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Collection Development and Management

Collection Development Policy


The quality and character of the collections of the Vassar College Libraries (henceforth called the Library) are the result of a number of factors, including a history of generous support, close cooperation from faculty in collection building, physical remoteness from other institutions with substantial academic collections, and the breadth and flexibility of a curriculum that emphasizes innovation, diversity, and self-directed study in the context of the larger historical, physical and social environment.  The importance of collection-building as a foundation for education was recognized by Matthew Vassar in his acquisition and gift of books to the College at its founding, and by the original Trustees of Vassar College, whose library committee in 1861 reported: "the value of a good library...can scarcely be overestimated.  That this branch of our apparatus is only second to the living teachers, the Faculty of the College, and greatly assistant to that."  This collection development policy lays out guidelines for the continuing development of exceptionally deep and expansive collections that provide a foundation for the instructional activities of the college, expressed in the Vassar College Mission Statement, as well as a basis of support for faculty research.  Explicit criteria for materials selection by subject will be articulated in individual department and program collection policy statements.

Goals in Collecting

To foster the development of a coherent, flexible, and balanced collection, the Library will advance and adhere to the following goals.

Provide substantial support for a dynamic, multi-disciplinary and diverse curriculum

In order to provide sufficient depth and breadth of support for a changing, innovative curriculum that emphasizes student exploration and self directed study, and to prepare students for possible study at the graduate level, the Library collects in most curriculum-defined areas at the Advanced Study Level defined in the ALA Guidelines for the Formulation of Collection Development Policies. This provides for the maintenance of complete collections of the works of all major authors, a wide selection of materials from minor authors, critical and theoretical studies, bibliographic apparatus, an expansive selection of journals, and the relevant publishing output of the English-language university presses. In addition, the Library collects at this level materials that fall between or across disciplines or that otherwise have curricular value.

Provide support for faculty research

The Library will collect those research tools fundamental to the scholarship of each discipline where a potential use is indicated to support basic faculty research, as well as student thesis research and preparation for graduate study.  This would include major reference sets and scholarly critical apparatus primarily in, but not limited to, English, including bibliographies, variorum editions, corpus editions, research reports, government documents, subject dictionaries, indexes, and other materials central to the conduct of informed research.  When possible, as budget constraints, use, and space dictate, the Library will gradually acquire or provide sufficient access to large collections of primary materials that will sustain student and faculty research.  The Library cannot, however, support substantial specialized research of the faculty unless that material strengthens the long-term shape and balance of the collection.  When there is no potential use beyond that of an individual faculty member, the Library will continue to strive to make materials that are not in the collection available to researchers through electronic access, interlibrary loan, and other forms of document delivery.

Guidelines for Collection, Retention, and Deselection of Materials

Most selections of resources will be in English except for representative works in languages taught at Vassar. Exceptions are foreign language dictionaries, encyclopedias, other reference tools, literature and other primary sources in foreign languages taught at Vassar, and other materials necessary to support the curriculum.  To insure that the Library continues to provide a rich milieu for resource-based learning and research into the foreseeable future, the collections are regularly augmented by new digital primary source collections available from commercial vendors and open access initiatives.

One-time Purchases

The selection of monographs for the permanent collections is driven largely by three factors: the support of the curriculum, including course reserves and preparation; the support of student and faculty research; and the support of the overall collection, including titles that provide broad subject coverage, increase the diversity of voices, or that support a broad liberal arts education.  In general, selections are made from recently published material.  Normally one copy of an item is acquired by the library, although rare exceptions may occur with very high-use material.  Although the primary format of selection, especially in the humanities and social sciences, will be the codex (for the foreseeable future), the Library will continue to invest in e-books that are sustainable in price and usability.  When the cloth and paperback editions are published simultaneously, the paperback edition is preferred.

Primary sources (in any format) serve as important resources for Vassar's curriculum.  When new opportunities to purchase large collections of source material (usually offered as digital collections) arise, consideration will be given to the acquisition of these materials when they augment Vassar's collections (and especially when they fill gaps in Vassar's legacy print primary source holdings).  When a resource exists both in microtext and digital formats, priority will be given to the digital resource.  The Library also works with the Center for Research Libraries and its collection program in order to create an integrated approach to collecting such materials.

In an effort to ease the financial burden placed upon students, the library will purchase one copy per ten registered students of each required course text at the request of the faculty member.

The Library generally does not buy audiovisual material for language training.  Rare exceptions do occur; faculty members should consult with their liaison and the Head of Collections and Discovery with questions.  The Library purchases films/video for use in the curriculum.  See the separate policy specifically related to Film and Video Collection Development for collecting guidelines in that format.

Continuing Commitments

Continuing commitments in the form of journal subscriptions (online or print), databases, newspapers (print, electronic, and/or microform) and other ongoing resources are a yearly commitment of funds, library staff time, and (perhaps) shelving space.  They also represent a regular rise in cost on a yearly basis, usually between 5-10%.  The Library usually begins new continuing commitments only when an ongoing curricular need has been identified.  In addition, the Library is committed to funding subscriptions in only one format, primarily electronic (when available).  When acquiring electronic resources, the Library will seek contractual assurances that Vassar will retain perpetual archival access to the resource.  Vassar will make sure that its publishing partners understand the importance of archiving as a criterion for acquiring or licensing an electronic resource.  The Library is committed to this principle and demonstrates this by financially supporting the Portico journal archiving program and seeking out publishers who participate in Portico.

The following factors are considerations in the decision-making process to start a new subscription: the extent to which the journal or other continuing resource supports student research; the extent to which it is a core title in its discipline and whether it fills a gap for its subject in the Library's collection; the appropriateness of the primary language of the publication; the reputation of the issuing organization or publisher.  If the title is primarily for faculty research, then ILL or other document delivery methods should be considered.


The legacy print collections represent an important aspect of the intellectual activity of the Vassar community since its founding in 1861 and contain historically useful material, often not readily available within the United States.  However, judicious deselection of material is important to keep the Library's collections vibrant and useful, as well as to allow for the housing of new acquisitions.  Materials that may be considered for deselection include those that are superseded secondary scholarly works, surplus copies of standard works no longer used for courses, items in poor condition, and little-used digital resources.


Replacement copies will be sought for titles (or volumes of print journals) in poor condition or otherwise missing when they meet current selection criteria and are still available.

New Curricular Areas

Because the acquisition of material is driven by curricular interests, there may be gaps in the collection when a new course is taught.  Faculty should work closely with the liaison and Collection Development Librarian in preparation for a new course.  Although the primary goal in developing the collection is acquiring material recently published, the Library will make every effort to fill existing gaps when possible.

Additional Collections Policies

Government Documents Collection Development Policy

Special Collections Library Transfer Policy

Vassar College Libraries Gift Policy

Date Revised: 8/6/2018