General Collection Policies

The Collection Development Policy of the SMU Libraries is a written guide relating the Libraries’ collecting policy to the specific curricular and research needs of the University faculty and students, and to the interests of the University community. The policy is intended to coordinate collection development throughout the SMU Libraries through a detailed analysis of all subjects of collecting interest and a quantification of the collecting levels that support these subjects.

It has been made specific enough to guide the daily selection of materials, to help frame the parameters of approval plans, to assist in the acceptance and review of gifts, and to aid in decisions regarding preservation and retention.

The policy is subject to revision by the Department of Collection Development and Management as University needs and objectives change.

Purpose of Collections:

Because the primary purpose of the collection is to support teaching and research, the majority of the materials purchased will be of a scholarly nature.

Selected popular works may be collected in any discipline if they are judged to have an important social or historical significance.  Older and outdated materials in all disciplines may be maintained if they document the history of a discipline, or represent the social mores, beliefs, and attitudes of the past.

The libraries do not make an effort to collect for recreational reading, but for the long-term support of the curriculum.  Fiction which is collected is expected to have literary merit, be representative of a genre, or have historical or social significance.

Library Liaisons:

Library liaisons serve as subject specialists for one or more academic disciplines, and their selections constitute the majority of the libraries' new acquisitions. A library liaison is assigned to one or more academic departments in order to consult with faculty in the department(s) on issues pertaining to the selection and maintenance of library materials in their subject area(s). Faculty members will request library materials for their courses, and for their research, by corresponding directly with their liaison. The liaison is also expected to become familiar with the literature of their assigned subjects, and to make independent decisions regarding the purchase of materials. They should keep abreast of research interests their departments, and may wish to consult with faculty on issues such as weeding and conservation.

Information Common to all Subject Statements:

General Purpose:  The primary and secondary programs of instruction and research supported by the collection are listed here. 

Description of University Program:  The academic program and research community supported by the collection is described here.

Subject Boundaries:  Physical boundaries of the collection, such as separation of sub-categories or related disciplines between libraries, are described here.

Languages and Geographical Areas:  Primary and secondary resources in a language other than English required to maintain the collection at the given level are described here.

Format and Types of Materials Collected:  Formats and special materials unique to the subject matter and required to maintain the collection at the given level are described here.

Special Collections and Manuscripts:  Special collections and manuscripts required to maintain the collection at the given level are described here.

Collection Levels:  Goal collection levels are indicated by individual Library of Congress call number ranges according to the collection depth indicator definitions.

The following collection depth indicator definitions were based on those revised in 1996-1997 by the Association of Research Libraries.

1 Basic Information Level: 

Collections that serve to introduce and define a subject, to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere, and to support the needs of general library users through the first two years of college instruction include:
  • A limited collection of monographs and reference works.
  • A limited collection of representative general periodicals.
  • Defined access to a limited collection of owned or remotely-accessed electronic bibliographic tools, texts, data sets, journals, etc.

The collection should be frequently and systematically reviewed for currency of information. Superseded editions and titles containing outdated information should be withdrawn. Classic or standard retrospective materials may be retained.

2 Study or Instructional Support Level:

Collections that provide information about a subject in a systematic way, but at a level of less than research intensity, and to support the needs of general library users through college and beginning graduate instruction include:
  • An extensive collection of general monographs and reference works and selected specialized general monographs and reference works.
  • An extensive collection of general periodicals and a representative collection of specialized periodicals.
  • Limited collections of appropriate foreign language materials – e.g., foreign language learning materials for non-native speakers of foreign language materials about a topic such as German history in German.
  • Extensive collections of the works of better-known authors and selections from the works of lesser-known authors.
  • Defined access to an extensive collection of owned or remotely-accessed electronic resources, including bibliographic tools, texts, data sets, journals, etc.

The collection should be systematically reviewed for currency of information and for assurance that essential and important information is retained, including significant numbers of classic retrospective materials.

3 Research Level: 

A Collection that contains the major published source materials required for doctoral study and independent research includes:

  • A very extensive collection of general and specialized monographs and reference works.
  • A very extensive collection of general and specialized periodicals.
  • Extensive collections of appropriate foreign language materials.
  • Extensive collections of the works of well-known authors as well as other important but lesser-known authors.
  • Defined access to a very extensive collection of owned or remotely-accessed electronic resources, including bibliographic tools, tests, data sets, journals, etc.
  • Older material that is retained and systematically preserved to serve the needs of historical research.

4 Enhanced Research Level:

Collections at this level have all the attributes of the Research Level but are enhanced by unique Special Collections holdings and/or by subject-specific collections endowment funds.


For the purposes of this policy, the word “books” refers to monographs and serials in both print and electronic formats.

Books are acquired in one of four ways:

  1. Automatically: the Library automatically receives all publications from selected publishers in selected subject areas.  Automatic purchases include series on Standing Order.
  2. Liaison Selection: Liaisons choose materials that support teaching research in their subject areas.
  3. Faculty or Researcher Request: Liaisons purchase materials requested by library users.
  4. Demand Driven Acquisitions: This category consists of E-books accessible to users, but which the library does not own until a significant amount of usage activates a purchase.

A dollar amount is budgeted annually for books in each academic discipline.  Library Liaisons will make purchases for the collections using the specific fund assigned to their disciplines, and will receive monthly reports of expenditures. 

Library liaisons will determine which book format (print or e-book) is most appropriate for the collection on a case by case basis.  Some disciplines may have a clear preference for one over the other, though most will prefer a mixture of both.  The library may duplicate titles in two formats if specifically requested by a faculty member, or in cases where demand for a title is unusually high.

Supplemental materials such as CDs, CD-ROMs and maps are shelved with the book unless size precludes it.

The libraries make every effort to collect the works of SMU professors, and also of Alumni, as appropriate.

The library does not collect textbooks, workbooks, or consumable print materials.


The Library does not subscribe to journals or collect other serials in multiple formats.

Electronic is the preferred format for journals with some exceptions based on curricular or archival needs.  Journals may be subscribed to individually, included as part of a large journal package, or received as part of a membership.  Long-term support of the curriculum is the most important concern when considering new journal subscriptions.

JSTOR is considered a stable electronic journal repository, the stability of other electronic repositories will be judged on a case by case basis. 

The library does not collect or catalog off-prints, reprints, or photocopies of journal articles.

Electronic Resources  

Electronic resources must meet the same criteria that other formats must meet to be added to the collection: i.e., the data or information must support an identifiable current or future research or curricular need of the University community.  In addition, electronic resources are not considered a viable alternative to print resources if they in any way impede access or impose additional costs on the patron.

Text and Data Sets

SMU Libraries will acquire text and data mining sets selectively, with the primary goals being to support faculty research and dissertation- and thesis-level work by graduate students. Priority will be given to the acquisition of data sets to which SMU retains permanent rights. For course work and exploratory research, we recommend starting with resources that provide a web-based interface for exploration, such as the HathiTrust Research Center and JSTOR Data for Research.

Any independent data sets must include documentation which describes their internal format and meaning, and which can assist in the recovery of the data should changes to the University computing environment render it unreadable in the future.


Faculty may request visual media to support their courses, including documentaries and feature films.  The library subscribes to streaming video services, some of which require a request from a SMU faculty member before library staff can make the film available to the campus community.  Faculty who wish to make films available from the Kanopy streaming service or the Digital Campus streaming service should contact their liaison librarian or fill out the request form that is available in those interfaces. 

If a film is considered essential to a course, it may be necessary to acquire it in a physical format, such as DVD or Blu-ray, for the library to ensure its ability to support the course in the future.  Rights holders can remove content from streaming services at any time, and content is regularly removed from all of our streaming services. 

When acquiring physical media, the DVD format is preferred over Blu-ray, and the VHS format is no longer supported by the libraries.  Blu-ray can be acquired as needed, if it is determined to be necessary by teaching faculty.  Due to the limited availability of playback equipment, DVDs and Blu-rays coded for a foreign region will only be purchased when no local-region or region-free versions are available, and only as determined to be necessary by the faculty.  The libraries will acquire films in the requested formats, but SMU’s Office of Information Technology oversees all classroom technology.  Faculty should work with OIT in advance of any planned classroom screening to determine whether the room is equipped to show the film. 

The Hamon Arts Library preserves sound recordings in all formats, with Compact disc being the preferred collecting format.  The library also subscribes to music streaming services.

Manuscripts and other Unpublished Works

All unpublished works are housed in Special Collections.

Open Access

The SMU Libraries support the goal of making research and scholarship accessible to a broad audience, both inside and outside the academy. Recognizing that opportunities to support open access to scholarship are varied, we will prioritize the following kinds of initiatives for support with the Libraries acquisitions budget:

• Open access projects that align with our General Collection Development Policy
• Support of university, local, and regional presses
• Support of initiatives that have long-term preservation plans, discovery mechanisms such as MARC records, and appropriate editorial oversight
• Support for projects and services that do not overlap with those already provided by SMU and its Libraries
• Support for initiatives that are administered through consortia of which the library or university are members.

We will monitor the Libraries’ investment in open access, to ensure the continuing alignment of the project or publisher with SMU Libraries’ collection development policy and strategic plan, and that the content is findable and usable.


Weeding is performed as needed to provide space for collection growth, to prevent damage to library materials caused by overcrowding, and to keep collections relevant to the curriculum.   Candidates for weeding include unneeded duplicates, outdated materials widely held, and damaged items which can be replaced.  Liaisons may, at any time, submit a list of items to be considered for withdrawal to the Collection Development Librarian, who will make the final decision regarding retention.

Conservation and Preservation:

Preservation activities at SMU currently focus on binding and mending of materials with primary emphasis on the binding and repair of materials which are most used and on extending the shelf life of older materials. 

Whenever possible, such material will be returned to the circulating collection using one of two means: 1) materials which are judged to be sturdy enough to withstand machine binding are outsourced to a commercial bindery, while materials which are too fragile to withstand machine binding but which are not too fragile to circulate, are placed in custom-built protective phase boxes, also outsourced.

Severely damaged materials are re-evaluated in terms of their current relevance and historical significance, and may be repaired, removed, or replaced, according to the judgment of the Collection Development Librarian.

Books which are determined to be unique, rare, or valuable may be offered to the DeGolyer Library, which can provide a more controlled environment.