Collection Development Policy

What Is Collection Development, And What Is Its Purpose?

Fondren Library serves Rice University's students, staff, and faculty by providing the information they need for course work, teaching, research, and conducting the University's business. The Collection Development department at Fondren Library is responsible for ensuring that Library users at Rice University find whatever they need or want. To do this, we on the department staff allocate as wisely as we can our limited resources: money, work time, and shelf space. To maximize the good within the limits of the possible, we have defined different levels of commitment to collecting that reflect our university's interests.

In all disciplines taught undergraduates at Rice University, Fondren Library is determined to provide the materials necessary for students to master current knowledge: the primary index(es) and finding tools in each subject; standard reference tools, such as dictionaries and handbooks; essential journals; a good current selection of monographs, representing the varying and conflicting views on major points; and selected historical material, including "classics" whenever available. In seeking intellectual diversity for its materials, Fondren Library aspires to the ideal expressed by Article II of the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights: "Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval." The Library's strengths correspond to Rice University's history; the deepest collections are in the subjects emphasized since the University's founding, the natural sciences and engineering. In those fields that have developed at Rice only over the last generation, such as the humanities, the Library is not yet as strong, although the extra funds and staff effort now being invested here are beginning to bear fruit.

Fondren Library supplements its own resources with a number of special arrangements with other libraries as a means of further supporting the Rice academic mission. Fondren Library is able to borrow materials from most academic and special libraries in North America, as well as with many libraries in Latin America, the UK, and Continental Europe. Because of cooperative agreements with major research libraries across the country and even the world, books ordered from them can arrive in as little as three days. Other cooperative arrangements are with other libraries in Houston; in applied biomedicine, clinical psychology and medical ethics, with the Medical Center library; in law and jurisprudence, with South Texas College of Law and the University of Houston; in education, with the University of Houston; and in engineering standards with the Houston Public Library. Finally, the Library's document delivery service, available free to everyone at Rice, delivers materials by express mail or using the latest information technology.

In addition to supporting the education of undergraduates and the research of graduate students and faculty, Fondren Library aims to provide at least minimal collections on subjects neither taught nor researched at Rice but nonetheless important in cultural and intellectual life. Even when readers just following their intellectual curiosity wander into fields not now represented in Rice's academic programs, Fondren Library's collections will still have much to offer them. To the graduate students and professors at Rice University, with their more demanding research projects, the Library naturally provides collections deeper and broader than those for undergraduates, with many more materials, primary and secondary, current and retrospective. In a number of areas-including chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology, mineralogy and regional geology, physics, astronomy, music, Southern history, and French and German literature-Fondren Library strives to maintain a level of materials necessary not merely to preserve and convey existing knowledge but also to expand it through research. The research collections include, in addition to the undergraduate collections, the major primary sources, an extensive collection of journals, specialized monographs, and the major indexing tools in each field, as well as older material for historical research. Whatever materials Fondren Library cannot itself collect, it obtains from other libraries through special lending arrangements. As with the undergraduate collections, when programs have expanded only relatively recently at Rice (as in some of the humanities and social sciences), the Library relies significantly for its research collections on microforms (microfilm, microfiche, etc.). Although still small by the standards of a university aspiring to the first rank, this Library can do a credible job of supporting research done by Rice graduate students and faculty, who will often find the materials they need at Fondren Library. When they do not, they can always obtain them through the Library.

Specific discipline-based collection development policies are being elaborated.

Specific Types and Formats of Materials

With respect to format, Fondren Library normally collects:

  • Books that are clothbound. We accept paperbacks only when nothing sturdier is available for a title. Special requests from faculty are required for Fondren Library to collect workbooks, study guides, popular books (such as self-help or how-to books), textbooks, or translations of foreign titles into languages other than English.
  • Journals/periodicals/serials only by subscription. On request, the Library's document delivery service will provide individual issues or reprints of articles to faculty, students, or staff, who may then keep them.
  • Newspapers, both domestic and international, for teaching and research as well as national and international news. Obviously, Fondren Library cannot subscribe to every student's home-town newspaper - an increasing number of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad are available on the Internet. Back runs of selected newspapers with research value are available in microform.
  • Microforms (microfilm, etc.) that allow us to build significant collections rapidly, cost-efficiently, or with savings in space. Microforms make sense especially when the materials are either available in no other format or used less frequently, or when paper copies are physically deteriorating.
  • Audio Recordings of music that support teaching and research. We collect, in order of descending preference: compact discs, cassette tapes, and records; records only if other formats are unavailable or of poor quality. Fondren Library does not collect audio books.
  • Video Materials that support teaching or research. We prefer the US standard of VHS and DVD but support international standards at minimum levels.
  • Machine-Readable Materials when the staff decides that this format has advantages over others and Rice's information technology supports it; as of 1998, CD-ROM, laser discs, and Internet access.

Special Considerations in Collecting

Fondren Library's policy is to acquire single copies of materials; duplicates only when justified by heavy demand, reserve use, or circumstances judged appropriate by a subject bibliographer. We avoid duplication between formats, e.g., paper and microfilm.

Although we prefer materials in English, sometimes there certainly are overriding considerations, as with belles lettres in foreign languages. Materials for area studies-such as Arabic Studies-may include a good deal of text in languages other than English, but they should also include enough English for undergraduates to be able to use them effectively.

Deselection Policy ("Weeding")

Removing parts of the Library's collections may be unglamorous, but it is necessary. Were we to "keep everything," the value of the collection would be reduced. Titles which are outdated and physically worn can act as both a physical and intellectual barrier to Rice faculty and students trying to access the literature.

In deciding what is of less value than the new materials streaming in, we consider the:

  • relevance of the title to the University's teaching and research, not just current but also future;
  • circulation frequency;
  • availability of the title elsewhere (especially at the Center for Research Libraries or a Texas library);
  • physical condition of the volume; and
  • existence of abstracts and indexes to the title.

Unless there are strong overriding reasons, we withdraw volumes where:

  • they are duplicates without frequent circulation;
  • or the content is dated and without significant local research value;
  • or represent scattered journal holdings (less than three consecutive years or less than half of a total back run)

Selecting Library Materials

The assistant university librarian for collections is responsible for formulating Fondren Library's overall policy of collection development, allocating the budget, making decisions about personnel, and representing the Library's collections programs beyond our walls. To execute policy, Fondren Library has a staff of selectors, each responsible for the collections pertaining to particular subjects. Besides helping manage current collections, selectors keep current with their disciplines and the corresponding Rice departments; inform themselves of university policies, decisions, and guidelines (such as strategic plans and course syllabuses); and manage their subject's budgets-all prerequisites for their prime responsibility of selecting what will come into the collections at Fondren Library.

Faculty Liaisons

By helping to decide what resources a discipline has access to, a faculty Library liaison has a hand in mental life at Rice. From the Library's point of view, building a collection is impossible without the sort of scholarly-intellectual expertise that the faculty can best provide. By helping to decide what resources a discipline has access to, a faculty Library liaison has a hand in mental life at Rice. From the  Library's point of view, building a collection is impossible without the sort of scholarly-intellectual expertise that the faculty can best provide. Although we welcome individual faculty requests of the Library, the liaison designated by each department coodinates departmental relations with the Library. This faculty liaison should help enable the department and the Library to work together by knowing the Library, its resources and staff, and its strengths and limitations in that discipline; and knowing the faculty's thinking as the discipline evolves. Some of the specific duties are to:

  • Inform the relevant subject librarian of curriculum changes, especially as they affect Library acquisitions;
  • Communicate the research interests of the faculty, especially right after appointment; and changes in the responsibilities of the department chair or liaison.
  • Coordinate the department's journal and book orders, keeping budget constraints in mind.
  • Convey to the Library the department's ideas about the Library's collection and services.
  • Promote, together with the subject bibliographer, bibliographic instruction tailored to the department's needs (especially for graduate students).