect newly published, historical, and primary source materials.
In collaboration with other library teams, CCS librarians help to manage Western Libraries acquisitions budget. This work requires fiscal responsibility in the acquisition of new resources while also managing the cost to preserve, conserve, digitize, and make accessible library materials throughout their life cycle.
Archives and Special Collections
The Archives and Special Collections (ASC) team is committed to acquiring, preserving, and providing access to special collections and archives, including rare and unique materials in all media formats, to support the teaching and research mission of Western University. ASC also supports the records management operations of the University, preserving and providing access to University records of enduring value. While the primary focus is on facilitating faculty and student research and documenting the history of the University, ASC also engages with and welcomes use of the archives and special collections by members of the broader community. Archivists and librarians on the ASC team are responsible for developing archival and special collections in defined areas of strength that may be found in the ASC acquisition policy.
Collection & Content Strategies (CCS) librarians are each responsible for different academic disciplines organized to reflect Western University faculties. The current division of labour is as follows: Science and Engineering, Arts & Humanities, Social Science and Information & Media Studies, Health Sciences and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Don Wright Faculty of Music, Law, Education, and the Ivey School of Business.
Beyond but related to collections, faculties are also served by other areas of Western Libraries for information literacy instruction, research data and scholarly communication services, course readings and reserves, and more. CCS librarians work with members of other Western Libraries units to remain informed about changes to curriculum, research interests, or any other information that may influence collections decisions.
In addition to librarians supporting specific functional areas, Disciplinary Coordinators integrate contact, consultation, and outreach between Western Libraries and the University faculties. These librarian liaisons stay abreast of academic and research priorities to identify opportunities for collaboration and service development.
Consultation with faculty and other user groups can take many forms and occurs through various channels including faculty- or department-based library committees, departmental meetings, and Faculty Councils, as well as through communication channels, such as email to faculty mailing lists and direct contact with individual users. The method of consultation can be formal (e.g., surveys) and informal.
Faculty- and department-based library committees are formed at the request of the faculty, department, or Western Libraries. These committees can be established either ad hoc or as standing committees. Committees provide an opportunity for timely feedback about collections as well as other library services. Recommendations made by these committees will be considered by the CCS team to inform collections practice.
Surveys that collect both specific and general feedback from users about library services are a valuable tool for the CCS team to acquire feedback and direction. Collections surveys will be circulated on a periodic basis, at minimum every three years, to fulfill different purposes as the situation requires. Information gathered can include, but is not limited to, serial title priority, format preferences, and service satisfaction. Surveys of a broader scope, such as LibQual, are distributed every three years and provide users with an opportunity to give feedback about collections as well as library services and spaces. The feedback derived from surveys can also help provide context for future conversations with faculty and students.
Collections Contact and Feedback
All Western faculty members, researchers, and students are invited to participate in the collection development process at any time through consultation with CCS librarians. The CCS team can be reached at email@example.com. Western faculty members, researchers, and students can make recommendations for library purchase that are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The research, teaching, and learning needs of Western University’s community direct the collection activities of Western Libraries. Intellectual freedom depends on the ability to engage with a range of perspectives, some of which may be controversial. Western Libraries Collections & Content Strategies (CCS) team is committed to developing a vibrant collection that offers diverse intellectual perspectives to spark ongoing scholarship and civic engagement.
Western Libraries collections reflect cultural, historical, social, and intellectual biases that have traditionally shaped academic institutions over time. To counter-balance these biases, the CCS team have an ongoing commitment to Western’s core mission and strive to respond to the needs of diverse faculty and students, support emerging areas of scholarship, and provide space for historically marginalized voices and different ways of knowing.
Commitment to intellectual freedom and diversity of collections goes hand in hand with equal access to information. To this end, Western Libraries engages in a number of activities, including Open Access initiatives and compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
These principles inform collection development and maintenance decisions made by CCS librarians throughout the life cycle of Western Libraries resources.
Western Libraries develops collections in support of the curricular and research programs of Western University. Its general collections have been built over many decades and include an impressive variety and wealth of material. Today the over-abundance of information combined with changing forms of access and continually rising costs make it impractical for Western Libraries to acquire comprehensively everything published in all areas pertinent to Western University's scholarly endeavours.
Librarians and archivists apply the following general principles and criteria when evaluating items for collections development or management purposes. Each of these criteria represents greater or lesser significance, depending on the discipline or subject area and the resources available to support the total cost of acquisition. Adhering to these principles and criteria further ensures librarians and archivists at Western make collecting decisions with purpose and intentionality.
Please refer to specific collection development policies to see how the following principles and criteria are applied in context. Collections policies are reviewed and updated to align with current instruction and research programs. Policies that inform development of specific collections, such as the gifts policy and Open Access materials, are developed as needed. An Open Access materials policy as well as a rare books policy are under development.
Immediate and Enduring Value
Investing in particular subjects or collections is evaluated within the context of Western Libraries mission to serve the current needs of Western University's programs and as a long-term steward of cultural and scientific heritage, including such factors as:
- Impact on and relationship to current research, teaching, and learning needs (those represented by existing collection strengths, by established and emerging curricular programs, and/or those needs communicated by faculty and student researchers);
- Authoritativeness or reputation of the author, editor, publisher, producer, etc.;
- Uniqueness or rarity in other libraries or cultural/scientific organizations;
- Artifactual interest, such that the item in its original published format, or marks of former use/ownership it carries, enables distinct opportunities for scholarship and teaching;
- Quality of the physical condition of the item (collections in tangible formats are governed by the Western Libraries Physical Collection Preservation and Storage Strategy).
Physical Formats vs. Electronic Formats
Western Libraries recognizes the shift from print to electronic publication formats is different across disciplines and communities of practice and is sometimes different for monographic literature than for serial/journal/periodical literature even within a discipline. For some areas of scholarship, print publications remain primary and critical to supporting the work of students and faculty. Some areas, while slower to move to electronic formats, are seeing a gradual but steady move in that direction; Western Libraries will be responsive over time to changing needs and preferences of students and faculty. For other areas of collecting, the shift to electronic has been well established by both publishers and scholars alike, and preference is given to monographic and/or serial collections in electronic format.
When electronic access becomes available in sustainable, affordable, and persistently- accessible platforms, Western Libraries weighs carefully whether to move to electronic-only access. Western Libraries generally continues to acquire the print format when canceling the print would negatively impact research, scholarship, and/or stewardship. Consideration of the constraints of space, staff, and financial resources are also important factors in determining which formats to acquire and/or retain for existing collections over time. Collections for disciplines within and across the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences can be quite different from one another. Please refer to subject-specific collection development policies to see how these principles and criteria are applied in context.
Duplicates and Multi-user Licensing
Generally, Western Libraries collects single copies of physical resources and therefore does not acquire or maintain duplicates, except in rare cases when sufficient demand for multiple copies is known, can be reasonably projected, or where the item possesses particular value as an artifact.
Similarly for electronic books, a single-user access license is purchased unless there is known or reasonably projected demand for access to a title. In these cases a license for multiple or unlimited simultaneous users is considered.
The decision to acquire or collect multiple copies or license for multiple simultaneous users is carefully balanced against a variety of factors, including:
- Specific requests from faculty and researchers demonstrating need for multiple copies or multiple user access;
- Total cost of acquisition;
- Storage options or constraints (for physical material);
- Number of existing physical holdings across Western Libraries;
- Opportunities for interlibrary loan that will reasonably and affordably meet needs of users in a timely manner;
- Availability of electronic surrogates of print materials, whether through Open Access or library subscriptions.
Data-Informed Collections Decisions
Western Libraries evaluates collections against data that can characterize the impact the resource might have on users. While important, usage and other data are part of wider considerations when making decisions. Western Libraries may arrange for trials of new electronic resources to gauge interest in, and usage of, collections in advance of possible acquisition. Statistics from publishers and vendors that show how often users from Western tried unsuccessfully to access an unsubscribed resource are also gathered, when available, to assess potential interest.
As investment in electronic resources grows over time, it is incumbent on Western Libraries to ensure the information and technologies acquired are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Western Libraries makes every attempt to ensure that the technology platforms it invests in, and the content provided within them, follow evolving AODA standards (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).
Ownership vs. Access
Western Libraries is cognizant of its dual responsibility to use Western University’s funds judiciously and to serve the needs of its users over time. To this end, Western Libraries strives to acquire perpetual ownership of electronic content. In some cases, perpetual ownership is either not available or not affordable, but leasing options exist. Leased access will be considered when resources are important to scholarship at Western. In all cases, the conditions of access (e.g., read-only access, the ability to make copies of excerpts or download full content, and hosting fees) will be weighed carefully by Collections & Content Strategies (CCS) librarians in the context of users' needs.
While comprehensiveness may be a characteristic of other collections, comprehensive collecting is not the aim of the general collections at Western Libraries. The strengths and weaknesses of current holdings in each subject area are continually evaluated by CCS librarians relative to Western University's priorities, available funding, the national reputation of and reliance on Western as a steward of collections in particular areas, and the scope and scale of collections available in the marketplace. While building on established collection strengths is important, Western Libraries is also cognizant of the need to develop the collections alongside the evolving University profiles of research and teaching.
Consortial Holdings and Interlibrary Loan
Western Libraries partners in programs that enable research libraries to achieve more comprehensive subject coverage across a network of libraries to serve the diverse needs of users across those networks. This service can be accomplished collectively, not by one library alone, through resource sharing (e.g., interlibrary loan). The holdings of libraries with which Western has cooperative borrowing agreements must be considered when making selection decisions. Consortial opportunities may override local requests for ownership when economies of scale provide compelling reasons for doing so (e.g., purchase price, storage requirements or impact, anticipated usage).
Every year, Western Libraries endeavours to review course syllabi to identify and purchase course material not already held in the general collections.
Collections for Individual Researchers or Departments
By default, Western Libraries acquires collections for access and use by the entire Western community and enters into all collection development activities and negotiations with this aim in mind. Western Libraries does not acquire materials (via either purchase or gift) for which access or use would be restricted to specific individuals. In extremely rare cases, licensing terms for an electronic resource may limit access to specific departments, communities, or library locations.
New and Expiring Programs
Academic programs, departments, and curricula across Western University continue to evolve. Western Libraries will strategically respond to evolving growth areas and expiring programs on campus through collaborations with academic departments, faculty, and students. Western Libraries will reallocate funds from the collections budget to purchase, license, or create materials to support new areas. When programs end or are reduced in scope, collections activities will adjust.
The extent to which new material can be added to the general collections is limited by the available acquisitions budget.
Factors influencing the amount available for new resources include, but are not limited to:
- Projected price increases for ongoing subscriptions;
- Currency fluctuations;
- Ongoing maintenance fees;
- Storage, preservation, and conservation costs for both physical and digital resources;
- Cost of descriptive metadata that enhance discovery.
As a publicly funded institution, Western Libraries must act in accordance with the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act (2010) and associated Procurement Directives. (For more information, visit Western Procurement Services.) Transparency of licensed costs is taken seriously, and in alignment with CARL’s brief “Responding to Unsustainable Journal Costs,” Western Libraries has published all licensed costs when allowed by license terms.
In addition to cost transparency, Western Libraries also holds the following values and expectations when working with publishers and vendors, which are reflected in the OCUL model licenses:
- Pricing will be based on a mutually agreed upon statistic or set of metrics, which should be equitable across institutions, with legacy pricing being respected and any annual increases being sustainable and predictable, not surpassing the rate of inflation;
- Updated student FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents) including Affiliate College FTEs, should be monitored by the vendor, and can be found on the OCUL website;
- Contracts should be single-year agreements or contain opt-out language;
- Authorized users include Western’s students, faculty, researchers, affiliates, visiting scholars, staff, walk-in users;
- Western Libraries and the Affiliated University College Libraries are a single-site campus;
- Electronic resources shall be made available to off-campus users via proxy and/or single-sign-on authentication;
- Licenses must allow for use of interlibrary loan, where applicable;
- AODA standards for accessible formats should be followed by publishers and vendors;
- Patron privacy must always be protected;
- COUNTER-compliant usage statistics for licensed products must be provided by the publisher or vendor;
- Perpetual access shall be granted for all purchased material and be locally loaded on Western’s preferred trusted digital repository (i.e. Scholars Portal);
- Licenses should include provision allowing authorized users to download, extract, store, and index content for the purposes of Text and Data Mining (TDM) for non-commercial, non-consumptive research purposes;
- Licenses should not prohibit Western University to deposit, at no cost, the final version of works from all faculty, staff, and students into the University's institutional repository upon publication, including the products of federally-funded research mandated to be openly accessible to the public;
- All licenses shall by default follow Canadian law in the province of Ontario;
- Library vendors must honor and respect Western Libraries values of intellectual freedom, diversity of collections, and equal access to information as outlined above in "Values Guiding Collections Activities."
Physical materials newly acquired or received for the general collections are located in the appropriate library on campus. As collections grow, shelving space must be made available to house new materials through collections management decisions.
To inform collection management decisions, review of all resources in the general collection is undertaken cyclically and is ongoing. Collection management decisions are made with care in the context of best practices in the field.
An important part of responsible collection management comprises stewardship and maintenance, including consideration of need for access to physical material, storage options, and preservation.
Librarians apply a variety of criteria to strategically manage which materials are housed on campus, which are housed off-site, and which should be moved into the Rare Books room or become part of a special collection. Location decisions are a careful and continually evolving balance between space management; preservation considerations; and meeting the needs of research, teaching, and learning.
Criteria for determining location are not the same across all subject areas or for all materials. When considering the relocation of an item, librarians take into account the reader’s need and use of the item, using discipline-specific criteria, as well as the item’s condition and preservation requirements. Please consult individual collection development policies to see the strategies and criteria applied within any given subject area in determining locations.
Common criteria used when considering the best location for an item include, but are not limited to:
- Continued relevance to the academic profile of the University and the collecting profile of Western Libraries.
- The item’s relevance to current research or teaching taking place at Western.
- Archival or historical significance of the physical copy and its appropriateness for transfer to rare book housing or special collections.
- Existence of multiple copies of low-use titles available across multiple Western Libraries locations.
- Condition of an item and its viability in a print or otherwise tangible format. For example, if an item is disintegrating, a preservation photocopy or a digital surrogate may be created or obtained, or the item may be evaluated for replacement. Often it is better for the original item to be housed in a secure, long-term preservation environment.
- The item’s use. Lower-use items (identified using subject-specific criteria) may be better suited to storage.
- Existence of more recent editions. Older imprints, where variation in edition is not of scholarly interest and when the item is neither a rare book nor part of a special collection, may be considered for off-site locations.
- Availability of a suitable electronic version of an item (book, journal, or microform) with perpetual ownership by direct purchase or perpetual access through a reliable service such as Project MUSE or Scholars Portal.
Librarians will consult with faculty in the event of a significant collection relocation to storage. Faculty and researchers are invited to confer with CCS librarians for more information on how location decisions are made within particular collections, disciplines, and subject areas, as well as to submit requests for an item‘s relocation.
Preservation and Storage of Physical Material
Western Libraries uses three storage and retrieval facilities: Keep@Downsview, the Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC), and Command Services. The first two locations offer enhanced preservation services. Please refer to Western Libraries Physical Collection Preservation and Storage Strategy.
Keep@Downsview is an off-campus preservation and retrieval collection facility shared with the University of Toronto, Queen's University, McMaster University, and the University of Ottawa. This facility houses lower-use print materials from the general collections and does not include archival collections, media collections, or rare books. All partners have access to all items in the shared preservation collection in print or digital format. Western retains ownership of materials it sends to Downsview. When an exact copy – defined as having identical edition, place of publication, publisher, and other bibliographic data – has already been added to the collection by a partner school, Western shares ownership of that title and deselects its local copy.
The Keep@Downsview partnership allows for long-term stewardship and preservation of scholarly collections, and creates new opportunities for the development of services and delivery options to improve access to collections, including on-demand digitization and electronic delivery services for journals currently only available in print.
Western’s Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC) is located within The D.B. Weldon Library, and includes the High Density Storage Module, the Rare Book room, and The J. J. Talman Reading Room. ARCC houses archival collections, special collections, University records, and medium-use general collection library items identified for storage and preservation and for which there is a rationale for close proximity to the general collection.
Command Services is a local third-party storage and retrieval facility that houses low-use material transferred out of the general collection due to changing access requirements. Material sent to Command Services may be recalled into the on-site collection if Collections & Content Strategies (CCS) librarians determine that need for the material has changed.
All these storage locations are listed simply as "storage" in Omni, the online catalogue, and material can be requested using the request button. On average, it takes two to four days for material to arrive at a pick-up location. All materials in storage remain a part of the Western Libraries collection and are discoverable through Omni.
Preservation of Electronic Material
Western Libraries relies on Trustworthy Digital Repositories (TDRs) to provide preservation services for electronic material. Western is a partner in the OCUL Scholars Portal service which provides Ontario academic institutions with TDR services for journals. Scholars Portal is also undertaking certification as a TDR for e-books. Western also participates in Portico, an international digital preservation archive.
Materials that are declared lost, missing, or in poor/unusable condition will be replaced at the discretion of a CCS librarian, in accordance with the collection development policies in effect at that time. Factors described above also influence replacement decisions.
In some cases, the appropriate decision is for removal or deselection of damaged and duplicate resources. Duplicates are defined as exact copies with identical edition, place of publication, publisher, and other bibliographic data.
Western Libraries has been fortunate in having access to sufficient storage options, which have negated the need for significant deselection as part of collection maintenance.
We acknowledge the libraries of Columbia University, the University of Guelph, and the University of Leeds for providing online access to their respective collections policies and strategies that have helped inform the Western Libraries Collections Strategy.
1 College & Research Libraries (Linden, Tudesco, & Dollar, pg. 86) doi:10.5860/crl.79.1.86