Brown University Library Collections - Selection Criteria

Since the Library, like its counterparts at other universities, does not have sufficient resources to acquire everything published in areas pertinent to the University's programs, library materials selectors employ the following general criteria when evaluating titles to be added or removed from the collections. Particular criteria assume greater or lesser importance depending on the type of material under consideration, the resources available, the stated acquisitions commitment level as detailed elsewhere in this policy statement and the subject matter covered.

  1. Relevance to the actual or potential needs of Brown's educational and research programs
    Library materials selectors maintain close ties with the departments, institutes, and research programs, which comprise the primary user group for a particular subject or area. Additionally, they keep, for resource development purposes, records of research activities, grants received, and the curriculum for their areas. This information permits selectors to anticipate and provide for current and changing needs of Brown's faculty and students.

  2. Scope and content
    Selectors must gauge each acquisition in terms of the breadth and depth of information needed by their primary user groups and quality of the research being presented. Overall, however, library materials selectors comprehensively collect important general monographs related to the research interests of the Brown community, and selectively acquire more specialized treatments. Similarly, for periodicals, preference is given to titles whose coverage is of sufficient breadth to be of use and interest to an entire department, while those of interest to a small number of individuals, are collected selectively.

  3. Depth of the existing collection in the subject and local availability of the item
    When considering the purchase of a new title, a selector must also consider the strengths and weaknesses of the existing collection in which the new title will be located. While we do generally build upon strengths, unneeded redundancy is avoided. We do purchase duplicates where high use is expected. Availability of expensive or tangential titles through consortial arrangements is also considered and an access instead of ownership option may be considered.

  4. Quality
    The quality of a title must be evaluated weighing several subjective factors collectively, i.e., its sponsorship; scholarship; level of creativity; lasting value; the reputation of the author, the publisher, the contributors, the editorial board; the quality and importance of the illustrations; bibliographies included, etc. None of these is the deciding factor alone but each are considered as they contribute to or detract from the overall quality of the item under consideration.

  5. Currency and timeliness
    Many disciplines, particularly in the sciences, require up-to-date information. In those areas, preference is given to titles which report new and revised information in a timely fashion.

  6. Bibliographic accessibility
    The contents of periodicals, particularly, require bibliographic indexing and abstracting (I/A) tools to insure sufficient user access. Inclusion or exclusion from the major I/A tools is one of characteristic employed by selectors when evaluating the subscription to a periodical magazine or journal.

  7. Price
    The value of a book, periodical, newspaper, etc. to the collection cannot be measured only by considering its price. The price, however, in addition to the other criteria mentioned here, has to be considered when evaluating a purchase. When evaluating "free" materials, the cost of acquisitions processing, cataloging, shelving, and preservation must also be considered.

  8. Language and country of origin
    The language of the primary and secondary users of each title under consideration must be considered. The Libraries do collect social science and humanities materials in most languages to support its extensive area studies programs.

  Specific Formats

a.  Serials
Serials represent a long-term, continuing commitment of library funds for subscription costs, processing, and housing. Because the selection of periodicals and serial publications exerts an important influence on the shape of the Library's collections (and a major impact on the Library's budget), it is essential that each title be reviewed in relation to the guidelines below.

  • Priority is given to titles that are directly relevant to the curriculum, to the research needs of students and to faculty course preparation. Specialized titles intended primarily for individual faculty research will be purchased on a highly selective basis and must meet other criteria cited below.
  • Titles selected are appropriate to the level of study, based on the prospective audience and use.
  • Periodicals are evaluated within the context of existing library resources and projected library support for the purchase of other subject-related materials.
  • Titles that overlap with existing collection resources will be reviewed in terms of the unique contribution they make to the subject area.
  • In new program or collection areas, available resources are evaluated to ensure that an appropriate balance between periodical and monographic expenditures is possible and sustainable.
  • Titles of an interdisciplinary nature are considered both in terms of the support they provide to the requesting department as well as the potential relevance to course offerings and student research within other departments.
  • Preference is given to those titles indexed in printed or electronic sources that are available in the library.
  • Availability through the Boston Library Consortium, through other local collections, or through full-text electronic retrieval is balanced against the need for on-site access. Subscription cost is a particularly relevant factor in this aspect of the title's evaluation.


 b. Newspapers

  • Newspaper subscriptions are carried by the University Libraries in order to support teaching and research, to provide sources of national and international news and general intellectual and cultural awareness for faculty and students.
  • Major non-United States newspapers are collected in direct support of teaching and research, and to provide some limited coverage of major regions of the world. Brown currently subscribes to more than 70 U.S. and foreign newspapers. Specialized newspapers are considered on a title-by-title basis. Newspapers of permanent research value at Brown University are collected in microform; paper copies of others are acquired only for current awareness purposes.

  • See Periodicals at Brown University Library

c. Electronic Resources

  • Selection of electronic information for the collection, as with other formats, must support the teaching and research needs of the university community.
  • For the purposes of this policy, the library considers electronic resources equivalent to print materials as long as the policies and procedures for their use permit at least an equivalent information-gathering experience.
  • Materials in electronic format are considered for purchase on the basis of their merit in the context of the collection development policy for the particular subject. There should be demonstrated demand or a potential audience for the resource. Since materials in electronic format are frequently more expensive than print equivalents, selectors need to determine that some value will be added by the electronic, as opposed to traditional, format. Selectors should recommend the format which best serves the instructional and research needs of the subject. If the item is an electronic version of a resource in another format, it should contain or cover the equivalent information to the extent appropriate and desirable.
  • Consideration should be given to the equipment required to support electronic products. The selector should determine if hardware for the requested item is already in place or if hardware would need to be purchased. Additionally, the selector should determine if software can be purchased separately, or if the product is sold only as a package which includes hardware.
  • An effort should be made to assess the impact of the tool on Public Services operations. The selector should be prepared to indicate the intended location of the product and whether the purchase would require the cooperation of the other Brown University departments.

  d. Internet Resources

  e. Maps

  • The Libraries selectively collect maps through the U.S. federal government depository program, purchases, exchanges, and gifts. Included within the map category are globes, aerial photographs, wall maps, and three-dimensional maps. Atlases, that is bound collections of maps and other information, are selected under the guidelines of monographs.