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Williams Libraries Collection Development Policy -- endorsed 5/21/20
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Williams Libraries Collection Development Policy

Endorsed by Library Committee, May 2020.


The purpose of this collection development policy is to provide general guidance to Williams Libraries collection liaisons and to serve as a communication tool for library staff when working with the college community and the general public. This policy covers the general collections in Sawyer Library and Schow Science Library; the general principles also apply to Special Collections.

For an academic library in the 21st century, the definition of a “library collection” must evolve to match changes in the production and dissemination of scholarly information. A library collection is no longer only the physical items in the stacks. Everything we provide to our usersmaterials in our physical possession, content we have free or paid access to, and resources we procure from other libraries or other sourcesis our collection.

Collection development is a collaborative effort, led by librarian liaisons and coordinated by the Head of Collection Management. The Library Committee, composed of faculty, staff, and students, “reviews and recommends policies for the Library, with particular attention to the collection budget and the distribution of resources among academic divisions and units.”


Williams Libraries provide an intellectual forum where the world of ideas is made manifest to inspire learning, teaching, and creativity at Williams and beyond. In the liberal arts tradition, we:

The Libraries support the College mission to “develop in students both the wisdom and skills they will need to become responsible contributors to whatever communities they join, and the richly textured inner lives that will make them rigorously self-reflective, ethically alert, and imaginatively alive.”

We affirm the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, and adhere to the guiding principles of our profession with respect to intellectual freedom, diversity in collection development, accessibility, open access, confidentiality, and copyright.

Goals of the Collection

The primary goal of our collection is to support current and projected educational and curricular needs at Williams. Acquisitions may also be made with regard to the broader scholarly, intellectual, and recreational interests of the College community. We are committed to collecting materials by and about underrepresented groups, and we collaborate with faculty, students, and other members of our campus community to select and acquire these resources.

We support all areas of study and courses at an instructional support level that meets the needs of our undergraduate students. We also collect more deeply and broadly in fields relevant to our graduate programs, and selectively in support of faculty research.

Ownership and Access

The Libraries are committed to connecting Williams users to the information they need, today and in the future, through a combination of owned resources and access to information through online resources and consortial relationships. We carefully consider the costs and benefits of ownership and access, for both tangible and electronic resources.

Ownership includes physical items in our possession, electronic resources hosted on site, and remotely hosted material to which we have purchased perpetual rights. The maintenance and disposition of this content is our responsibility.

Access includes free content available through digital repositories, content we have temporarily licensed, and physical items we can borrow from other institutions. The maintenance and disposition of this content is not the responsibility of Williams Libraries.

A tension between these two categories exists in the cases of temporarily licensed and open access content, which may fall into either category depending on the conditions of the subscription or license.

We choose access when:

We choose ownership when:

When a choice of access and ownership pricing models is available, we consider the estimated total cost of use over time and choose the least expensive option based on the expected number of users and the benefit of long term availability.

Process and Responsibility for Selection of Material

Responsibility for selection of new materials for the Libraries’ collections lies primarily with liaison librarians. Librarians with liaison roles to specific departments and programs are in charge of selecting materials and seeking and facilitating requests from faculty and students in those departments, and advising on the development of profiles of materials to be automatically purchased or considered. Liaison librarians have wide discretion to select materials that come to their attention through any means, such as word-of-mouth, publication announcements, catalogs, or other sources.

The Head of Collection Management organizes the review of new subscriptions and other major purchases. Particularly costly materials, including single items and subscriptions, require additional approval from the Director of Libraries. Users may request that material be added to the Libraries’ collections using the Purchase Request form. Purchase of requested material is not guaranteed, although all requests will be considered by the appropriate liaison librarian. Faculty and other users will not be reimbursed for items bought on behalf of the Libraries without prior approval from the Head of Collection Management.

Principles of selection

We acquire to fill gaps in the Library’s existing collections relative to curricular needs, selecting materials that have more than one possible use for teaching and research. We select material that:

We may also select material requested by users to support other research, student group activities, or recreational use.

We collaborate with faculty, students, and other members of our campus community to select and acquire materials by, about, and of interest to underrepresented groups. Our collection includes print, electronic, microform, and audiovisual resources; resources are evaluated for selection based on content, not on format. In assessing the importance of any resource, we also consider accessibility, manipulability, user experience, and privacy.

We may choose not to acquire materials if they are:

Collection maintenance and retention

Systematic review of print and electronic content occurs continually, through inventory of physical collections and analysis of digital resource usage. Subscriptions may be discontinued, infrequently requested material may be transferred to offsite storage, and some items may be withdrawn, as deemed appropriate by library staff. Physical items may be withdrawn when they are:

Our consortial relationships aim to ensure that even when material is no longer part of our local collections, it is still accessible to our user community.

Because our collections are intended for teaching and learning, they may include controversial or challenging materials. The Libraries do not necessarily condone the viewpoints of resources in our collection, but make them available in support of the College’s mission “... to inspire in our students the confidence to be undaunted by complexity, and to embrace it in ways that will prove valuable to them and to society at large.” We embrace the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement and Library Bill of Rights, refuse to practice censorship, and support our users’ right to access resources. Patrons with questions or concerns about particular resources should contact the Head of Collection Management. Any challenged resource will remain available pending a decision by the Head of Collection Management or the Director of Libraries.

Gift policy

Williams Libraries appreciates and accepts gifts of books and other materials that enhance and deepen our collections and support the current curriculum. We may decline to accept items which:

Any donation of materials is accepted with the understanding that items that do not meet our collection criteria may be sent to other libraries in need or offered to a used book dealer or to Better World Books. If an appraisal is required for income tax purposes, arrangements for and costs associated with the appraisal are the sole responsibility of the donor. Donors are encouraged to discuss their donations and appraisals with their attorneys or tax advisers. Potential donors may contact the Head of Collection Management or the Acquisitions Assistant for Gifts with inquiries about donating.

Policy revision

This policy is intended to provide general guidelines for the development and management of our collections, and to smoothly accommodate changes in curriculum and methods of scholarly communication. The Head of Collection Management will review this policy biennially and make any necessary minor revisions. If major revisions are necessary, they may be made by the Head of Collection Management or by a task force convened for the purpose. Major revisions are subject to approval by the Director of Libraries together with the librarian liaisons, and endorsement by the Library Committee.

Interested persons should direct any questions or concerns about this policy to the Head of Collection Management.

Adopted January 8, 2020