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last updated: 4/30/2012

Collection Development Policies - Reference


  1. Introduction
    The Reference collections of the Wells Library are developed and maintained to support the general curricular and research needs of faculty, students, and staff of the Indiana University Bloomington academic community. Covering most of the subjects in the Library of Congress classification system, the Reference collections in Wells tend to emphasize interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs, and the humanities, social sciences, history, and area studies which comprise the core of the East Tower Research Collections.
    1. Location
      The main reference collection is housed primarily in the Reference Reading Room (RRR), with a few older periodical/newspaper indexes and the IU Reference Collection located in the alcove directly in front of the Reference Desk. The Ready Reference Collection of frequently-used materials is located behind the Reference Desk, as is a small collection of IU publications.
  2. Scope of Coverage
    1. Languages
      For general and subject reference materials, priority is given to English-language products and publications. Titles in other languages (largely Roman alphabet) are selected if they are superior or complementary to English language works. Foreign language materials are also specifically selected to support programs in languages and literatures (dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, guides, et al.). Some titles are included in non-roman alphabet languages, largely Arabic and Hebrew, which unlike Slavic and East Asian have no separate reference collections housed in the Wells Stacks.

    2. Geographical areas
      The collection covers all geographic areas with emphasis on the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa.

    3. Chronological periods
      The collection covers all historical periods. With a few exceptions only the latest editions of multi-edition works are kept in the RRR with earlier editions sent to the Wells Stacks.
  3. Formats collected and excluded
    1. The collection covers all historical periods.
      With a few exceptions only the latest editions of multi-edition works are kept in the RRR with earlier editions sent to the Wells Stacks. Types of materials selected include standard reference formats, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, bibliographies, almanacs, gazetteers, indexing and abstracting services, dissertation guides, digests of novels, plays, book reviews, concordances, directories, anthologies, annuals/yearbooks, biographical directories, heraldry, library catalogs, quotation and proverb resources, scholarship, fellowship and grant resources, book review sources, guides to literatures, union lists, newspaper indexes, biographical sources, statistical compendia, writing and research guides, style manuals, and plot summaries.

    2. Other limitations and definitions
      1. The following resources are not purchased: career guides, telephone directories (with a couple of exceptions), travel guides, college catalogs, individual maps, vertical file collections, city directories (with the exception of the Bloomington City Directory), subject or single author bibliographies.
      2. Stand-alone CD-ROMs are no longer purchased for Reference collections due to difficulties in promoting their propensity to have a unique interface for each product. In June 2009, we moved all CD-ROMs to the Government Information, Maps and Microform Services Department on the 2nd floor, where a “legacy” computer is kept. CD-ROMs may also be checked out from this location.
      3. With very few exceptions, no works covering individual authors or historical figures are collected. Also excluded are narrowly focused subject areas. For example a dictionary or encyclopedia covering the Second World War might be included, but one focused on a particular battle might not be. This general notion—of a fairly broad focus—guides the selection process. The underlying reasons are both practical: to limit the size of the collection to manageable proportions and to allow single author/narrowly focused reference tools to shelve in the circulating collections.
  4. Collecting responsibility
    For many years all the librarians in the department participated in selection formally by dividing responsibility for LC class ranges. For several years (as reference librarians accepted responsibility for some other individual funds) only the department head and one librarian colleague have shared selection responsibility for Fund 84, making independent selections but informing one another. Currently one librarian manages this fund.

    The advice and participation of other fund managers is actively encouraged. Response to that encouragement varies. Some subject specialists view parts of the Reference Collection as part of their own collections and take an active role in suggestions for additions and transfers out of room. Others make only a very occasional suggestion. We always try to coordinate purchases of duplicate titles with any relevant branch library. For example, we purchase Grove’s Dictionaries in Art and in Music and try to take advantage of any multiple order discounts on such occasions. Duplication, in general, is kept to a minimum.

  5. Collecting Level
    As a research university supporting doctoral programs and independent research, the Reference collections are developed in a comprehensive manner. Older materials are retained and systematically preserved to serve the needs of historical research.

  6. Related collections
    We rely on the entire Research Collections and on many other library collections local and distant. We rely on the Career Reference Collection (housed in the Wells Library West Tower) for tools related to career development; therefore we collect very little in the area of guides to study, resume writing, etc. For those disciplines served locally by a branch library we collect basic tools only, focusing on the needs, for example, of students in literature for basic information in music or art. We rely on the Monroe County Public Library’s collections in the areas of “self-help” and hobbies and collect almost nothing in these areas.

  7. Principal sources of supply and major selection tools
    Reference tools are probably the most widely advertised in the entire book market. The department typically receives many advance notices from publishers. Some ordering decisions can be made on those, for new editions of important works and standard works we are most likely to order regardless of a reviewer’s opinion. For other titles we rely on Choice, LJ and the twice yearly articles in College and Research Libraries to identify important new works and updates, addenda and more obscure pieces. The YBP slip approval plan also provides notices of new reference titles.

  8. Selection Criteria
    1. Selection of Reference resources, regardless of format, will be made on the basis of the following factors: relevance to the curriculum or area of research, space, projected use, user demand, cost, timeliness, system requirements, favorable reviews, recency/timeliness, authority of author, accuracy of information, clarity of presentation, balance, uniqueness within the context of the total collection, and preservation concerns.
    2. If a reference work exists in electronic format, printed versions are included in the collections only if the title is high-use and frequently consulted or the printed version offers significant advantages over the electronic version, such as ease of use, more complete content, or cost.
    3. Online versions of resources are often preferred, as they serve a higher number of users across the IU system, Bloomington, and/or the surrounding region.
    4. Consortial relationships play a major role in the selection of Internet-accessible electronic reference sources. Freely-available reference sources may also be selected.
    5. When an updated copy of a work is added, the superseded edition will be moved to the stacks. Note: This practice has been suspended until further notice by the Associate Dean for Collection Development and Scholarly Communications.
    6. General abstracting products and indexes will have priority over individual specialized reference tools, while a balance of general and specialized indexes will be sought.
    7. Juvenile treatment of a subject is not acquired. Popular treatment is generally avoided, unless it enhances an area not otherwise covered.
  9. Selection criteria for ALF
    Materials from the present Reference Reading Room are often better candidates for the Wells Stacks than for the ALF – as materials which are needed for brief look-ups, often over many volumes and editions of a single work. There are, however, many titles in the subject sections of the Z (bibliography) classification that can move directly from the RRR to the ALF, and our principle advisors on such transfers will be our colleagues among the collection managers.

  10. Criteria for De-selection
    Weeding in each subject area in the Reference Reading Room should be done on a regular basis, and generally takes place in the summer.  Collection Managers and Reference staff should seek input from the faculty familiar with the subject.

  11. Collection Evaluation
    The Reference collection is evaluated on a regular basis. Reference staff focuses on general resources, while subject-specific resources are examined cooperatively by Reference staff and subject librarians. Concurrently, titles are actively sought which fill gaps in the collections or answer frequently-asked questions.

  12. Other resources and libraries
    The Reference staff does not rely on any specific library or libraries for assistance, but does contact libraries all over the country and outside the US on a regular basis.

  13. Consortial agreements
    Within the CIC we maintain cordial relationships among Reference Departments. Funded consortial agreements are made by the Associate Dean for Collection Development and Scholarly Communications since they are generally costly and complex undertakings.

      Reference Home Page

      Revised April 2012

    last updated: 4/30/2012