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Collection development policy

Details of the library's policy on resource management

The Seeley Historical Library holds over 80,000 books, 5,000 pamphlets, 215 periodicals (103 are current titles) and a growing collection of audio-visual and electronic resources. History is one of the most wide-ranging subjects taught within the University and an ever-increasing number of publications appear each year, at an ever-increasing price. The Collection Development Policy will enable the Seeley to make the most appropriate use of its finite staffing and financial resources to maintain and develop a subject collection that fulfills the Faculty of History's requirements, without unnecessarily duplicating other collections across the University.

Like the University Library's own CPD, on which this document has occasionally drawn, the following guidelines are intended to define the Seeley's objectives and provide a framework for the maintenance and development of the Library's collections, to indicate priorities, to establish selection criteria across the range of different subjects, languages and media and to create a consistent and coherent basis for the future development of the collections. The policy does not reflect the pattern by which the Seeley Library has grown in the past, but the principles on which future development should be founded.

The Seeley Librarian will review the Collection Development Policy periodically and will take advice as necessary from teaching officers and other library staff. Revised policies will first be submitted to the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee and then to Faculty Board for approval.

The primary function of the Seeley Library is to support the full range of undergraduate teaching within the Faculty of History and provide key sources for taught elements of the MPhil courses.

As far as financial and practical constraints permit, the Library also provides archival and bibliographic guides and other reference works for those staff and students undertaking preliminary research before proceeding to more detailed work at the University Library, elsewhere in the United Kingdom and at institutions abroad.

Wherever possible the Seeley promotes the use of appropriate online resources as a cost-effective and space-saving means of providing readers with a wider range of material than would be possible from the Seeley's own limited space and budget. The Library will collaborate with other institutions in extending access and will try to provide users with suitable computer facilities to enable them to make best use of these resources.

The Library currently admits staff and students of other Faculties and visiting scholars who can demonstrate a need to use its facilities, but there is no obligation to develop the collection to meet their requirements.

The Seeley forms one element within Cambridge's tripartite system of libraries: the University Library and its dependents, Faculty and Departmental libraries and College libraries. There are substantial differences in their roles:

  1. the University Library and its dependents develop extensive research facilities in most subject areas.
  2. the Faculty and Departmental libraries offer coherent, in-depth, specialist collections that provide for future as well as current teaching requirements.
  3. the College Libraries attempt to meet the immediate study needs of their junior members.

While the Library's priority is to serve the needs of historians, the History Faculty recognises the need for the Seeley to play a constructive role in creating an efficient library service across the University. To this end, it is the responsibility of Library staff to:

  1. maintain professional contacts with the central authorities overseeing Library provision within the University, helping to formulate policy or providing statistics as required.
  2. maintain contacts with the University Library, Faculty, Departmental and College Libraries and ensure that the Seeley is represented at appropriate professional groups or forums.
  3. conduct discussions and exchange of information with staff from other libraries over common issues as they arise.
  4. bear in mind the collecting remit of other libraries when considering purchases, to avoid unnecessary duplication and ensure the most effective deployment of resources across libraries funded by the University.
  5. keep College libraries informed about changes to reading lists so that they may make adequate provision for students.

However, in selecting purchases the Library staff must take into consideration the wide variation in access and borrowing facilities offered by other libraries, which means that students are unable to make full use of some collections relevant to particular courses.

a) Reading lists

The Library tries to acquire copies of all key works in the extensive Part I and Part II reading lists, using out-of-print search service and second-hand dealers if necessary. Particular emphasis is put on Part I acquisitions as students at that stage are not able to borrow from the University Library. Wherever possible the Seeley tries to provide a complete short-loan collection of Part II Special Subject primary source material. For copyright and cost reasons the Library does not acquire offprint copies of listed journal articles or provide print copies of online material available through the University network.

Monthly accession lists, circulated by email and posted on the Library's web pages, notify staff and students when recommended texts and subscription journal issues have arrived.

b) Recommendation

The Library normally buys all books recommended as particularly important for teaching by members of the Faculty of History. Particularly expensive purchases and those which represent an ongoing commitment of finance or space may, at the discretion of the Librarian, be referred to the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee. Students may also make recommendations on forms provided at the Library desk and purchase is at the discretion of the Librarian.

If the Seeley considers a recommended item too expensive or if it is forecast that the potential usage does not justify purchase, the recommendation may be passed on to the University Library.

c) Selection by the Librarian The Librarian selects items for purchase from new and secondhand catalogues, using as criteria the current or anticipated needs of the Faculty and bearing in mind the collecting scope of other Cambridge Libraries.

d) Donation

The Seeley is fortunate in frequently receiving gifts of reading list material from members of the teaching staff of the Faculty and Colleges. Occasionally the Library is offered entire personal or institutional collections, only part of which may be required for teaching or research purposes. Such large donations are very time-consuming to administer and occupy a great deal of limited shelf-space that might be more usefully utilised. When offered such a collection it is the Library's usual policy to request a full listing in advance, if possible. With the agreement of the donor (or his/her representative) Library staff will then select useful publications, while suggesting alternative destinations for the residue. If the donor wishes to keep the collection intact, and only a small proportion is required by the Seeley, it may be considered preferable to redirect the entire donation. The Library does not accept items in poor condition and in need of conservation unless there is a compelling reason for doing so. The Librarian may wish to refer some potential donations to the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee for consideration. In general, donations of teaching material are very welcome and the names of benefactors are listed in the Library's annual report

e) Loan

The Library does not accept items on loan, except on such occasions when this will facilitate the work of members of the Faculty and does not impose excessive administrative burdens on the Library staff. Extra loan copies of heavily-used works, which the Library for some reason has been unable to acquire, or unpublished typescripts may occasionally be held at the desk for specified periods.

f) Multiple Copies

The Seeley's normal policy is to purchase single copies of a text. Additional copies may be acquired if a strong case can be made that students might otherwise be seriously inconvenienced.

g) Replacement copies

The Library purchases replacements for books reported as missing by readers or discovered to be missing at the annual stockcheck, if they are still required texts and are available through a supplier or out-of-print service. Replacements are also sought for very damaged items when there is no duplicate edition in the collection. Gaps in the periodical collection will be filled before binding, but the Library cannot guarantee to replace individual articles torn from journals, particularly if the title is available online.

h) Academic standards

The library acquires original academic works on appropriate subjects in the field of history but does not usually acquire works on a 'sub-academic' or 'popular' level. The publisher, author and indications of the quality, level or depth of coverage will be taken into consideration. Whether a book has received a favourable or unfavourable review is not always a factor in making a decision to purchase. The Library upholds the principle of free speech and does not discriminate against books on the grounds of race, religion, sex, political controversy or social acceptability. Serious books falling within the normal criteria for selection but expressing opinions or containing illustrations which might be considered blasphemous, offensive or distasteful are acquired, subject to any legal restrictions.

An essential component of a comprehensive Collection Development Policy is a regular coherent relocation and 'weeding' strategy for stock no longer considered of immediate importance to Library users. Seeley Library shelving is a finite resource and it is likely that at some point the Library will have to adjust to and maintain a static size, while acting as a 'gateway' to electronic and other resources. A review of the collection should be carried out every year with two aims:

  1. To identify little-used stock that can be removed into closed-access basement areas of the Library, clearing space for recent acquisitions. This will include books which are not key reference sources or on current reading lists but are likely to be of further use in the future. While the most extensive relocation of books will take place over the summer months, the Library staff will routinely remove superseded editions, fragile books, and duplicates.
  2. To identify stock which is no longer required for teaching or research purposes and may be disposed of to reduce pressure on shelving. Some material is regularly discarded, including outdated maps, obsolete photocopies, superseded loose-leaf material, university calendars, and guides.

Material no longer required will be disposed of in the following manner:

  1. The Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee will be asked to approve the list of material for disposal.
  2. The items would first be offered to the University Library as required by University Ordinances, then to faculty, departmental and college libraries.
  3. The residue will be disposed of at the Librarian's discretion.

The Seeley has a rolling programme of binding and repair to preserve books and periodicals in a usable condition. Minor maintenance can be carried out by Library staff but publications are sent to a specialist firm for more substantial work. Replacement copies are usually ordered when the cost of conservation would exceed the cost of the replacement.

The Librarian normally selects the most economical and durable of conservation measures for payment out of the Library's annual budget. Extra funding would have to be found for any necessary repairs to rare books and fine bindings.

  1. Electronic The purchase of electronic books, journals, datasets, or the purchase of CD-ROMs, will be considered on the same basis as printed material, except that the Librarian will also ascertain whether the University Library intends to purchase and network the resource and whether it is possible to collaborate with other libraries to share costs.

    Where the cost is significantly greater than that of printed material, or where initial purchase might lead to a recurrent cost for updates or maintaining a software 'platform', the case for purchase will be referred to the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee. In making a decision the Committee will take into consideration the following factors:

    1. Whether future access will be secure and reliable
    2. Purchase cost
    3. Licensing fee
    4. Potential use
    5. Cost of hardware/software and staff time necessary to provide technical facilities for readers to consult the items both immediately and in the longer-term.
  2. Foreign Language Material

    The major part of the Seeley Collection is in the English language. However, the Faculty of History emphasises the need for students to acquire language skills appropriate to their field and depth of study, so the Library acquires foreign-language sources if they appear on a reading list or are recommended by teaching staff. When a particular edition has not been specified the Library normally tries to acquire foreign-language material in translation or with an accompanying English text.

  3. Series

    Standing orders for series are placed when it is foreseen that every volume will be relevant to the Library's subject collection.

  4. New editions

    Not every new edition of an academic work is purchased. If there have been substantial changes or additions, or if the previous edition has been subjected to heavy use, then the new edition may be acquired.

  5. Facsimiles

    Facsimiles of works already held are normally only acquired if the original is too fragile to sustain continual use.

  6. Hardbacks/paperbacks

    A hardback edition is usually preferred over paperback copies of the identical text.

  7. Periodicals

    The Seeley receives 103 current history periodical titles by subscription or donation. The Library attempts to obtain an even spread of key titles in each of the areas and periods covered by the Faculty's subject groups. Suggestions for new titles come before the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee which takes into consideration:

    1. the subject area
    2. standard of the publication
    3. importance for teaching purposes
    4. cost (and the past pattern of above-inflation price rises)
    5. availability elsewhere in the University in print or electronically.

    The Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee will also decide on whether a year-long trial period is necessary before a final decision is made and whether it is appropriate to acquire back copies of a journal. Each subscription represents a long-term commitment which will not be cancelled unless:

    1. there is a serious deterioration in the quality of the journal
    2. there is a significant change in its subject matter
    3. the subscription price rises to an unacceptable level

    If an electronic version becomes available through the University the Librarian will ascertain whether cancelling the Seeley's subscription would affect electronic access, whether there are sufficient arrangements for access to current and back issues to justify cancelling a subscription, and then make an appropriate recommendation to the Teaching, Learning and Quality Committee.

  8. Pamphlets

    A pamphlet is defined by the University Library as a publication (not an offprint) of 48pp or less. The Seeley purchases pamphlets if they are present on a reading list or if there is generally a lack of material on the subject in a more substantial format.

  9. Pictorial material

    Works consisting primarily of illustrations are not normally purchased unless the photographer/artist/subject matter is of particular importance for teaching purposes.

  10. Theses

    The Library does not intentionally acquire copies of unpublished PhD theses, unless recommended as source material for a course, as they can usually be consulted through the University Library. Selected MPhil theses and copies of prize-winning undergraduate dissertations are passed on by the Administrative Offices and are held for reference only.

  11. Reference works

    The Library tries to maintain an up-to-date reference collection both for the use of undergraduates and for graduate students beginning research. A range of bibliographies, archival guides, subject and language dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps and atlases, and other reference materials are acquired selectively.

  12. Photocopied material
    1. The Seeley holds a selection of photocopied source material for Special Subjects. This is usually provided by the teaching officer responsible for the course or is commissioned directly by the Library from other institutions.
    2. The Library also files copies of compilations of material for Themes and Sources courses, provided by the Administrative Offices.
    3. The Library holds other temporary selections of photocopies for various courses, at the request of the teaching officers concerned. The size and arrangement of these informal collections are at the discretion of Library staff; the material is not catalogued or listed.
    4. The Library will not acquire individual journal articles because of the disproportionate cost and copyright problems. Similarly the Seeley will not provide print-outs of online material.
  13. Audio-visual material

    A number of reading lists now cite DVDs, videotapes, CDs and audio-cassettes as essential reference sources. The Library tries to acquire all recommended materials and provide the means of consulting them within the Library, as well as making them available for loan.

  14. Special Collections

    The major part of the Seeley's stock is composed of 'modern' works. The only 'special collection' held by the Library is the Hadley collection of mainly nineteenth-century publications on the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, on loan from Pembroke College. The Library does not attempt to augment this collection.

  15. Archival material

    The Seeley Library does not normally collect original manuscripts, maps, musical scores, fine art or photographic material. Its policy is to refer offers of such material to the University Library or other appropriate archive.